Disney animator Eric Goldberg reveals that Gilbert Gottfried thought Aladdin would be terrible and would flop like another Disney musical. Helmed by The Little Mermaid duo Ron Clements and John Musker, the 1992 musical fantasy is an adaptation of the Arabic tale of the same name centered on street kid who comes across a magical lamp containing a wish-granting genie. After falling in love with Agrabah Princess Jasmine, Aladdin uses his newfound power in the hopes of winning her over and keeping his class status hidden, all the while the villainous Jafar seeks to acquire the lamp in his quest to become the new Sultan.
Scott Weinger led the cast of Aladdin in the titular role alongside Robin Williams as Genie, Linda Larkin as Jasmine, Jonathan Freeman as Jafar, Frank Welker as Aladdin’s pet monkey Abu, Gottfried as Jafar’s parrot assistant Iago and Douglas Seale as the Sultan. The film received rave reviews upon its release for Disney’s animation and charming story, though most praise was directed towards Williams’ performance as Genie. Aladdin was also a box office smash, grossing over $504 million and becoming the first animated film to cross the half-billion-dark mark and was the highest-grossing animated film at the time, though was later surpassed by fellow Disney classic The Lion King, but one star didn’t think this would come to be. A recent interview with CinemaBlend, Disney animator Eric Goldberg recalled his time working with Gilbert Gottfried on Aladdin. Goldberg recalled one of his favorite memories with the late comedian as when they attended an early screening for the film in which Gottfried turned to the animator and was concerned it would be terrible. I do have lots of memories of him and I liked him very, very much. And often we would be in publicity together and things like that. [Laughs] I think one of my favorite memories is sitting next to him at an Aladdin screening at the museum of modern art in LA. And he is going, ‘Oh, no. Oh no, this is going to be terrible. This is gonna be another Newsies.’ [Laughs].
Gottfried’s concerns regarding Aladdin’s potential for success may seem foolish given it would earn two Oscar wins and become one of the highest-grossing animated films of all-time. Additionally, Disney’s animation team had been on a hot streak at the time with Clements and Musker’s The Little Mermaid having grossed over $84 million domestically in its initial run and winning two Oscars alongside Beauty and the Beast grossing over $331 million and winning two Oscars and the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy, the first animated film to do so. That being said, given Kenny Ortega’s Newsies adaptation had flopped at the box office months before Aladdin’s release, it is fair for Gottfried to become concerned of its chances. Thankfully for Gottfried, Aladdin would become a smash hit and spawn a franchise of various sequels and spinoffs, including the direct-to-video follow-ups The Return of Jafar and Aladdin and the King of Thieves. While some may know Gottfried best for his work as a stand-up comedian, his role of the outlandish Iago remains one of his most celebrated to date and one of fans’ favorite Disney characters alongside Robin Williams’ Genie. Audiences can revisit Gottfried’s Iago with the original Aladdin available to stream on Disney+.