You’re Only Second Rate

The Return of Jafar marks the beginning of the Disney direct-to-video sequel era. Aladdin is an all-time favorite of mine from the Disney Renaissance. My brother and I were just as excited as any kid to know there was a sequel. Though The Return of Jafar was technically made in response to a 1994 animated series of Aladdin, the decision to release it on home video was a double edged sword for Disney. On one hand, it was a faster way to get a sequel to the already popular Aladdin. On the other hand, that meant cheaper Saturday-morning cartoon animation. I didn’t mind when I was younger. In fact, I sometimes watched direct-to-video sequels more often since they’re usually quick and painless. The Return of Jafar is among the best selling VHS tapes of all time, but Disney got a little too greedy with sequels.

The movie picks up 1 year after the original with Aladdin, Abu, and the Magic Carpet ready for a new adventure. Aladdin is currently living in the palace with Princess Jasmine and her big cat Rajah, but he continues to steal from the rich to give to the poor. Although cheaper, almost the entire voice cast returns. Except the one who really counts. Robin Williams refused to return thanks to a marketing dispute, so he was replaced by Dan Castellaneta desperately trying to recreate Genie’s manic energy. Genie returns after seeing the world, but he somehow still has magic and his shackles despite being freed. The voice of the Sultan was also changed, but Gilbert Gottfried is arguably the star. Iago is given so much attention in the sequel. After escaping Jafar’s lamp, he slowly redeems himself by saving Aladdin’s life and eventually turning on his old master. I love Iago as a villain’s sidekick, but this was a good direction for him.

Before The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Jason Alexander voiced the equally annoying secondary villain Abis Mal who ends up rubbing Jafar’s lamp. Jafar is a lot more red than he was before, but he’s just as entertainingly evil with Genie powers. Jafar’s revenge leads to his surprisingly graphic death when his lamp is destroyed. The ending where Aladdin and Jasmine want to see the world is deliberately meant as a pilot for the animated series. Animation is one thing, but the songs are also lower quality. “Arabian Nights” is the same kind of opening with a few altered lyrics. “Nothing in the World (Quite Like a Friend)” is nothing compared to “Friend Like Me.” Just like “Forget About Love” is forgettable compared to “A Whole New World.” The problem, like the song “I’m Looking Out for Me” was letting Gottfried sing in his grating voice. Linda Larkin returns to voice Jasmine, but her singing voice is clearly different. The best song ends up being “You’re Only Second Rate” since it finally gives Jafar a chance to sing his own personal Disney villain song that isn’t just a reprise. The Return of Jafar may have cut the budget, but Aladdin fans should appreciate Jafar’s defeat.

1. The Return of Jafar

Jafar taunts Genie

Preceded by: Aladdin & Followed by: Aladdin and the King of Thieves

4 thoughts on “You’re Only Second Rate

  1. As a kid I really liked Return of Jafar, not sure how well it would hold up if I saw it now, but I always had fun times with it growing up. Jafar’s demise in the film is indeed bizarrely creepy for a family flick . Had no idea Homer Simpson’s voice actor took over for Robin Williams, that’s pretty cool actually.

    Liked by 1 person

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