The teaser trailer for Guy Ritchie’s Aladdin dropped last night, and reactions to the first look at Disney’s latest live-action remake are wildly mixed (it looks weird). But there’s one reaction that particularly stands out: That of Terry Rossio, one of four screenwriters on Disney’s original animated Aladdin, who claims that the studio isn’t crediting — or paying — any of them despite adapting their script for the remake.
Late last night, Rossio sent out this eye-opening tweet, in which he points out that the teaser for Ritchie’s live-action Aladdin uses words that he wrote with his writing partner — yet they haven’t received any compensation for it:
That’s especially troubling, considering that Rossio has written several screenplays for Disney over the years, including four of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies — one of the studio’s biggest hit franchises. Basically, Rossio has generated plenty of bank for Disney, so it seems particularly crummy that they wouldn’t compensate him for his work.
And according to Rossio, it’s not just him: All of the screenwriters responsible for the animated movies that are being adapted into live-action films by Disney aren’t receiving compensation for their work. As we’ve seen with movies like Beauty and the Beast, these remakes often include lines lifted from the original animated scripts, verbatim. Rossio goes on to point out that the screenwriting contracts for the classic animated movies didn’t include any language about remakes — because back then, no one anticipated that Disney would be producing live-action remakes:
Again, that seems, well, unseemly — especially for a studio of this size with no shortage of wealth, a sizable portion of which was generated by writers like Rossio.
Rossio isn’t the only creative from the original Aladdin to have been screwed over by Disney, which appears to have a history of this kind of thing: Back in 1993, the late Robin Williams, who memorably provided the voice of Genie, said he would never work with the studio again after his experience on Aladdin. According to Williams, he signed on to the film for his children, and to “be part of this animation tradition,” with one caveat: Disney could not use his voice for corporate tie-ins (like fast food) or to sell merchandise in ads. During an appearance on The Today Show, Williams said that Disney breached that agreement, and “Not only did they use my voice, they took a character I did and overdubbed it to sell stuff,” which was the one thing the actor didn’t want.
(For their part, Disney responded with a denial, claiming that “Every single piece of marketing material involving Robin Williams” was approved by the actor’s then-wife, Marsha. According to the LA Times, “Disney later sent him a late Picasso painting as a way of thanking him for his work.”)
In any case, Rossio’s revelation regarding the business of live-action remakes at Disney is an unfortunate one. Despite technical legalities, Disney is a company that prides itself on being morally upright — and this sort of thing not only seems shady as hell, but it makes Disney look like your average greedy corporation.