This film is a Diamond in the Rough…
Street rat Aladdin meets the princess Jasmine in the marketplace and is jailed. After being set free, he is tasked by the evil Jafar to retrieve a magic lamp from the mystical Cave of Wonders. Aladdin rubs the lamp, releasing an all-powerful Genie who bestows him with three wishes. It’s up to Aladdin to use his wishes wisely to win the heart of Jasmine then set the Genie free while keeping the lamp from Jafar…
One of the most streamlined plots from a Disney film yet. If Beauty and the Beast refined the Disney plot structure, then this film perfected it, though instead of a Broadway east coast flair, Aladdin has a Las Vegas west coast flair with glitz, glamor, and grandiose sights and sounds. The songs slip seamlessly into the narrative and exit just as quickly, creating an interwoven musical that isn’t jarring. It’s a rags to riches story with a lot of heart and humor, but we’ll get to that later on…
The plot in this film is also tailored to fit a wide variety of mediums: perfect for broadway, a television series, and even video games, there are a few main locations that this film goes through (market, palace, cave, jail, desert) that can easily be swapped between depending on the adaptation. The stakes of the plot also escalate nicely, starting small and slooowly working their way up to the climax. Also to mention, this film has one of the most perfect climaxes of any Disney film, to me at least: fast-paced, incredibly high stakes, utilizing previously-established traits, talents, and lessons, and above all: the sincere threat of losing everything.
My PLOT RATING is 10 / 10.
Aladdin (Scott Wingert (voice), Brad Kane (song)) is one of the best male protagonists. He’s intelligent, witty, caring, and quick-thinking. Something I admire the most about him is how he interacts with other characters. With Jasmine he first mentions her mental traits before her physical attributes, and he really cares about her well-being over his own. With Genie he treats him as a friend rather than a master / slave relationship, and even saves his last wish for him. He’s respectful towards the Sultan, Jafar, and other authority. He’s actually lacking in confidence for most of the film when he’s not thinking on his feet an caught off-guard, but at the end of the film, when his lies catch up to him, he doesn’t fold. Instead he works towards his goals harder than before, and apologizes for his faults. The most establishing character moment for him, however, is when, after risking death for a loaf of bread, gives it to some poor, starving children, and that right there, says all you need to know.
Jasmine (Linda Larkin (voice), Lea Salonga (song)) is another great Disney Princess. She’s cut from the same cloth as Aladdin: wanting more, caring for others, and equally as clever, even outwitting Aladdin at points. Jasmine even goes along with Aladdin’s plans at times, proving herself to be an excellent accomplice and distraction at times. She also challenges the male ego and uses her position to firmly put people in their places, to have them second-guess their pre-conceived notions about who she is. Her main goal is to escape the palace walls and get to know her community, to give back to the people while seeking friends in the process. Her agenda, while outwardly selfish, is inwardly kind and noble.
To mention, Aladdin and Jasmine have some of the best chemistry of Disney’s romantic leads so far. Their dialogue with each other is a game of tennis, and it’s fun to watch them verbally counter the other at points of the film.
Genie (Robin Williams)… Possibly one of my favorite Disney characters, and one of the funniest of the canon. He’s also a heartfelt character when he breaks the comedy, showing possibly one of my favorite sides of Williams’ performances: compassion and love. There are points that make me tear up, especially when the Genie mentions freedom, given his health conditions leading to his passing in 2014. Back to the humor though, the Genie conjures visages of past and present comedians, and the humor still isn’t stale and still holds up! Every scene he is in is great, and the vocal inflections Williams puts on this character are nothing short of masterful and magical.
As an aside, Williams’ altruism towards the character was admirable, not wanting his name to take up too much of the spotlight on marketing to draw away focus from his other films releasing concurrently… But we all know what happened, Disney went back on their word, and this is why Dan Castellanetta now voices him (save the third movie where Williams returned).
Jafar (Jonathan Freeman) is one of my favorite Disney Villains. He draws stylistic inspiration from many other of Disney’s stable of baddies, and is basically a love letter to them all, from Maleficent’s fashion and transformation to the Evil Queen’s elderly disguise, dubbed when I was younger as The Man with the Feet. He’s incredibly sarcastic, as well as manipulative, using pseudo-magic and tricks to escape tight situations (similar to our protagonist). He’s soft-spoken throughout the film, but at his lowest point snaps and switches to psychotic, interestingly enough at the same time Aladdin reaches his lowest point.
He contrasts well with his loud-mouthed parrot, Iago (Gilbert Gottfried, naturally), who is just as scheming and evil as he is. They both bounce very well off each other, and they just exude sarcasm dripping with wit. To compare with Beauty and the Beast’s LeFou, Iago works better with this film’s slapstick. The universe here is faster both in physicality and dialogue, thus lending to more fitting slapstick (also taking into account the talking animals and the more cartoony-from-the-get-go style) that isn’t jarring when it happens to a human.
Other prominent characters include the bumbling but loving (Maurice’s ancestor???) Sultan (Douglas Seale), who is a pretty fun comic relief character, Aladdin’s monkey sidekick Abu (Frank Welker) who doesn’t really speak, but emotes through wild gesticulations and adorable screeches that interject upon the current scene in humorous ways, providing internal commentary, one of my favorite Welker roles. There is also the Magic Carpet, who is a CGI character that doesn’t even look computer generated, and challenges the need for characters to even need a face to emote as well as this carpet can. The cast is also rounded out with several other characters outside the palace such as the royal guards (with Jim Cummings as Razoul), merchants (Charlie Adler), the Peddler (Robin Williams (voice), Bruce Adler (Song)) at the opening (literally Robin Williams given a table full of props) and the Cave of Wonders itself (also Frank Welker, man, lookit that range!).
My CHARACTERS RATING is 10 / 10.
Perfection. A prime example of comedy moving the story forward, maybe even a little too fast at times, but that’s what you sign up for when watching a Robin Williams film (there’s over ten hours of deleted Williams footage and I want to watch it all). Every character has a funny moment, a witty line, or a signature out-of-character expression that all just works so well. One of the most clever films in the Canon, Aladdin is a tour-de-force in combining smart writing with storytelling, and it knows when to switch to more heartfelt moments that genuinely make me feel for these animated characters. The zany, snappy quips know when to stop and start and when to give the heart, and that is key in making your dialogue timeless, so much so that I can quote a good 95% of the film verbatim.
My DIALOGUE RATING is 10 / 10.
There is a lot of CGI in the film, and a lot of it looks spectacular. As I mentioned before, the Magic Carpet is seamless here, combining a CGI rug with animated hand-and-feet tassels. Brilliant. The Cave of Wonders looks beautiful here, with an impressive unveiling and imposing presence that actually digs into a tiny bit of the uncanny valley of CGI to make this character scarier. If there was a flaw to the CGI here, however, the Cave of Wonders Escape sequence looks dated and even has a few rendering errors and missing frames in the caverns, yet it’s so quick and action-packed that it can be a nonissue.
The rest of the traditional animation is gorgeous. The characters are all animated with vibrant, ever-changing expressions, and every Genie transformation is a new joy. The backgrounds are done in bright reds and golds, with royal purples dotting the landscape. The desert night scenes are also amazing, the sand reflecting and mirroring the dots of light from the stars above, the world covered in a dark blue shade to indicate night. The final battle sequence is also amazing, featuring fast-paced action and numerous magic spells that I’ll remember for years to come.
My EFFECTS RATING is 9 / 10.
The music in this film takes inspiration from the Jazzy 1940’s, as well as the glamorous stylings of Hollywood and the west coast. The team of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken would sadly be put to rest after this film due to Ashman’s death, and Tim Rice was brought on to help finish the music on the film. The music here takes on a different feel than the rest, relying on horns and the brass section, and employing quicker-paced music with more lyrics rather than filling the space with elongated notes, and the score is memorable to the point of listening to it in my mind’s eye.
“Arabian Nights” – Sets the stage for the film perfectly, but undercuts the tone completely with the following scene of the Peddler. Possibly, the tone is cut intentionally as a joke.
“One Jump Ahead” – Fast-paced and full of fun lyrics and music. Also has a lot of great visual gags in the animation.
“Friend Like Me” – One of the best songs in the Canon. Incredibly energetic (guess who sings it?) and describes the Genie’s power masterfully while setting up his and Aladdin’s relationship.
“Prince Ali” – Bombastic and lavish with a lot of different impressions for Williams to do, and contains backup singers and a chorus. A great companion piece to “Friend Like Me”.
“A Whole New World” – A breathtaking duet with beautiful lyrics and fantastic visuals. Both make me feel like I’m flying. The reprise at the end is also very nice and caps off the film perfectly.
“Prince Ali (Reprise)” – Jafar’s only song (surviving out of three or so), Jonathan Freeman hams this one up and proves that he has some great singing chops (he also played Jafar in Aladdin on Broadway initially). Ends in the best evil laugh I’ve ever heard!
End Title Duet “A Whole New World (Aladdin’s Theme)” – A more heartfelt and romantic version of the song from the film. Very nicely done by Regina Belle and Peabo Bryson.
My MUSIC RATING is 10 / 10.
When I was not even a one-year-old, my parents took me to see my first film. Parked to the side of the seats in my stroller, I watched a beautiful Disney film with the most brilliant lights, sounds, characters, colors, and music that I have ever seen up until that point.
And that film was…
Beauty and the Beast.
“Made you look!”
Beauty and the Beast may have been the first Disney film I have ever seen, but Aladdin has stuck with me since I have first watched it. This film is a perfect mix of many qualities that I want to see in my Disney films, particularly comedy. It’s always been my favorite genre (animated comedies are a must-see for me), and this film is no exception to that rule. The story is a simple rags-to-riches base, but layered with complex emotions and concepts within: truth, love, hope, self-reliance, and a whole lot of heart.
The characters are perfect here. They all work well together and interact with each other in surprising ways. Everyone brings their all to the film and the casting is phenomenal, with Williams being a standout not only for his work on this film, but for opening the door for children to experience his humor for the first time. The expressions and animation also lend well to these characters, squashing and stretching faces to allow for fun expressions and some great gags.
The dialogue is phenomenal, with pitch-perfect timing and inflection, and the impressions by Williams are excellent, as master at his craft. The animation and effects are beautiful and the CGI integration with animation is amazing, save for some dated renderings here and there. The backgrounds in particular are beautiful, boasting bright, vibrant colors, and palettes that switch from night to day. The music is some of the best here, going for a fast-paced glitzy Vegas vibe and nailing it, while having some slower songs in the mix.
As I’ve mentioned before, the film has spawned various versions of itself from Broadway (I’ve seen and liked the Off-Broadway version) to television (one of the best animated series Disney has done until Ducktales 2017) to video games (two great games on the Super Nintendo (better gameplay and story) and the Sega Genesis (better graphics)), but there is one version I would like to impart here:
From 2003 to 2016, this show ran at Disneyland California Adventure’s Hyperion Theater and I saw it maybe 20 times or so, never getting tired of it. The jokes changed weekly, if not monthly, and it was fresh and fun every viewing. It took the film, chopped it in half, and left the best parts intact, streamlining the laughs and keeping the heart. If anything, please watch this final performance, or view one of the others (‘your Genie may vary’) to experience the magic of before.
Aladdin is in my Top Five of the Disney Animated Canon.
I don’t think it will ever move from that place. Everything is just too perfect.
My OVERALL RATING for Disney’s Aladdin is 98%.
Next time —
Wait… What is that?
No! … Please, not that!
Anything but that!
Is it just me or….
QUICK! Look! It’s the sun!
We are safe…
Until the coming days…