Aladdin took us to a whole new world of Disney animation. At this point, Disney had the exact formula they needed to make hit after hit. The Oscar nominated success of Beauty and the Beast encouraged the studio to continue making Musical fairy tales. In fact, the thirty-first Walt Disney animation studios film was pitched by one of their chief lyricists. Before his untimely death, Howard Ashman was a key song writer in the Disney Renaissance. It was his idea to make a musical version of Aladdin. “Aladdin’s Wonderful Lamp” is one third of the often retold 1700’s Middle-Eastern story One Thousand and One Nights (aka Arabian Nights). Other famous stories include “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” and “The Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor.”
Although these stories have been told many times in movies like The Thief of Bagdad, I still wouldn’t consider Aladdin to have been widely known until Disney came around. Elements of the original Arabian Nights were kept including, the impoverished Aladdin, his search for a magic lamp, a wish granting Genie, an evil sorcerer, and beautiful Princess. Names were changed, the tone was made more comedic, and Aladdin’s mother was removed. Even though it meant the removal of the relatable song “Proud of Your Boy.” Aladdin unsurprisingly became the highest grossing animated film at the time. Making it the first Disney movie to spark a franchise…
Aladdin is one of my all time favorite Disney movies. I can’t tell you how many times my brother and I watched it on VHS when we were kids. Along with being one of the funniest animated projects the studio has done, we were drawn to its more male centric action & adventure. While still being won over by its Princess theme and exceptional songs. Aladdin was released one month after my brother was born in 1992. I always thought he resembled Aladdin, which was easy considering this was the first Disney movie with entirely ethnic characters. Sure the voice cast isn’t Arabian, but that doesn’t make Aladdin any less genuine to its culture. We enter the fictional Arabian kingdom of Agrabah. The story is told by an eccentric Merchant with a very interesting design.
Once upon a time there was an oil lamp sought after by the mysterious Jafar. An evil sorcerer that I would easily call the greatest male human Disney villain ever made. Jafar’s pointy red & black design and snake staff are just so iconic. Jonathan Freeman helped to make him a calm menacing figure with a deadpan sense of humor. His unassuming parrot Iago is just as hilarious. Gilbert Gottfried brought a sarcastic wit to one of many bird’s he’s voiced. Together Jafar & Iago make the best villainous comedic duo. Jafar’s goal is to find the magic lamp in the Cave of Wonders. Except the cave is only interested in a “Diamond in the rough.” Which happens to be Aladdin. A street smart thief with a heart of gold who’s unfairly labeled a street rat. Aladdin is the very first lead Disney Prince and my personal favorite. He’s Arabian, but his charismatic voice actor Scott Weinger and appearance was made to resemble Calvin Klein models. Hence the fit (nippless) body that goes with his trademark vest, fez and puffy pants.
Aladdin shows his heart when he willingly gives starving children his loaf of bread. His closest friend is his thieving monkey Abu. They make a great team, but they’re continually pushed around. That’s why Aladdin dreams of a better life in the palace. Princess Jasmine is the first supporting Disney Princess, but that doesn’t make her any less important. She was groundbreaking for diversifying the Disney Princess line up. Jasmine is a kind, far more rebellious Arabian princess. Linda Larkin proves Jasmine is no pushover. All she wants is to be free from her royal responsibilities. Jasmine is incredibly beautiful with long dark hair and signature blue belly dancer outfit. Her closest friend is her pet Bengal tiger Raja. While her biggest problems are the suitors that her father arranges for her. The Sulton is much more childish than most kings, but it makes sense for him to fall under the spell of his clearly evil royal vizier Jafar.
Jasmine decides to run away where she bumps into Aladdin in the marketplace. It’s a charming meet cute that helps make Aladdin & Jasmine a genuinely believable Disney couple. They bound over their respective dreams and are just so adorable together. Jafar orders the palace guards to capture Aladdin and he cruelly tells Jasmine he was killed. As the “Diamond in the rough,” Aladdin helps a disguised Jafar find the magic lamp as long as he doesn’t touch anything. It’s there we meet the much needed Magic Carpet. Who has a surprising amount of personality for a carpet. In true Disney fashion, Aladdin finds the lamp, but Abu foolishly touches the forbidden treasure. Leading to an exciting roller coaster ride on the Carpet that ends in Jafar’s betrayal. Luckily, Abu swipes the lamp.
A single rub brings out the greatest Disney sidekick ever created. The big blue Genie is a hilarious, endlessly quotable, powerful cosmic being that only Robin Williams could pull off. He’s the reason Celebrity voice acting became so big in animation. Williams’ random celebrity impressions, over-the-top body transformations, and fast paced presentation make Genie the breakout character we all patiently wait for. Genie only grants 3 wishes, can’t kill anyone, make people fall in love, or bring people back from the dead. Wish one turns Aladdin into the fabulous Prince Ali. Complete with wealth, servants, and an elephant Abu. Although Jasmine rebuffs his advances at first, Aladdin offers her a ride on his Magic Carpet. It’s a magical romantic ride around the world that ends in a cute kiss. Jasmine learns the truth, but Aladdin continues to lie about who he really is. Although I’m still confused about how he’s not really a Prince.
Wish two rescues Aladdin from Jafar’s watery grave. His staff is broken, but Jafar takes revenge when he gets hold of the lamp. Since Genie must obey his master, Jafar becomes more evil by becoming Sultan, then an all powerful sorcerer that banishes Aladdin and forces the Sultan & Jasmine to serve him. In the thrilling climax, Aladdin flies to the rescue. His pun filled sword fight against Jafar is one of my all time favorites. Jasmine helps by uncomfortably kissing Jafar, but ends up locked in an hourglass. Like Maleficent, Jafar grows into a terrifying giant snake. In the end, the only way to defeat Jafar is by cleverly outsmarting him into wishing to becoming a Genie. Forever trapping him and Iago in their own magic lamp prison.
Wish three is when Aladdin honors his heartfelt promise to free the Genie. Aladdin & Jasmine are finally able to be together when the Sultan easily overturns the law about royal marriage. They ride off on their Magic Carpet, living happily ever after. Along with being a sincere lesson about being yourself, Aladdin was unique for its improvised comedy and pop culture references. Aladdin would have still been successful, but Robin Williams truly elevates it. I imagine the Genie’s manic animation was particularly difficult. The rest of the traditional CAPS animation was just as spellbinding. Computer animation can be seen a lot more in the tiger faced cave and carpet flying sequences. The Arabian architecture is just as well animated. While characters are their usual semi-stylized design.
Aladdin might be the only Disney soundtrack that I know all the words to. The Oscar winning music is just so much fun to sing. “Arabian Nights” is a spirited way to enter the deserts of Agrabah. As long as it’s the version that isn’t insensitive. “One Jump Ahead” is a high energy introduction to Aladdin’s life as a thief and the (Reprise) makes him likeable. “Friend Like Me” is a serious showstopper with bright colors and magic tricks. You’ll definitely wanna be Genie’s friend after this fast paced number. Same with the equally off the wall hype song “Prince Ali.” Jafar’s brief villainous (Reprise) of it is just as fun. But it’s the Oscar winning “A Whole New World” love duet between Aladdin & Jasmine on their breathtaking Magic Carpet ride that’ll always be closest to my heart. Aladdin is truly a wish come true.