When Disney announced plans to develop a live-action prequel to its beloved Aladdin films, it threatened—er, tempted—fans of the films with a “before all-powerful boy meets street rat” premise. But just as the studio was preparing to answer the question of where Genies come from before being placed into servitude and an “itty bitty living space,” it got some bad news from Robin Williams’ estate. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Disney is prohibited from using Williams’ outtakes in any way for 25 years.
It seems Williams, who gave an iconic performance as the voice of the Genie in two Aladdin films, didn’t want his image (or voice) exploited after his death. As such, The Robin Williams trust has “bequeathed rights to his name, signature, photograph and likeness to the Windfall Foundation,” a charitable organization that Williams founded via his lawyers. Not only does the provision prevent Williams’ likeness from being used in any advertisement until 2039, but it also bars anyone from developing a hologram of any of the comedian‘s previous stand-up routines, or ”digitally inserting him into a new film.” The measure is also meant to spare his family any tax liabilities on his posthumous earnings.
What this all means for Disney is that the company, which commended Williams’ “hyperactive motormouth” for its ability to crank out “30 jokes a minute,” won’t be able to use any of the outtakes from Williams’ previous performances. Disney’s taking the news in stride, agreeing that “[the jokes] will remain in the vaults” per Williams’ request. It has also indicated that production on the prequel has halted.
This isn’t the first time the House Of Mouse has run into some legal difficulty regarding Williams’ likeness—after the first movie was released in 1992, Williams accused Disney of breach of contract for using his image for commercial purposes. Williams claimed he’d told the studio “I don’t want to sell anything—as in Burger King, as in toys, as in stuff.” Disney argued that Williams had in fact signed off on the promotional materials, but was probably just surprised by the success of the film. The studio reportedly sent the actor an apology in the form of a “late Picasso,” but Williams wouldn’t reprise his role as Genie until 1996’s Aladdin And The King Of Thieves.
[h/t Vanity Fair]