INTERVIEW: Gilbert Gottfried on “Aladdin”, “Animal Crackers” and “Life Animated” – Animation Scoop

INTERVIEW: Gilbert Gottfried on “Aladdin”, “Animal Crackers” and “Life Animated”

Gilbert Gottfried is not only one of the most popular comedians working today, but he’s also an animation legend. His voice work in 1992’s “Aladdin” turned Iago the Parrot into one of the most iconic Disney characters of all-time. Gottfried has reprised that role for sequels, TV movies/series and video games. He’s also voiced characters in “The Fairly OddParents” and “The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” series’, the Aflac TV commercials and the upcoming animated feature “Animal Crackers”. And he has a pretty nifty podcast.

Jackson Murphy: This year marks the 25th anniversary of Disney’s “Aladdin”. Of course, you voiced Iago the Parrot. What are some of your memories of working on that film a quarter-century ago?

Gilbert Gottfried: Well, the funny thing about that film is, like, when people – I hear so many people say, “Oh, and Gilbert and Robin Williams were in that sound booth together. It was crazy!” And I did not run into Robin Williams ONCE during the making of that film. We all recorded our stuff privately. I mean, I’ve run into him a million times at comedy clubs – but never once during “Aladdin”.

JM: That’s really interesting. In hearing the news that Disney wants to remake all these movies… they’re remaking “The Lion King”. And they’re bringing back James Earl Jones. Would you come back to voice Iago for Disney’s live-action “Aladdin” with Guy Ritchie?

GG: Sure, because, you know, most people answer the phone, “Hello.” I answer the phone, “I’ll take it.”

Gilbert and Iago

JM: Have you been offered it yet? Has anyone brought this up to you yet?

GG: No. They haven’t called me so far. But I’m sure it’s just a problem with the phone lines. (laughs)

JM: I want to hear you back again. That’d be so great.

GG: I know. And maybe they can dress me in a giant parrot suit – and I could shoot it out in the desert for 10 months.

JM: (laughs) That would be something! You were also featured in last year’s very sweet documentary “Life, Animated” about Owen Suskind. He was diagnosed with Autism at a very young age and was able to communicate with his family again through the love of Disney movies. I’m so glad you were able to help change his life through “Aladdin”.

GG: I read an article in The New York Times, where Ron Suskind talked about how his son was Autistic. And he couldn’t communicate with anything, and he was sinking deeper and deeper into it. And they took him to a bunch of psychiatrists. The son would just watch Disney films all day.

And one day the father passed by his son’s room and the son had a puppet of my character, Iago the parrot from “Aladdin”. And, in a “What the Hell?” moment, [the father] put it on his hand and started imitating me. And he said imitating me is like, basically, sounding like a broken Cuisinart.

He started saying, “Hi. What’s it like being Owen?” And Owen looked at him – looked at the parrot puppet like it was an old friend – and said, “I’m not happy. I have no friends.” And that’s what broke the ice between him and his son to be able to have a conversation.

Gilbert with Owen Suskind in “Life Animated”

JM: It’s so amazing – the power of movies. Movies make a difference in people’s lives, especially with what Disney has done with their animated classics like “Aladdin”.

And I was looking into this: “Animal Crackers” – another animated movie. You’re joining Emily Blunt, Sylvester Stallone and Danny DeVito. It’s about a guy who eats an old box of animal crackers and then he turns into the animals. Tell me about your character, Mario Zucchini.

GG: Well, I play an Italian, which people are getting tired of right now – all the Italian parts I play. (laughs) Like my starring role on Broadway in “A View from the Bridge” and when I was Vito Corleone in “The Godfather”.

JM: (laughs) I think “Animal Crackers” is playing at a festival in a couple of months.

GG: I have no idea. I went in and recorded it. I haven’t seen it yet. I don’t know if it’s even finished.

JM: There’s three minutes of it on YouTube. I couldn’t find you in the scenes that they had so far.

GG: Exactly! (laughs) They [the filmmakers] probably watched me and realized their mistake.

JM: So they didn’t give you the lifetime supply of Animal Crackers that I hoped you would’ve gotten…

GG: No, no. That’s the only reason I did it. (laughs) Do you know: I just got a flashback – when they used to make those little cardboard cartons of Animal Crackers, they had a little string to hold the packs with.

JM: Oh, yeah, I remember the string. I haven’t eaten Animal Crackers in a long time, but yeah, I remember that.

GG: (laughs)

Mario Zucchini (Gilbert Gottfried) searching for the “secret of the animal crackers”.

Jackson Murphy

Jackson Murphy

Jackson Murphy is a movie critic and entertainment columnist. He is the creator of the website, and has made numerous appearances on television and radio.
Jackson Murphy
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  • Scott Christian Sava

    This is great! Thank you!
    For the record… Gilbert’s character is a MAJOR factor in the movie (I rarely regretted working with him… rarely).
    He even sings a duet with Sir Ian McKellen (how quickly he forgets).
    I’ll have to make a trip out to NY to show him the finished film.

    Thank you for the interview. Was fun.