How bad is Disney's 'Aladdin' blue Genie problem after the Will Smith reveal tanked?




 

If Walt Disney Studios and director Guy Ritchie were granted three wishes, one of them would surely be that Will Smith's Genie in the live-action "Aladdin" would find a little love.

So far, there's been overwhelming vocal consternation over the pivotal character in the remake that flies into theaters May 24.

It was always going to be a bumpy ride for anyone stepping into the curled genie shoes after Robin Williams voiced his iconic, exhilarating role in 1992's animated "Aladdin."

Fans rejoiced when the Genie-less first teaser arrived last October. "I fangirled so hard ... It looks so good!" one tweeted. "I'm legit over here sobbing," another wrote. But the very blue unveiling of Smith's Genie in a Grammy Awards telecast "special look" was skewered on social media.

The New York Times' Kyle Buchanan feverishly led thetweeted criticism, including, "They premiered this image at night??? We are supposed to sleep after this???"

We could go on about the chorus of social media barbs, which became such a thing that John Oliver used the blue Genie image as a punchline on "Last Week Tonight," comparing it to the looming "disaster" when Britain leaves the European Union.

"You know how Twitter is. There's a pitchfork army out there and they all join in. And right now, Will Smith's blue Genie is out in front of this army, in a negative way," says Jeff Bock, senior box-office analyst for Exhibitor Relations. "The Genie just looked odd. And while it's called 'Aladdin,' all the attention since Robin Williams' role is focused on the Genie."

First photo: The Internet is fixated on Will Smith's Genie, and not in a good way

The backlash: Twitter rips Will Smith's 'too blue' Genie after 'Aladdin' trailer airs

Disney wouldn't comment on the marketing aspects of the film, which has stoked excitement with fans who made 2016's live-action "The Jungle Book" a major hit. The studio stood behind its Genie in a statement to USA TODAY: "We have one of the most anticipated films of the year and are confident that audiences will fall in love with the Genie and all of the characters when it hits the big screen this May."

Bringing out the Will Smith Genie, and the blue, has been a slow, deliberate rollout for Disney after two teaser trailers - as if to ease fans into the full live-action blueness against the formidable history of Williams' cartoon creation.

In December, a smiling Smith was unveiled on the cover of Entertainment Weekly, minus his CGI blue coloring. After fans reacted badly, the star assured them on Instagram, "I'm gonna be BLUE! :-) This is how the Genie is in Human / Disguise Form."

They didn't know how blue.

However awkward the first look, the negative reaction shouldn't be a surprise, according to director Raja Gosnell, who unveiled his own bright blue update of beloved animated characters in 2011's live-action "The Smurfs."

"We didn't have the Twitter world back then that we have now, thank God. But that unveiling was met with levels of horror and gnashing of teeth by the online community," says Gosnell. "There is always going to be some sort of outcry by the keyboard warriors. It was going to be the same thing with the blue Genie from 'Aladdin.' "

"The Smurfs" went on to find its audience, make $563.7 million in the worldwide box office, and Gosnell brought the live-action creations brought back for a 2013 sequel, "The Smurfs 2."

But there are many voices who contend Disney missed the vital opportunity to make a strong first impression that Smith's Genie could hold his own against Williams' legacy.

Paul Michael Glaser conceptualized and directed 1996's "Kazaam" around 7-foot-1 superstar center Shaquille O'Neal. While the fantasy musical was disparaged by critics, visualizing Shaq as a genie was spot-on casting.

Glaser says the decision to depict Smith as blue and physically pumped up, like a live-action version of Williams' character, wasn't "a smart thing to do."

"Making him blue was a bit of cop-out. But even more than that was the big, muscular look makes this Genie more comparable to the animated version. Why does a Genie have to be all of that?" says Glaser.

Listen to this week's episode of USA TODAY's podcast, The Mothership, to hear about upcoming Disney live-action remakes and whether they do more harm than good.

He would have preferred seeing more of what the superstar leading man could bring. "They missed the boat in terms of trying to really explore what it would be like to rub a bottle and have Will Smith come out of it," says Glaser.

Smith has made clear he will make the part his own in the final film, which EW described in the first look story as "part Fresh Prince, part Hitch." Smith, who acknowledged he was "terrified" to go up against Williams' "iconic" role, said in the piece his character was "different enough and unique enough that it would be in a different lane."

There's still time for the formidable Disney marketing machine, with the powers of charismatic PR power player Smith, to right the spilled bottle.

"Disney has its own magic lamps," says Bock. "And 'Aladdin' is fortunate to pretty much own Memorial Day weekend for family entertainment. So it's in good shape there."

Part of the marketing blitz will include a full trailer, which still hasn't been released yet. Perri Nemiroff, senior producer of movie site Collider.com, suggests "scaling back on Genie in the marketing, that might be the smartest move after what we've seen."

The emphasis could focus on other "Aladdin" aspects such as Mena Massoud as Aladdin, Naomi Scott as Jasmine and their adventure story.

Then Smith will have an entire movie to unfurl his full Genie.

"I just want to see Will Smith own that look and make that role his own," says Nemiroff. "I'm hoping my optimism will not be misplaced."

Randall Jaynes, who has made a career as a deep-hued member of Blue Man Group and is now its artistic director, believes people will come to love this Genie and his vibrant coloring.

"You could already hear this Genie is Will Smith. It had his jingle and pizzazz, but the color is so evocative, it changed the look. Of course, people are going to get used to it," says Jaynes. "Welcome, Will Smith: Blue is a wonderful world to be in."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: How bad is Disney's 'Aladdin' blue Genie problem after the Will Smith reveal tanked?

COMMENTS

More Related News

And That Happened: Sunday
And That Happened: Sunday's Scores and Highlights

Dodgers 6, Rockies 3:  On Friday, Dodgers rookie Matt Beaty hit a two-run home run to give the Dodgers a walkoff win. On Saturday, rookie  Alex Verdugo hit a walk-off solo homer. Yesterday, with the game tied at three, Bud Black decided that, sure, he was gonna give another Dodgers rookie - this time Will Smith - the chance to win it for L.A. by walking Russell Martin to get to him.

Rookie trifecta: Smith delivers 3rd straight walk-off for LA
Rookie trifecta: Smith delivers 3rd straight walk-off for LA

Will Smith had seen fellow Los Angeles Dodgers rookies Matt Beaty and Alex Verdugo deliver walk-off homers during their weekend series against the Colorado Rockies. Hours after being called up from the minors on Sunday, it was Smith's turn to join the fun. The rookie catcher connected for a pinch-hit

'Queen & Slim' First Look Trailer: Daniel Kaluuya Goes on the Run in Lena Waithe's Thriller - Watch

A black couple's first date goes horribly wrong in Lena Waithe's feature screenwriting debut from director Melina Matsoukas.

3 Reasons Rivals Won
3 Reasons Rivals Won't Match Disney World's Big Price Increase

Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando aren't likely to follow the industry leader into massive price increases on their annual passes.

Disney Is Saying All the Right Things About the Hulu-Disney+ Relationship
Disney Is Saying All the Right Things About the Hulu-Disney+ Relationship

The company will work to keep its divided streaming offerings on the same page.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Comments

Top News: Entertainment

facebook
Hit "Like"
Don't miss any important news
Thanks, you don't need to show me this anymore.