Remembering Robin Williams: 1951-2014
A tribute to one of the most influential comedians in modern times.
Robin Williams was by far one of the most influential modern comedians of our time. Whether it may have been standup, movies, TV, or the occasional commercial for Snickers, there's no questioning his talent. Not to mention some of the best movies he's ever been in, including Good Morning, Vietnam, Good Will Hunting, and of course Aladdin, still have occasional TV airings to this day.
Unfortunately, we have lost that talent this month. Last Monday, he was found dead of an apparent suicide. His wife said he was developing Parkinson's disease at the time he decided to take his own life, and his friends, family, and devoted fans (including myself) are in grief over this talented individual. Even Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane and Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger are in grief over his passing. However, this article won't be about his death, it will be a celebration of his career, and the great characters and stories he has given us throughout his wonderful career. I'm going to cover some of them, and two of my favorites, but first, let's start with the TV show that would give him his big break.. 1978's Mork & Mindy.
To be honest, I had never even seen this show, but due to the power of Me-TV, I was able to watch an episode with my parents (all my mom watches these days is classic TV due to the fact that most modern TV shows are nothing but crap). It was pretty good for its time. Williams, then unknown to the public, played an alien who comes to Earth from the planet Ork in an egg-shaped spaceship. Mindy, played by Pam Dawber, served as his human friend and roommate. This show was a spinoff of Happy Days, and ran on ABC for 4 seasons from 1978 to 1982. It would also get a Saturday Morning cartoon prequel from Hanna-Barbera and a UK-exclusive comic strip running in a magazine for children called Look-In.
Well, that's all I have to say about Mork & Mindy, there's not that much more I know about this show. Anyway, let's move on to his movie career.
Now, Popeye wasn't really his first movie, but it was the first time he had a major role in a feature film. It was released in 1980 as an adaptation of the Popeye comic strip, which had been adapted earlier as a series of cartoon shorts by Max Fleischer (who is best known as the creator of Betty Boop)in the 1930's. It also co-stars Shelley Duvall as Olive Oyl, Popeye's love interest.
Unfortunately, like the majority of Mork & Mindy, I haven't seen this movie, so there's not much I know about it outside of the fact that Robin did star as the titular character. I really need to check it out.
Oh, and as I was doing some research on the internet about the movie, it turns out that Paramount did the domestic distribution for the film (no surprise there since they did the theatrical cartoons in the 30's), but Disney did the international distribution. Pretty interesting if you think about it.
Alright, let's move on to the movies I personally remember him doing, not to mention two of my favorites. One is perhaps one of his most acclaimed films, the other isn't so critically-loved outside of his performance. First, let's go to the latter, which is one of the projects he did in his return to Disney after his falling out with them...
This movie, released in 1997, is a remake of an earlier film produced by Walt Disney himself in 1961 called The Absent-Minded Professor. It's personally one of my guilty pleasures, and it made me really want to see the original 1961 film. Unfortunately though, not a lot of critics liked it, not even Gene Siskel or Roger Ebert. Still, I love this movie even to this day, and it definitely stands out for devoted Robin Williams fans.
Now with that out of the way, we now conclude with what is by far his best role in my opinion, and it's in my favorite Disney movie of all time. That movie is...
This 1992 movie is Disney's 31st full-length animated movie, and features Williams in his most iconic role, the Genie. You can see why Disney decided to cast him in the role, and you can tell he was able to pull it off with his incredible wit. It continues an era called the Disney Renaissance, an era where what is now called Walt Disney Animation Studios enjoyed a major comeback, and made some of the greatest animated films made since the era of Walt Disney himself. It would go on to win an Academy Award for Best Original Score (Alan Menken) and Best Original Song (A Whole New World). However, it was Robin Williams as the Genie who stole the show. The pop-culture references, the quick timing of Williams' comedy, you name it. In my opinion, it was the Genie that made Aladdin the animated classic it is today.
Plus, Disney Channel decided to air it in Robin's memory. Finally, something that's actually DISNEY airing on the Disney Channel for once, not those bad kid-coms and hippy-esque/crass cartoons they keep on mass-producing like an assembly line!!!
Well, that just about covers it. I apologize for not covering movies like Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Morning, Vietnam, and Hook. I haven't seen them yet, so I can't really make a judgement on them. However, there's no denying the impact he had on the entertainment industry. He left an indelible mark, and even though his death is indeed tragic, he will forever be remembered for all the joy he has given us. Robin, we solute you, and we will forever be grateful.