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If people remember any song from Aladdin, it’s usually “A Whole New World” or “Friend Like Me.” The latter is a shining example of pure Disney fun. After being stranded in the dormant Cave of Wonders by the disguised Jafar, Aladdin inadvertently releases the Genie from the lamp. The extremely powerful, bright blue Genie is voiced by that legendary comedian, the late Robin Williams (may he rest in peace).
The part of the Genie was actually created for Williams, but the comedian initially was not sold on the idea (if you look back over his career, he did not do a lot of work in animation). To get Williams to agree, the animators took one of Williams’ stand-up routines, and animated the Genie over it, to give Williams an idea of what this would look like. The result had the comedian in stitches and he agreed to the part.
Initially, “Friend Like Me” was going to be a Cab Calloway, big-band style number (and it’s my understanding that the Genie is a Cab Calloway-ish character in the Broadway show), but once Williams signed on, the song was changed into what we see today. Interestingly enough, according to the animators, some of Aladdin’s early design remains visible in sections of this number. Originally, Aladdin was made to look a lot younger, “more like Michael J. Fox” as the animators put it. But they began to worry that Aladdin wouldn’t look right next to the lovely Princess Jasmine so Aladdin’s design was altered to be “more Tom Cruise”. Apparently, some of that first design is still visible, though truthfully I’ve never noticed a difference.
The entire song is devoted to the Genie describing the powers Aladdin has at his disposal now that he has three wishes and a Genie to command. There are many pop culture references, and a lot of sight gags (with the Genie frequently changing his appearance). I remember loving this song as a kid, I would often pretend to be the Genie, doing that crazy dance and imitating all the different voices (good times!!).
I love the ending of this song when Genie sets up the grand finale, with dancing elephants, swordsmen, piles of gold, dancing girls, and everything inbetween appear in one riotous finish (the dancing monkeys on the giant ruby are a particularly nice touch). Of course, with Genie being Genie, as the song ends, everything is sucked away and we’re left with a simple neon “Applause” sign.
“Friend Like Me” is a good song to listen to if you’re feeling down, because with Robin Williams’ outstanding performance, you’re feeling bright and happy before the first verse is even over.
Hope you enjoyed listening to “Friend Like Me”, next time it will be “A Whole New World” 🙂 Enjoy the rest of the day guys, you’re the best!
*all images are the property of Walt Disney Studios
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