Robin Williams‘ career was filled with many memorable performances. In addition to being one of the world’s biggest comedy stars, Williams was an Academy Award-winning dramatic actor. But perhaps fans remember him best for the same manic comic energy he brought to TV’s Mork & Mindy. Never on the big screen was this captured more perfectly than Disney’s Aladdin. And yet Williams was wildly under-paid to lend his voice to the Genie.
‘Aladdin’ is 1 of Robin Williams’ most popular films
Among Williams’ filmography is a ton of movies that made more than $100 million. Back in the 1990s, this figure — though low by today’s blockbuster standards — was commonly considered a benchmark for a hit movie. And Williams hit it time and again with Jumanji, Hook, The Birdcage, Patch Adams, Good Will Hunting, and Mrs. Doubtfire all earning more than $100 million domestically, according to The-Numbers.com.
But worldwide, Aladdin tops them all. In fact, only 2006’s Night at the Museum — in which Williams has a supporting role — earned more money. Back in 1992, Aladdin made more than $500 million worldwide. Much of that has to do with Williams’ high-energy performance as the Genie at a time when A-list actors didn’t typically work on animated movies. And in the decades since, Aladdin remains easily one of the actor’s most beloved film roles
Disney only paid the actor $75,000 for ‘Aladdin’
Given how popular Aladdin was, many fans probably assume Williams walked away with a small fortune. However, the actor was barely compensated for his work on the Disney classic, according to Business Insider. Although he did agree to earn only $75,000 to voice the Genie, Williams stipulated that this pay cut was in exchange for his voice not being included on Aladdin merchandise. Williams’ focus, he told Today (via the Los Angeles Times), was his kids.
“We had a deal. The one thing I said was I will do the voice. I’m doing it basically because I want to be part of this animation tradition. I want something for my children. One deal is, I just don’t want to sell anything — as in Burger King, as in toys, as in stuff.”
Of course, Aladdin spawned a ton of merchandise, leaving Disney and Williams to part ways. Eventually, the studio made peace with the star. And Williams returned for the second direct-to-video Aladdin sequel, 1996’s Aladdin and the King of Thieves. This time around, he earned a reported $1 million salary to return to the franchise.
Robin Williams’ legacy continues to live on now
As fans of Williams know, the actor’s legacy of laughter continues on. Despite his death in 2014, so many of his movies remain beloved. And in some instances, the stories told there are being revived and revisited. Take Aladdin, for instance, which Disney remade in live-action in 2019. Will Smith stepped into the role Williams made famous, and much of the movie’s pre-release discussion centered on how Smith would compare.
Beyond that, 2017’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (and its 2019 follow-up, Jumanji: The Next Level) revived that series with a more modern edge. And a Broadway musical based on Mrs. Doubtfire hit the stage in 2021. So it’s safe to say Williams’ iconic work as the Genie and throughout the rest of his career is as popular as ever.