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The Detroit News - April 5, 1996

Video: Williams in tow, Disney's third 'Aladdin' sets sail for video stores

By Eileen Fitzpatrick / Billboard

With Robin Williams back as the Genie, look for direct-to-video magic to strike again when Aladdin and the King of Thieves premieres in stores this summer.

Direct-to-video was once thought of as a way to salvage movies that weren't good enough for a theatrical run. However, The Return of Jafar, the first video-exclusive Aladdin sequel, changed the rules when it was released two years ago. The title has sold more than 10 million copies, according to Walt Disney Home Video.

Scheduled for an Aug. 14 release as the latest installment in the animated Aladdin trilogy, Aladdin and the King of Thieves again will test the direct-to-video waters and the staying power of one of Disney's most popular characters. Although Disney has yet to announce a price for the title, retailers expect it to cost around \\$22.

Aside from bringing back Aladdin and Princess Jasmine for a royal wedding, King of Thieves marks the return of Williams as the voice of Genie.

Following the theatrical release of Aladdin, Williams had a well-publicized falling-out with Disney over the use of his voice in the marketing campaign and refused to reprise his role for the Jafar sequel. Dan Castellaneta, the voice of Homer Simpson, subbed for Williams to mixed reviews. Last year, however, the studio made a public apology to Williams, who came back for the third installment.

"It's been wonderful to come back again and have this kind of carte blanche," Williams says, "(and) once again to play the big blue guy."

The video will feature five new songs (written by David Friedman, Randy Petersen and Kevin Quinn), two of which are sung by Williams. There are, however, no plans for a separate soundtrack release.

Jerry Orbach joins the cast as new villain Suluk, and John Rhys-Davies plays Cassim, Aladdin's long-lost father.

While Williams had been absent from the series, co-stars Scott Weinger (Aladdin) and Gilbert Gottfried (Iago, the wisecracking parrot) had no trouble picking up where The Return of Jafar left off.

"It wasn't like I had to use method acting," Gottfried jokes. "I even get to sing again, and I hope that won't hurt sales."

Gottfried sang two songs in Jafar, which he jokes were aired on radio stations that play "difficult" music.

Now a 20-year-old sophomore at Harvard University majoring in English and French literature, Weinger has been the voice of Aladdin since he was 15. Aladdin's singing voice is that of Brad Kane.

"I don't think my voice has changed that much from the first one," Weinger says. "I stuck by the motto, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it.' "

In addition to three Aladdin movies, Weinger has voiced the character for 107 episodes of the cartoon series. The series airs on CBS' Saturday morning lineup and in syndication.

Between homework and playing Aladdin, Weinger is a part-time correspondent for Good Morning America, reporting on youth issues.

Although the original cast has been reunited on film, each actor recorded his or her part separately.

"Even on the first film, I never once ran into Robin during production," Gottfried says. "I didn't even meet Aladdin or Jasmine until the premiere."

The actors are videotaped when recording their parts, Weinger says, to help animators draw the correct facial expressions for the animated characters.

Gottfried and Weinger say having Williams back in the cast will add excitement to the release of Prince of Thieves.

"It's an event that Robin is coming back," Gottfried says, "but not as much as me singing. My singing is what's really important."

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