The Disney-animated Robin Williams you’ve never seen before


How Williams’ first trip to Neverland paved the way to Hook and Aladdin…

I’m almost done being sad about Robin Williams, and nearing the point of elation with all the footage and stories about the comic legend being unearthed in the wake of his tragic passing. Better late than never, I s’pose. And as many of you know, I’m a massive cartoon nerd/Disney dork, so it’s beyond fucking awesome to find a superbly produced piece of animation/film, brought to life by Disney, that I’ve NEVER seen before. That headline’s probably a little misleading, come to think, because I guess technically millions of people have seen it before. But none of them are me. So allow me to play up the discovery angle instead of being bitter, K?

robin williams back to neverland
Yup, Robin Williams first trip to Neverland was as a Lost Boy. NEAT!

You just had to have seen it in Disney’s MGM Studios, which I’ve never had the pleasure of visiting, some time between 1989 and the early 2000s. In the 10-minute presentation, Williams and Walter Cronkite take you behind-the-scenes of Disney’s (PRE-COMPUTER!) animation process and it’s a nostalgic kick to the cockles, says I!

And if you’re with me so far, it also predates a couple of things that are like whisky-soaked catnip for my nerdy little brain. First , Williams actually mentioned the project in the credits of one of his stand-up specials, dedicated to Cronkite right after his death (with an incredibly dirty joke) and I’m fucking ecstatic to finally see what he was talking about. Second, I love we have tape of Robin stating his favorite Disney movie is Peter Pan several years before famously assuming the role in Hook.

Revisiting this soon, promise

But the third and final piece of the puzzle revealed is my absolute favorite because I never knew it was “a thing” to begin with. In the very beginning of the Back to Neverland, Williams is playing a wayward yokel wandering through Disney World holding a giant camera. That part in Aladdin where the genie shows up in a loud Hawaiian shirt and a classic mesh Disneyland Goofy hat? That’s a very deliberate reference to the first time Robin provided his voice to a Disney animated character, at least three years earlier, reportedly giving a nod to the role that inspired the directors to seek out Williams to play Genie in the first place.


Just fucking wow…

8 thoughts on “The Disney-animated Robin Williams you’ve never seen before

  1. Wow, watching Robin Williams dork out about Peter Pan is easily the most adorable thing I’ve seen in a while

  2. Actually I have seen this before, when I took my one and only trip to Disneyworld as a child. Thanks for the nostalgia trip, Chris.

  3. I can’t believe I’ve never seen this before! That was amazing!

    It’s also great that if this was 1989 then just a short year later none of this was how they animated features (except for the drawing on paper part). Starting with The Rescuers Down Under (the only reason that movie should ever be brought up) Disney animated their feature films using Pixar’s CAPS (Computer Animation Production System) process. From then on everything was digitally inked and painted.

  4. Have you ever thought about actually getting into animation Chris? I started back in high school with Flash and went on to make a couple animated series in After Effects. I’m also a huge fan of animation and I remember that video with Robin Williams introduction me to the fundamentals of animation (line art, painting cells, background mattes etc). Now that I look back on it, it very well might have been one of the reasons I became interested in animation in the first place.

    Anyways, have you thought about doing specific Laser Time animations? I know you’re strapped for cash at the moment but with a little dough it would be easier than you might think to hire a storyboard artist to put together a first draft. You’d of course need to expand on it but hey, everything has a first step.

  5. Haven’t heard it mentioned on the podcast but my buddy told me that Robin recently was diagnosed with Parkinson. Nothing noble about suicide but maybe he felt he was doing it for the fans because he diidnt want the world to see him deteriorate like so many other celebrities. Try and watch Michael J fox or Richard Prior, man its hard cause we love em.

  6. I’m not going to lie, as a relative youngling (1995, feel old?) I still have not saw all of Robin Williams’ work. However, I enjoyed him in aladdin and Flubber. Also, he seems to be very proud of his peter lorre impression.

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