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Interview: Scott Weinger talks Aladdin

Everyone has a soft spot for the modern Disney classic Aladdin. We’ve all wanted to have a friend like the Genie, to take a magic carpet ride, and to have a pet who understands us fully. Although the film is celebrating its special diamond anniversary, it certainly remains timeless and as much of a splendour as it was on the day it was released. Recently we were very lucky to speak by phone to Aladdin himself, Scott Weinger, as he reminisced about making the film, his beloved late co-star Robin Williams, and gave us an exclusive tidbit about the upcoming season of Netflix’s Fuller House.

Scene Creek: When someone says the word Aladdin to you, what is the first thought that pops into your head? 

Scott Weinger: “Carpet, let’s go!” Every day people ask me to do Aladdin voices, you know the quotes. I don’t know how people recognize me on the street as Aladdin! The Disney publicity department must have really done a good job putting me out there because decades later people still come up to me and go, “No way!”. So “Carpet, let’s go!” Is my go-to phrase from the movie that I say. It’s a reflex to say that. I did it the other day for the audience during a taping of Fuller House and they freaked out. But I love it! For me it’s so gratifying that all these years later and there’s still so much of it in the culture and people love it so much. It’s great. You know we all sort of knew back then when it came out and it was such a success that it would become a Disney classic. And now here we are in 2015 and it is a Disney classic. I watched it with my six year old son the other day for the first time and boy, it really holds up. The kids were beside themselves and just loved it. It was really neat.

SC: What was your biggest take away from making Aladdin? 

SW: Well first of all, getting to work with Robin Williams was incredible. I was his biggest fan so getting to work with him was crazy. And it was one of those things because how often does an actor get offered a part that stays with him for decades? Not only am I now sitting here talking about it and promoting it on blu-ray but I still watch it sometimes. I mean now I have a totally different career, I’m a writer, but it’s not unusual at all to get a call from Disney saying “We need you to record this new video game” or this new promotional video or this new ride in Disneyland Tokyo or something. So it’s one of those things where all these years later it’s still a pretty big part of my life and I’m really grateful for it.

SC: What is your fondest memory of working with Robin (Williams)? 

SW: He was so funny. I think one of my best memories was how gracious he was. I think I was not good at hiding how freaked out I was. You know, I was really geeking out and he really calmed me down. We walked through the storyboards together and talked to the directors together and he was such a pro, such a calming influence. You know you don’t think of Robin Williams as calming but he really, really was. And honestly he was so funny. Once the tape would roll he was the Robin Williams that everyone knows and was just so hilarious. It was painful for me to look through the glass and see everyone behind the glass just crying with laughter and I couldn’t do that. I had to cover my mouth and try not to ruin the take. It was great. That was an unforgettable experience. I have to think that after all these decades, watching it with my son and watching him react to it was just incredible. Disney was so gracious and so cool to throw this screening for me and my family. The funny thing is that they laughed at unexpected moments. For example, when the Genie says, “Are you talkin’ to me?” and he’s doing his Robert de Niro impression from Taxi Driver, which of course none of the kids knew that, they were dying of laughter! They were falling out of their chairs, it was so funny. And then at the end when the Genie and Aladdin hug and they have to say goodbye, one of my son’s friends just burst into tears. He couldn’t handle it that the Genie was leaving. Seeing it through their eyes was incredible because for me this has been a big part of my life for a really long time now. For them it was brand new and it will always be brand new to somebody out there.

SC: What did you like best about being a voice talent, when compared to your other recent multi-faceted jobs as on-screen actor, producer, and writer? 

SW: Honestly I loved everything about it. The fun thing for me was how casual it was. You could go in there in flip flops and a t shirt, sit down and record all day. It was a completely different experience. The amazing thing is that I’ve done a lot of live action acting and a lot of comedy and that stuff can be pretty exhausting, but nothing is more physically exhausting than recording a fight scene for an animated film. To make all these sounds for a big fight scene with a bad guy can be really draining, but also a lot of fun. There’s something cathartic about going into a sound booth and making odd, weird noises.

SC: If you could have three wishes, what would they be? 

SW: Do I have to say the boring ones like world peace? I’m just kidding! Honestly, I’d love to see some peace in the world. We’re living in some pretty crazy times. That would make me really happy. And I wouldn’t mind if they stopped this mass climate change situation. And I want a Tesla as my third wish. World peace and a Tesla for this guy right here.

SC: Who is your favorite Disney prince other than Aladdin? 

SW: God, that’s interesting. That’s a good question! You know my favorite Disney, I guess you can’t call him a prince, but hero, has been Hiro from Big Hero 6. I love that character! He’s fantastic. I’ve seen that movie maybe 600 times with my kid and it’s just fantastic. So I guess Hiro is more a hero than a prince but he’s such a cool, resourceful, smart kid. He’s got a lot of qualities that I want my own kid to have.

SC: I have to ask about Fuller House otherwise our readers (not to mention my friends and family) would never forgive me. Steve is alive! Will he reunite with D.J.? What can you tell us about the upcoming season? 

SW: Steve is super alive! When I found out that D.J. is a widow I thought, “Oh poor Steve! The series is going to open with my funeral.” But then I found out that some other guy died, so that’s great. And it’s so funny because I’m strictly forbidden from divulging anything but I will tell you that you’re going to be seeing a lot of Steve. It was unexpected. I don’t think anyone expected it, but here we are. It’s 13 episodes and D.J. is getting over the death of her husband so she’s not going to be on the dating circuit immediately. But you know she can’t mourn forever. I think there’s going to be a lot of guys knocking on that door. D.J. is a catch. I think I’m not going to be the only suitor, but I’m on team Steve. Get it trending- hashtag team Steve.

Aladdin: Diamond Edition blu-ray is available in stores on October 13, 2015.

Leora Heilbronn

Leora Heilbronn is a Toronto based film aficionado who has a weakness for musicals and violent action flicks. She can often be spotted reading a wide range of literature or listening to show tunes.