Finally, Disney Gets It! Uses Robin Williams’ Voice in Latest Film in the Right Way

once upon a studio
Credit: Disney

Disney finally can check a box in the “right” column with how they approached adding the late Robin Williams’ voice in ‘Once Upon a Studio.’

The Walt Disney Company has been celebrating its 100th anniversary all through 2023—the Disney100 celebration—which has been one of the most extensive and incredible celebrations we’ve ever seen. There have been special decorations at the theme parks, theatrical re-releases of the Disney classics, and even special events during the Destination D23 event at Walt Disney World.

As part of the Disney100 celebration, Disney also released a new short film—a live-action/animated fantasy comedy crossover short film—called Once Upon a Studio, and the film has taken audiences by storm.


Bob Iger, Robin Williams and Mickey Mouse / Credit: Disney

Related: Fans Are Losing It Over Disney’s Newest Short Film

Fans Cry Over Once Upon a Studio

The delightful animated short film Once Upon a Studio was brought to life through the creative vision and talent of Dan Abraham and Trent Correy. This heartwarming production was produced by the renowned Walt Disney Animation Studios, known for their exceptional storytelling and imaginative animation techniques, and released by none other than Walt Disney Pictures, a name synonymous with enchanting tales and unforgettable characters.

In this enchanting short film, viewers are taken on a magical journey where beloved Disney characters spring to life from the vibrant illustrations adorning the walls of the iconic Roy E. Disney Animation Building. As the day draws to a close and the animators go home, the still images magically transform into animated masterpieces.

Bob Iger

Disney CEO Bob Iger / Credit: Jeremiah Daws, Flickr

With each scene, Once Upon a Studio pays homage to the rich and incredible 100-year legacy of Walt Disney Animation Studios. Fans are transported into a world of wonder and nostalgia, from the timeless and mischievous Mickey Mouse to the brave and adventurous Peter Pan.

The film features an unbelievable 543 characters. Disney fans are invited to immerse themselves in a world of wonder, where dreams become a reality and cherished memories are brought back to life. It serves as a beautiful reminder of the magic, imagination, and kindness that Disney characters have instilled in audiences for generations.

Notably, the film included the Genie from Aladdin, voiced by the late Robin Williams, and as the latest reports from People indicate, Disney used the late actor’s real voice for this.

Related: Disney Premieres ‘Once Upon A Studio’ To Help Grieving Community Heal

Did Once Upon a Studio Use AI?

Fans who hear that Williams’ voice was used might immediately wonder if Disney animation recreated his voice using Artificial Intelligence. Rest assured, the answer is a resounding no, especially after William’s daughter, Zelda Williams, made her feelings on AI clear:

“I’ve witnessed for YEARS how many people want to train these models to create/recreate actors who cannot consent, like Dad. This isn’t theoretical, it is very, very real,” she shared.

Aladdin's Genie with Overwhelmed Expression

Robin Williams voiced the Genie in Disney’s Aladdin / Credit: Disney

Related: Disney’s Newest Short Leaves Fans in Tears

“I’ve already heard AI used to get his ’voice’ to say whatever people want, and while I find it personally disturbing, the ramifications go far beyond my own feelings,” Zelda WIlliams continued. “Living actors deserve a chance to create characters with their choices, voice cartoons, and put their HUMAN effort and time into the pursuit of performance.”

“These recreations are, at their very best, a poor facsimile of greater people,” she concluded, “but at their worst, a horrendous Frankensteinian monster, cobbled together from the worst bits of everything this industry is, instead of what it should stand for.”

Instead of creating an AI replica of the late actor’s voice, Disney reached out to Williams’ family to ask for permission to use previously recorded clips from the movies to bring Genie back to life for this short film.

It’s certainly a wonderful way to honor one of the most impactful actors in Hollywood and a respectful way to go about the process, especially considering all of the recent criticism Disney has received due to the rumored incorporation of AI into its work processes.

Will AI Overtake Animation?

With the recent SAG-AFTRA and Writer’s strike, the use of AI in Hollywood Studios writer rooms and to create characters’ and actors’ likenesses has been at the forefront of headlines. While the contexts of a writer’s room and an animation studio are definitely different, it’s fair to be concerned about whether AI will ever replace human animators.

However, as the situation stands right now, it’s unlikely this would ever happen. As Kasra Design explained, animation requires a “deep understanding of storytelling, acting, and animation techniques, as well as the ability to bring a unique vision and perspective to a project.”

The animation company continued, “These are skills that are difficult to replicate with AI, and it is unlikely that AI will be able to fully replace the role of animators in the near future.”

About Priyanka Kumar

Priyanka is a writer, artist, avid reader, and travel enthusiast based in Chicago. In her free time, she is probably walking by the lake, catching up on the latest releases on TV, or spending inordinate amounts of time rewatching Moana, Encanto, and her Disney Channel life-long favorites Zack and Cody wreak havoc on the Tipton.

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