Wednesday, August 13, 2014

RIP Robin Williams

We may all still be processing the tragic death of Robin Williams, a stellar talent who simply could not be boxed in. If ever there was somebody who played by their own rule book it was him (Andy Kaufman and Bill Murray would count as well). My first exposure to him was through Mork and Mindy, where even then he was practically an animated character. But amongst all his TV and film credits I think maybe his standout role, and not just because I'm an animation enthusiast, was as Genie in Disney's Aladdin, where he could be many different characters in one without ever confusing or losing the audience, literally freeing him to be just about anything he could imagine, which quite possibly makes it the most quintessentially Robin Williams-ish role of all. Thankfully the animators were able to match Robin's tour de force vocal performance with equally stunning visuals.

Sadly, though, some of the filmographies I have seen of him since news of his death broke have completely left out mention of that role. Cartoon Brew has posted statements from Eric Goldberg and Ron and John, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn just now that Entertainment Weekly specifically interviewed Eric about the time he spent with Robin while working on Aladdin as supervising animator for Genie.

I've always wondered what it would be like to meet Robin Williams in person. Now that that's an impossibility, at least in these mortal realms, what I do have to fall back on is a small memento from Eric Goldberg who sketched me in the place of Aladdin encountering that larger-than-life persona of Genie, and thereby, by extension, Robin Williams. (The sketch riffs on the scene from the film where Genie says to Aladdin as they meet, "Should I call you 'Al' or maybe just 'Din'?") So, in my indirect encounter, I found him to be as many others have described him, warm and humorous:

Robin, we'll miss you.

(UPDATE: Just found out that Slate concurs with my assessment of the Genie in Aladdin being Williams' greatest performance. And Bustle does as well.)

The hard-to-read text from the first image above is:

We're deeply saddened by the loss of Robin Williams, a wonderfully gifted man who touched our hearts and never failed to make us laugh. An incredible actor and a comedic genius, Robin will always be remembered for bringing some of the world's favorite characters to life, from his zany alien on ABC's Mork & Mindy to the irasicble Genie in Disney's Aladdin. He was a true Disney Legend, a beloved member of our family, and he will be sorely missed. We join Robin's friends and fans everywhere in mourning, and offer our thoughts and condolences to his family during this difficult time.

Robert A. Iger, The Walt Disney Company

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