SALT LAKE CITY — It was her first comic con event, and Linda Larkin had no idea what to expect.
Well known for voicing Princess Jasmine in the 1992 Disney animated classic “Aladdin,” Larkin was used to the isolation of a recording studio. She wasn’t used to the constant interactions with fans.
Which is why the voice actress found herself in a jam at the Indianapolis Comic Con in 2015. Doing a panel with Paige O’Hara, the voice of Belle in “Beauty and the Beast,” Larkin received a question that caught her off guard: “Who was the biggest inspiration in your childhood?”
“I didn’t really have an answer; it was my very first time doing this,” Larkin recalled. “And I was like, ‘I don’t know, I’m going to have to get back to you on that.’”
That response didn’t sit well with at least one fan.
After Larkin’s nonanswer, a woman convincingly dressed as the villainous Ursula from “The Little Mermaid” raised her voice and shouted, “Oh come on, Linda!”
“(I thought), ‘I’m getting heckled by Ursula,’” Larkin said. “It was very funny.”
Four years later, Larkin, who will appear at FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention April 19-20, is much more comfortable in the comic con world and has come up with an answer to that fan's question.
“(I remember thinking back then), ‘Should it be a celebrity? Should it be connected to my childhood or connected to Hollywood?’" the voice actress said. “I really didn’t have an answer. As I have been asked that question many times since then, I realize the biggest inspirations in my childhood were the strong women in my life: my mother, my grandmother, my dance teacher. … That’s the real answer, and it doesn’t have to be anything but the real answer. But at that time I just didn’t know what to say.”
Getting heckled by Ursula hasn’t kept Larkin away from fan conventions. Since that first event in Indianapolis, the voice actress has traveled as far as Australia and New Zealand to celebrate Princess Jasmine.
“This is one of the reasons that I keep doing this, because you don’t know what … stories people are going to come up and share with you,” she said. “And this is something that really makes it special for me, because I’ve worked in a recording studio for most of my life and I am realizing, after years of doing these comic cons, how what I did by myself in an isolated studio … the reach that that has had and the impact that it has had on people all around the world.”
Larkin was 21 when she voiced Princess Jasmine, and although she’d been doing commercials and voiceovers since she was 18, “Aladdin” was her first animated gig. At the time, she thought it would be a one-and-done deal. But nearly three decades later, the 49-year-old Larkin — whose voice still has a youthful quality — continues to voice Princess Jasmine in new projects such as last year's “Ralph Breaks the Internet.”
“It really hit me back in November of 2018, standing at the El Capitan Theatre for the premiere of ‘Ralph Breaks the Internet,’” she said. “If you told me 26 years ago that I would be back here at the El Capitan Theatre for the premiere of another Disney animated feature where I was still playing Jasmine, my mind would’ve been blown. I would not have known how we got there. It’s been a continuous journey from that day to now and to whatever we will do in the future.”
With Larkin having a career based largely on being the voice of Princess Jasmine, it would be understandable for the voice actress to be nervous about Disney’s live-action “Aladdin,” which hits theaters May 24. But Larkin, who hopes to attend the film’s premiere, doesn’t believe the movie will detract in the least from her longtime role as Jasmine.
“I think that people will fall in love with 'Aladdin' (after) seeing the live-action film — people who maybe haven’t seen the original animated film,” she said. “And those people will want to go back and see the animated film as well. So I think it really creates … an even broader appeal for all versions of the story.”
And thanks to events like Salt Lake's FanX, Larkin knows that even with the buzz surrounding the new “Aladdin,” her role as the original Princess Jasmine will never diminish.
“To be Jasmine for three decades is something better than I could have ever imagined for myself,” she said. “It’s not something that I ever feel anything but grateful for.”
If you go …
What: FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention Spring 2019
When: Friday, April 19, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Saturday, April 20, 9:30 a.m.-7 p.m.
Where: Salt Palace Convention Center, 100 S. West Temple
How much: $40-$200