In a hilarious twist, Shakespeare’s most terrifying villain shares a name with one of Disney’s goofiest villain sidekicks. As voiced by comedian Gilbert Gottfried, the parrot Iago is one of the most recognizable personalities in Aladdin, forever whining and cackling while his cool and collected master Jafar (Jonathan Freeman) tries to scheme his way to the magic lamp. In a new interview for PeopleTV’s animation-focused episode of Hollywood’s Greatest Untold Stories, Gottfried recalls getting in character for the first time.
“They auditioned me, and among the others they auditioned were Joe Pesci and Danny DeVito. So the search was on for short, unattractive Jews and Italians,” Gottfried says. “I went in, I auditioned for it. I sat in front of the mic and read from the script, and as I was reading the script, I started improvising and playing with it and having fun.”
Gottfried continues, “I remember they said to me, ‘Before we record anything new, would you like to see what we’ve done so far?’ Just from the audition, they did a cheap, primitive pencil animation on film of the parrot. They took my recordings from the audition and matched it up to that. I remember that was the first time I saw it. I saw the parrot walking around and my voice coming out. That was pretty amazing, that first time.”
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Despite being cast alongside Robin Williams, who famously voiced the Genie, Gottfried says they never actually worked together during production on Aladdin. Most Disney voice-overs are done individually; one of the only exceptions was Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella, who read their The Lion King lines as Timon and Pumbaa together in the same booth.
Twenty-six years after its release, Gottfried says he remains very proud of the Aladdin. “I remember the movie came out, and it was a monster hit,” Gottfried says. “Still, when I look at my career, I look at that one and say I know for a fact that one is a quality work.”
Watch the video above for more.