Laura’s List: A Tribute to Robin Williams

“Genie, you’re free.” – The Academy

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This week, I had planned to post a Laura’s List of my favorite celebrity voice actors. This list was only going to include celebrities who, I think, cared enough and are talented enough to make the cut, among professionals like John DiMaggio, Hank Azaria, and Nancy Cartwright. Comedic genius Robin Williams was going to be on that list.

Given this horrible week and a half, it didn’t feel right to list him among others, so I wanted to write a very special edition of Laura’s List, dedicated entirely to the late and great Robin Williams. I met Mr. Williams once when I was 18, and he couldn’t have been nicer or funnier. He smiled, cracked a joke, and eagerly gave me his autograph — it’s true what his personal friends have been repeating, time and time again this week: not only was he a funny man, but he was a kind man, too.

I also wanted to take this opportunity to express my condolences to his family, as I can only imagine this must be such a terribly difficult time. I hope you readers out there appreciate this tribute: my top 5 favorite animated Robin Williams moments. We love you, Robin!

5. “The Batty Rap” from FernGully: The Last Rainforest

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Remember this movie?  This Australian-American environmentally-conscious fantasy film from 1992 didn’t do so well critically, but it has a special place in the hearts of many people who grew up during the ’90s. At least, it has a special place in MY heart. Were the characters memorable? Not really. Was the animation any good? Eh. Was the movie any good? No…

For me, FernGully: The Last Rainforest was worth watching over and over again simply because of Robin Williams. He voiced a deranged fruit bat named Batty Koda, who escaped from a cruel animal lab and, well, embodied all of the comedic zaniness that made the public fall in love with Robin in the first place. And he RAPS. It’s a funny little number, but, if you pay attention to the lyrics, the song actually tells a dark and somewhat adult story. I always think of this moment whenever Robin Williams comes to mind:

Apologies for the quality, but it’s the best I could find. No one else on YouTube loved this movie as much as I did, okay?!

4. “They walk around going ‘Hi, Helen!'”

I just gotta include another Batty Koda moment. For whatever reason, this line ALWAYS cracked me up…and I’d bet anything that Robin Williams improvised it on the spot, as he tended to do in many of his movies. So much of his comedic genius lied simply in his spontaneity.

3. A Favor for a Friend

This next moment makes the cut simply because it’s so sweet. Back in 2006, a little computer animated film called Everyone’s Hero was quietly released and quickly forgotten. It was directed by Christopher Reeve — who befriended Robin when they attended Juilliard together — and earned mixed reviews from the critics. It’s important to note, however, that it is the last film Reeve was involved in before he died. I found out later that Robin Williams (who I thought I recognized as the voice of the film’s villain, Napoleon Cross) leant his voice free of charge and refused to be acknowledged in the ending credits. He just wanted to work on something with his friend. That’s real class, ladies and gentlemen.

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I could find a video clip that features the character, but, if you’re curious, I’m sure there are plenty of places ’round the Internet where you could find the movie for really, really cheap ( *whispers* or for free).

2. GENIEEEE OFFF THE LAAA-AAMP!

Robin Williams as the Genie in Disney’s Aladdin was a cornerstone in all of our childhoods. It was also GREAT voice-acting. Robin brought his lovable, lighting-fast comedic energy to this endearing character, and, according to Disney, improvised most of the script. He certainly wasn’t mindlessly reading some dialogue inside a recording booth. As with his live-action characters, it was clear that Robin was dedicated to truly breathing some life into the eclectic Genie. Plus, this song. Do I even really need to post it?

The answer is always yes.

1. Freedom

We (yes, I’m confidently using the collective “we”) also loved the Genie because he was more than flashy Broadway-style songs and quick-change impersonations. Robin Williams brought so much heart and sensitivity to the character’s quiet moments, too. I couldn’t find the entire scene on YouTube, but this was always one of my favorite moments in Aladdin.

Rest in peace, Robin. We ain’t never had a friend like you.

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