It was animation, but it truly seemed like magic to me. Seeing the Genie on screen in a theater in 1992 blew my mind. I couldn’t believe he could contort his frame and voice into anyone or anything imaginable (and maybe even unimaginable). After viewing the film with my parents, they pointed out the source of the character’s genius: Robin Williams.
I think I had already begun watching Mork and Mindy on Nick at Nite, so I least had a passing awareness of Williams’ comic frenzy. Once again I lapped up one sip of pop culture, which led me to spiral for more. “Who was this character he played?” I asked my parents. “Who was the Genie’s muscle-bound guy? Who was the thin-framed talk show host? Who was the guy with a cigar?”
I’m not sure if any of these cultural references were in the original Aladdin script or if they all sprung from Williams’ love of Warner Bros. cartoons. Either way, the man’s frenetic pace led to long conversations with my parents (and a few VHS viewings) about George Burns, Jack Nicholson, and Marx Brothers’ material.