If you grew up in the 90’s or have a child of your own, you’ve likely seen the hugely popular 1992 animated film Aladdin. There’s much to enjoy in this, the most frenetic and hyper of the Disney animated films, a classic that offers a highly cinematic tale of a homeless boy who dreams of being a great prince and marrying the beautiful princess. The fact that the princess seeks her freedom from the confining rules of royalty in a fictional Middle Eastern country called Agrabah just helps make it feel modern, even as there’s no electricity and no technology present. Yes, it’s TBT: teens before texting.
Like all great Disney animated films, Aladdin not only offers a parade of beautifully rendered interior and exterior scenes but also offers some splendid musical numbers including my favorite “One Jump Ahead”, when Aladdin (voice of Scott Weinger) is first introduced as a nimble street urchin with his sidekick Abu. Worth noting is that the film won an Academy Award for Best Original Musical Score.
The passing of comedic actor Robin Williams has turned the spotlight on his role in Aladdin as the volatile and madly improvisational Genie, but that sells the rest of the cast short. In fact, there are many other entertaining characterizations in the film, notably including the quick tempered monkey Abu (voice of Frank Welker) and the perpetually complaining Iago (voice of Gilbert Gottfried).
The core story is a hero’s journey, where Aladdin is tricked into recovering the magic lamp for the sinister Jafar (voice of Jonathan Freeman), then succumbs to the temptation of greed after unleashing the Genie. He only truly wins the heart of Princess Jasmine (voice of Linda Larkin) after he sheds the princely garb and reveals himself for the sensitive, happy-go-lucky boy he is.
Interestingly, there’s a parallel hero’s journey for Jasmine where she rebels against being courted by various princes from the surrounding lands, sneaks out to the marketplace dressed as a commoner, and insists that the rules be rewritten so she attains her freedom to choose who she’ll marry.
Very modern sensibilities, but there are still facets of Aladdin that are concerning, not the least of which is the impossibly skinny torso that Jasmine shows off with her midriff-baring outfits. Her waist is just barely larger than her biceps, which is not a healthy body dimension. It is consistent with the Disney animation view of people either being skinny or fat, but rarely normal bodily dimensions, it’s just frustrating that it’s yet another Disney Princess with the message that only girls who are semi-anorexic win the boy of their dreams.
Still, if you can put that concern aside, Aladdin is still frantic fun, with lots of great songs, a fast-moving story, a veritable masters class in animation techniques (for example, how the animation team addresses the challenge of giving “Carpet” a personality when it can’t speak or many any noises at all), and some quite beautiful imagery.
Better yet, the just-released “Diamond Edition” Blu-Ray disc has a gorgeous HD version of the film that looks crisp and bright on our 4K television and includes tons of extras too, notably outtakes from William’s Genie recording sessions, a walk-thru of all the celebrity references Genie goes through in the film, and even an insider’s tour of all the Easter Eggs hidden in the film.
Not enough? There are deleted scenes, deleted songs with cheery titles like “Humiliate the Boy” and “Why Me” and more. If you’re a huge Aladdin fan, there’s lots to like in this new release, and if you’ve never seen this entertaining tale, well, it’s time to remedy that already!