Aladdin 2019 remembers its roots with a subtle nod to Robin Williams. News of a live-action Aladdin movie was not greeted warmly by many fans, who argued that as one of Disney's greatest ever movies, Aladdin was the one film that didn't need the live-action treatment. Still, the movie went ahead with Guy Ritchie as the director, and the new take on Aladdin is now in theaters. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the reviews are not too bad, with most agreeing that this version of Aladdin is actually better than the initial trailers would have us believe.
One character which has caused considerable consternation, though, is Genie. In the 1992 animated classic version of Aladdin, the Genie was voiced by the late Robin Williams, and his performance is widely regarded as one of the best voiceovers of all time. Not only did Williams bring life to the character that Disney had created, he actually improvised almost all of his lines. Williams' performance paved the way for celebrities lending their voices to animated characters, something that now seems the norm, but back then was very rare indeed. Since Williams passed away in 2014, the Genie in Ritchie's Aladdin is played by Will Smith, who puts his on spin on the character
But that's not to say Disney have forgotten all about Williams and his Genie. Aladdin 2019 includes a brief, subtle, but touching nod to Williams, which happens when Genie and Aladdin are still inside the cave together. While Genie explains the rules regarding wishes and how the Genie and his powers work, he unrolls a scroll which contains drawings of the original animated versions of Aladdin, Sultan, and Genie. It's a sweet moment and, unlike a lot of Disney's Easter eggs, it's not a blink and you miss it moment; the images stay on screen for a while.
Despite a great deal of skepticism from Disney fans, Smith does an admirable job as the Genie, taking on the unenviable task of playing a character so ingrained in pop culture that nearly everyone can quote the his lines. His improvisation skills may not be on the same level, and he's no Williams replacement, but then he wasn't trying to be. Instead, Smith has tried to honor Williams' spirit by giving a new take on a much loved character.
There are also a couple of other Disney nods, not related to the original movie, but instead acknowledging the House of Mouse. While Genie and Aladdin discuss him turning into a prince, the magic carpet gets on with building a sandcastle, which is exactly the same castle as seen in the Disney logo, and then proceeds to throw sand over it, recreating a shower of pixie dust. Later on in the movie, when Aladdin needs Genie's help to find Ababwa on a map, the Genie puts Fantasyland on the map instead, complete with a picture of a carousel. The same image denotes the location of Fantasyland at Disney World.