Tag Archives: Robin Williams

My Thoughts on: Flubber (1997)

*This review was requested from a Patreon subscriber as part of his monthly reward

I first watched Flubber years ago (I don’t think I saw it in theaters, but it was still pretty new when I did see it), and I was excited at the chance to get to see it again.

For those who haven’t seen it, Flubber is actually a remake of The Absent-Minded Professor (1961), a film starring Fred MacMurray as the titular professor who discovers “Flubber.” The remake starred the late Robin Williams as Philip Brainard, a brilliant if absent-minded professor who is trying to save the college he teaches at while also trying to hold on to some semblance of a social/romantic life with his long suffering fiancée Sara (Marcia Gay Harden). His life changes when he discovers the miraculous (and seemingly sentient) substance he dubs “Flubber.”


Considering the film is 22 years old, the CGI for Weebo (Brainard’s floating robot assistant) and especially for Flubber holds up extremely well. Even though Flubber is only a digitally created ball of green stuff, there’s so much life imbued in its movements, that I at least had no problem accepting that it was real, both then and now. And Weebo…I knew there was a reason I remembered that character so much. Weebo (voiced by Jodi Benson no less) is just awesome, and baby Weebo? Melts my heart every time.

That’s not to say that all of the effects held up as well as I remembered. The last fight, for example, where Brainard uses “sprayable Flubber” wasn’t quite as good as I remembered, though I’m not sure how seriously we were supposed to take it. However, one of the things I still found immensely funny was all of the things that Flubber allowed you to do, everything from jumping unnaturally high to helping cars to fly. And Flubber is such a mysterious substance that you really can believe that it can do all of these things.

As much as I enjoyed this film as a child, and still do, it was bittersweet watching Robin Williams do what he did so well, playing a brilliant part and making me laugh as only he could. It’s been almost five years, but it still hurts that he’s gone.

Overall, Flubber holds up as a fun Disney film that you should definitely see if you haven’t already. A big shout-out to @reaperofdarkn3s for requesting a review of this film. Let me know what you think about Flubber in the comments below and have a great day!

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Film Reviews

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Alan Silvestri talks FernGully: The Last Rainforest (1992)

FernGully: The Last Rainforest is one of my favorite animated films that doesn’t come from the Walt Disney studio. It tells the story of Crysta, a fairy who lives in the untouched rainforest of FernGully.

She is learning to use magic as she will one day be the leader of the fairies. According to their legends, fairies and humans used to be very close until an evil spirit named Hexxus drove them away, presumably to their extinction.


Of course the humans didn’t go extinct, and they’re very close to FernGully even now in the form of loggers cutting the forest down acre by acre. And when the tree containing the spirit of Hexxus is destroyed and the evil spirit is set loose, it’s up to Crysta and her new human friend Zak to stop him.


I absolutely LOVE the music for FernGully, it was composed by Alan Silvestri (of Back to the Future fame) and it will stick with you long after the story is over. One of my favorite pieces from the score is “The Spirit of the Trees” and I hope to talk about that piece at some time in the future. But for now, I have a behind the scenes look at making the overall score that I think you will enjoy.

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See also:

Film Composer Interviews A-H

Film Composer Interviews K-Z

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Aladdin “Friend Like Me” (1992)

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, blue Genie is voiced by that legendary comedian, the late Robin Williams.
The part of the Genie was actually created for Williams, but the comedian initially was not sold on the idea. 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. According to the animators, some of Aladdin’s early design remains visible in sections of this number. Originally, Aladdin was made to look younger, “more like Michael J. Fox” as the animators put it. But they began to worry that Aladdin wouldn’t look right next to 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.

Well, Ali Baba had them forty thieves
Scheherezad-ie had a thousand tales
But, master, you in luck ’cause up your sleeves
You got a brand of magic never fails

You got some power in your corner now
Some heavy ammunition in your camp
You got some punch, pizzazz, yahoo and how
See all you gotta do is rub that lamp
And I’ll say

Mister Aladdin, sir
What will your pleasure be?
Let me take your order
Jot it down
You ain’t never had a friend like me

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Life is your restaurant
And I’m your maître d’!
C’mon whisper what it is you want
You ain’t never had a friend like me

Yes sir, we pride ourselves on service
You’re the boss
The king, the shah

Say what you wish
It’s yours! True dish
How about a little more Baklava?
Have some of column “A”
Try all of column “B”
I’m in the mood to help you dude
You ain’t never had a friend like me


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!!).

Can your friends do this?
Can your friends do that?
Can your friends pull this out their little hat?
Can your friends go, poof?

Well, looky here
Can your friends go, Abracadabra, let ‘er rip
And then make the sucker disappear?
So don’tcha sit there slack jawed, buggy eyed
I’m here to answer all your midday prayers
You got me bona fide, certified
You got a genie for your chargé d’affaires
I got a powerful urge to help you out
So whatcha wish? I really wanna know
You got a list that’s three miles long, no doubt
Well, all you gotta do is rub like so – and oh

Mister Aladdin, sir, have a wish or two or three
I’m on the job, you big nabob
You ain’t never had a friend, never had a friend
You ain’t never had a friend, never had a friend
You ain’t never had a friend like me

You ain’t never had a friend like me, hah!

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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For more Aladdin, see:

Aladdin “Arabian Nights” (1992)

Aladdin “One Jump Ahead” and reprise (1992)

Aladdin “Prince Ali” (1992)

Aladdin “Prince Ali (reprise)” (1992)

Aladdin “A Whole New World” (1992)

Aladdin “The End”

For more great Disney songs and films, check out the main page here: Disney Films & Soundtracks A-Z

Aladdin “Arabian Nights” (1992)

After the outstanding success of Beauty and the Beast (1991), the next installment in the Disney Renaissance came out the following year. Aladdin (1992), adapts the fairy tale of the same name and tells the story of how a “street rat” named Aladdin falls in love with the beautiful Princess Jasmine, meets a powerful genie, and becomes a prince so he can attempt to marry her. Did I mention there’s also a power-hungry vizier/sorcerer named Jafar who’d like to be Sultan himself and will do anything to achieve this goal?

Aladdin holds a special place in my life. While Beauty and the Beast is my overall favorite, Aladdin is quite possibly the first film I ever saw in the movie theater. It is certainly the oldest film I remember seeing (I will never forget seeing the title card come up on that big screen). Though there is a (small) chance I was taken to see Beauty and the Beast, I have no memory of seeing the film in the theater, so I can’t say for sure.

On the musical side, Aladdin’s score was once again composed by Alan Menken, with songs created by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice. This is the final film to feature songs completed by Ashman before his untimely death from HIV: the three songs that feature his work are “Arabian Nights”, “Prince Ali” (Tim Rice completed the reprise of this song) and “Friend Like Me.”

Since “Arabian Nights” opens the film, that is where we will begin. The scene begins with the Peddler riding across the desert on his camel as he sings about the desert. Menken and Ashman originally conceived of this song as being a lot longer, with frequent reprises that would have taken place throughout the film to comment on developments in the story. This idea was nixed, though the opening prologue remained, with one semi-significant change. In the opening verse, this is what we hear:

O I come from a land/from a faraway place/where the caravan camels roam

Where it’s flat and immense/and the heat is intense, it’s barbaric, but hey it’s home!

The “flat and immense” line is actually a substitution. The original verse read “Where they cut off your ear if they don’t like your face…” Why they would put that line in a Disney film, I don’t know, but I think we can all agree that it was a good thing they changed it (interestingly enough, the original verse is intact on the CD release of the soundtrack).

When the wind’s from the east
And the sun’s from the west
And the sand in the glass is right
Come on down
Stop on by
Hop a carpet and fly
To another Arabian night

Arabian Nights like Arabian days
More often than not
Are hotter than hot
In a lot of good ways

Arabian Nights ‘neath Arabian moons
A fool off his guard
Could fall and fall hard
Out there on the dunes

The complete song is not very long (just over 1:30) but it includes a great shot of the city of Agrabah, as well as the fantastically huge palace (which I believe was inspired by the real-life Taj Mahal). I loved this opening shot, because once the palace appears, the entire song changes from a relatively slow ballad to a fast-paced Arabian melody.


Now as for the Peddler himself: Disney itself confirmed months ago what we’ve all suspected for years: Robin Williams was indeed voicing the character while he gives his sales pitch at the end of the prologue, which likely means that the Peddler is the Genie in disguise. However, that is NOT Robin Williams singing “Arabian Nights.” It was going to be, but Williams had so much trouble singing the high parts of the song (after Agrabah is revealed) that Disney brought in Bruce Adler to record the entire song in an imitation of Williams’ voice.

This song is very beautiful, but as I said before, so very short, that I almost wish the longer version envisioned by Menken and Ashman had survived to the final cut. As it stands though, “Arabian Nights” makes a perfect introduction to the setting of the film (it’s certainly a stunning reveal, going from pure desert to a huge palace in a matter of seconds).

That’s all I have for “Arabian Nights”, next time I will likely skip ahead to either “Prince Ali” or “Friend Like Me.” I hope you enjoyed this first look at Aladdin!

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*all images are the property of Walt Disney Studios

For more Aladdin, see also:

Aladdin “One Jump Ahead” and reprise (1992)

Aladdin “Friend Like Me” (1992)

Aladdin “Prince Ali” (1992)

Aladdin “A Whole New World” (1992)

Aladdin “Prince Ali (reprise)” (1992)

Aladdin “The End”

For more great Disney songs and films, check out the main page here: Disney Films & Soundtracks A-Z