“Imagine if you had three wishes, three hopes, three dreams, and they all could come true.”
Those are the words adorned across the beautifully simplistic original movie poster of Aladdin. In 1992, Disney was in the early stages of what many call “The Disney Renaissance”. It started in 1989 with The Little Mermaid and ended in 1999 with Tarzan. In that time we were gifted films like Mulan, The Lion King, Hercules (my personal favorite), and the first animated film to receive an Academy Awards nomination for Best Picture, Beauty and the Beast. As with all Renaissance periods, it wasn’t until afterwards did many recognize these great achievements in film making history.
With the release of Aladdin on Blu-Ray, which you can buy here, we can finally pitch our VHS copies and toss in one of many next gen devices we have hanging out around the house. Anytime you watch a film from your childhood, you run the risk of nostalgia and quality clashing. I absolutely adore the film My Science Project from 1985, but it absolutely blows by film standards. So, you have two options at this junction:
- Keep it in your memory where it may belong -or-
- Take the plunge and revisit your childhood love and discover if the film was indeed as good as you remember
Let’s hold our breath and take that plunge.
Aladdin is not only the hilarious madhouse I remember it to be, but so much more as I view as an adult. I can only imagine my family sitting in the theater, watching Aladdin with me, and enjoying it just as much as I was. As I giggled at Robin Williams’ Genie, my family likely saw the lush, colorful animation, heard the catchy tunes, and were wrapped up in the brilliant storytelling which they could only hope to see in any live-action film that year. Viewing it now, I just cannot imagine anyone not being blown away by what they just watched.
While discussing Aladdin, we really have to start with Robin Williams’ and his pitch perfect performance of the Genie. The character was full of enough zany energy and 90’s pop culture to choke a camel. I cannot for the life of me imagine anyone not finding the Genie just the perfect centerpiece to this film. Most of, if not all, the comedy comes from the Genie and his transformations, dialogue, and songs. I mean, I don’t know anyone who can watch Aladdin and not have “Friend Like Me” stuck in their heads. Even if you haven’t seen it recently, you are now humming that song.
I just don’t believe they’ve written such a beautiful and tragic character in any of their films. The Genie is a slave to the lamp and whomever holds it and here he has a master that says he’ll wish him free. However unlikely that he would give up a wish, it’s what we’ve come to expect from our hero Aladdin “The Diamond in the Rough”. Which is exactly why it’s such a gut punch when Aladdin may not hold up his end of the bargain later in the film.
All of the other voice actors do a fantastic job and the professional singers they bring in for some of the songs are just perfect. A lot of this can be attributed to the lyrics of Sir Timothy Rice (yeah, he was Knighted, how awesome is that?) and the score of Alan Menken. Much of the music from the Disney Renaissance was done by these two talented men. It also helps when your songs get radio play versions and some are even sung by Sir Elton John.
The whole cast of characters are great, but Abu, the Carpet & Jafar/Iago really stand out to me. I don’t know about you, but I wanted a monkey sidekick after seeing this movie. I had great plans for him all the adventures we would go on. Then one flung poo at me while visiting the zoo, so that fantasy ended pretty quickly. And you would have to be inhuman to not love the Carpet. Let’s face it, every kid wants to fly. I know that every one of you, even if you’re afraid of heights, has wanted to fly. Not only do the Disney Animators work their magic by introducing another means for flight, but they actually have the Carpet emote. Think about that for a second. Tons of characters on screen at any time, and they took the time to make it look like a rug can be happy or sad. That’s just utter dedication to your film and its audience.
Jafar and Iago’s villainy ranks right up there with some of the worst in Disney history (Hades being my favorite) in my opinion. Sure Jafar only has a single song and it’s a reprise, but it’s still pretty menacing. And Jafar is such a classic villain, which is absolutely perfect here. In a film where you’re dealing with the ambiguity of stealing for food, making selfish wishes, and forcing others into slavery, both the Genie and to some extent Jasmine, they really needed a defined villain. Not to mention Gilbert Gottfried’s Iago which his manic energy is only rivaled by the Genie (I can only imagine those recording sessions with those two comedians in the room together). Both Jafar and Iago combine to be an absolutely diabolical team and we know it from the very first scene. Just like audiences knew it when they saw Darth Vader in Star Wars.
I could go on for another several pages but you all know that Aladdin ranks up there with some of the all time greatest films, animated or otherwise. Aladdin is just perfect and it’s a shame they don’t make them like that anymore. We’ll just have to deal with all of our tears while watching a Pixar movie.
Didn’t read my fancy words, here is the short version:
Eh, who am I kidding, I know what you want:
Dedicated to Mr. Robin Williams, RIP