'Aladdin' still magical to classic animated film's voice stars

Scott Weinger, Linda Larkin discuss 'Diamond Edition' release of

Jasmine (voice of Linda Larkin) and Aladdin (voice of Scott Weinger) in "Aladdin."
Jasmine (voice of Linda Larkin) and Aladdin (voice of Scott Weinger) in "Aladdin." (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment)

By Tim Lammers, DirectConversations.com

Without question, "Aladdin" voice stars Scott Weinger (Aladdin) and Linda Larkin (Princess Jasmine) are thrilled over how the 1992 classic Disney animated film continues to be discovered and held dear by new generations of viewers.

Still, Weinger told me in a recent phone conversation, some people have been harder to convince than others when it comes to explaining the cultural impact of the movie -- a circumstance that fortunately changed at Disney's D23 fan convention last summer.

"We did an 'Aladdin' event that thousands of people showed up for, which was so cool ... I also got to take my kid around for rides at Disneyland and he got his first inkling that Dad's pretty cool," Weinger said, laughing. "I was like, 'I've been telling you for the past six years that Dad's kind of a big deal,' but he never believed me."

"Aladdin" makes its Diamond Edition debut as a Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD Combo Pack (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment) Tuesday. In addition to the film, the new release includes never-before-seen Genie (Robin Williams) outtakes, as wells as featurettes, deleted scenes, deleted songs and more.

While Weinger and Larkin are the speaking voices of Aladdin and Jasmine, the singing voices were provided by Broadway veterans Brad Kane and Lea Salonga. Larkin said in a separate phone conversation that she was amazed how Salonga matched her vocal style when recording the film's Best Original Song Oscar winner, "A Whole New World."

"I was actually surprised how smooth the transition was because I speaking going into the song and coming out of the song. It is so seamless that the filmmakers almost had me convinced that I sang it," Larkin said, laughing. "I was like, 'How did I do that? It was amazing!' I'm joking, of course, but it was such an incredible match for my speaking voice. Lea's such an incredible singer. I feel so lucky to have had her to be a part of that with me."

For those new to the film, Aladdin is an Arabian street urchin who meets and falls in love with Princess Jasmine. Resigned to the fact that their dramatically different backgrounds will forever keep them apart, Aladdin's fortunes change when he opens a magic lamp that contains a genie (Robin Williams) who will grant him three wishes-- that is if the evil sorcerer Jafar (Jonathan Freeman) doesn't get in their way.

Weinger and Larkin said their good fortunes continued far beyond the film, including opportunities to continue to voice Aladdin and Jasmine in subsequent film, TV and video game projects.

"It's one of the luckiest things that ever happened to me and I'm so proud of it and fortunate," Weinger said. "It was a pleasure happening when I was a kid to enjoy the initial success of the film in real-time as it was being introduced to the world, but I would have to say it's even more fun now, now that it's entered the pantheon of classic Disney movies."

While Weinger's voice is prominent in "Aladdin," he's far from taking any sizable credit for the film's staying power.

"I have no ego about it. I have no illusions that I'm responsible for the success of the movie. That belongs to the magnitude of the people who worked on it, from the animators like Glenn Keane, Mark Henn and Eric Goldberg, and Alan Menken, Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, who did the music -- and of course, Robin Williams as the genie. For me, I just feel lucky to play a small role in this massive production."

The Diamond Edition release of "Aladdin" is both joyous and bittersweet for Weinger and Larkin, given the loss of Williams in August 2014. Watching the film now gives it a whole new meaning, they said.

"My wife was saying as much as she enjoys watching it now, it's hard not to burst into tears thinking he's no longer with us," Weinger said. "But at the same time, as sad as it is and as awful for everybody as it was to lose him, it was amazing to see my 6-year-old and his buddies at a screening of the movie last weekend rolling in the aisles. It was amazing to realize that even though he's gone, he continues to touch people and make them laugh like that. It was incredible to see my kid coming home that day and saying lines from the genie in the movie."

For Larkin, the actress not only connected with Williams on 'Aladdin' and subsequent projects, but also as a member of the theater community.

"We met on the movie and only had one day of recording together -- Robin, Scott and I -- and it was one of the most special days of my life," Larkin said, humbly. "He was an incredible to work with, and it was exciting and inspiring. It was everything you'd imagine it would be. I would see Robin every five years.  He'd either come up in my life in something we were doing for Disney, or, like in 2011, when he and my husband, Yul, were both doing plays on Broadway around the corner from each other. They were both nominated for Tony Awards, so they were seeing a lot of each other and knew of everything going on in my life because of it."

It was also the year Larkin was named a Disney Legend, and Williams made sure that she knew how proud of her he was.

"I went to see Robin in his play during a matinee, and I went backstage afterward to see him in-between shows," Larkin recalled. "He had a lot of time for me and it was really special because he congratulated me on the Legends award, made some jokes about it, of course, gave me a big hug like he always did, and called me 'Princess.' It was the last time I ever got to see him, and it's a really precious memory for me."

Tim Lammers is a nationally syndicated movie reporter and author of the ebook "Direct Conversations: The Animated Films of Tim Burton (Foreword by Tim Burton)."