“I love kids, but they are a tough audience,” Robin Williams once told the U.K.’s Telegraph.
While he may have been right about that, Williams had nothing to worry about. The actor was a deeply beloved figure behind several iconic characters, but he spent much of his career making sure that – even as brash and raw as he could be at other times – children everywhere knew they had a friend in him.
Perhaps unjustly maligned, Popeye should be remembered for what it is: A children’s film, lovingly rendered by Williams, Shelley Duvall and director Robert Altman.
Faerie Tale Theater: The Frog Prince (1982)
Aside from his multiple Sesame Street appearances, Williams turned in this gem of a performance as The Frog Prince on the largely forgotten children’s series Faerie Tale Theater in 1982.
To defend this film against its haters, all you need is Bilge Ebiri’s eloquent defense, courtesy of Vulture: “Hook is about one final go-round as a child before finally saying good-bye to it forever. It’s an elegy, but it’s also a kind of exorcism. And sorry, but it’s wonderful.”
FernGully: The Last Rainforest (1992)
While it’s considerably (and understandably) overshadowed by Aladdin, this was Williams’s first animated role. And the film is actually deeper (and darker) than it looks: Williams’s character’s showcase song is about the horrors of animal testing, and the film is largely concerned with conservation and environmental protection.
Obviously. Apparently, Williams improvised so much of his role as Genie that the film was denied a chance at a Best Screenplay Oscar. Worth it.
Controversial, but visually stunning (What other major-studio children’s movie made in the early 1990s would contain multiple references to Rene Magritte?) and deeper than a lot of people give it credit for.
Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
Another obvious choice. A movie tailor-made to Williams’s strengths if ever there was one – and an undeniable classic.
Shut down your adult bitterness and just imagine what it was like to see Williams have fun with the most whimsical chemical compound in cinema.
As he seemed to do time and time again, Williams played a boy out of time (and place) in this underrated cult hit.
Happy Feet (2011)
Robin Williams as a hyperactive penguin. What more do you want?
Night at the Museum
Williams’s Teddy Roosevelt was a fixture in three of these films. (The third installment is set to be released this winter.) Proof you can never be too old for the idea of a museum sleepover? The fact that the Museum of Natural History in New York recently had one with a $375 ticket price, and it sold out within three hours.
For more on Robin Williams’s tragic death and his legacy of comic genius, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
The Williams family is asking well-wishers to send contributions to charities close to the actor’s heart in lieu of flowers. Suggested organizations include St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Challenged Athletes, USO, the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center, the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation and Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco.