Those That Came Before: Aladdin (1992)
Last week we started a new blog series to explore the films that came before some of the major theatrical releases this month. We started with a look at the previous two John Wick films before the release of John Wick: Chapter 3- Parabellum, and this week we’re looking at the Disney animated film, Aladdin. One of the animated films released during the Disney Renaissance, Aladdin was released in 1992. It is based on an Arabic folktale in One Thousand and One Nights and went through many drafts before officially moving forward. It was directed by Ron Clements and John Musker with the screenplay written by Clements, Musker, Ted Elliott, and Terry Rossio. The story follows a street urchin named Aladdin who has his life changed when he finds a magic lamp containing a genie. The animated original featured the voices of Robin Williams as the Genie, Scott Weinger as Aladdin, and Linda Larkin as Jasmine. The original was well-received critically and financially and resulted in two direct-to-video sequels, an animated television show, and a Broadway adaptation.
What works in this film?
Aladdin and Jasmine are two characters that Disney has steadily kept in the spotlight despite this film being 27 years old, and that is because these characters are memorable. Aladdin is billed as the diamond in the rough, and we all love a good underdog story. Jasmine also has a different outlook from other princesses with her lamenting the rules that she is required to follow because of her status. Jafar is a truly manipulative and power hungry individual that retains a place among some of the best Disney villains. Abu and the magic carpet are two fun and expressive sidekicks, and there is no character out there like the Genie. The character itself is fun and full of energy, but I think we can all agree that Robin Williams makes it iconic by infusing his own charm and humor into the role. All of these characters result in a story we love to watch again and again.
There is something special about the classic Disney animation style that instantly makes me nostalgic, but after rewatching the film, I’m reminded of the beauty of the animation itself. The colors are vibrant and set up perfectly the magical world we are about to enter. Everything from the cave of wonders to the streets of Agrabah leave an impression, and it is one of the many things about Aladdin that makes it work.
Aladdin stands among the greats whenever it comes to its musical components. Alan Menken is a genius whenever it comes to crafting music, and together with Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, several award-winning songs emerged from this film. The upbeat nature of “Prince Ali” makes us excited to see Aladdin try to win over Jasmine, and “Friend Like Me” is a perfect introduction to the Genie. The songs are memorable, but the entire score is beautiful and sets up the tone of the film.
The Deeper Themes
Part of what works for this film is the lessons it leaves the audience contemplating. Sure, this is a “kids movie” but it has no shortage of practical lessons. It does not let the main character’s problems disappear with three magical wishes as one might expect. It has main characters that learn the hard way that pretending to be someone else doesn’t work out well. It has characters who are limited and lacking freedom, and they struggle through that process. The deeper themes are just one more layer that makes this film stand out.
Heralds of the film/franchise
Iconic Disney Songs
We already talked about how the music helps make this film worthwhile, but it’s also one of the heralds of this phase of Disney animation. “A Whole New World,” “Friend Like Me,” and “Prince Ali” are three of the most iconic songs in Disney’s entire catalogue, and I think we can all agree that these songs are some of the first things we think of whenever this film is mentioned.
A Colorful World
Practically everything in this film is bright and vibrant, and I’m not just talking about the animation. The characters pop off the screen with their personalities and quirks, and the story itself paints a magical world with a lot of excitement.
A Unique Disney Princess
One of my favorite parts of Aladdin is the character of Jasmine. Of course, she’s a princess, but she is one of the first to really question the rules that royalty follow. She is disgusted by the requirement of marrying a prince, and she is able to see past societal structures. She has a lot of spirit, and she does not merely back down whenever Jafar gains control. Disney princesses have grown a lot since releases like Cinderella, and Jasmine is one of the princesses that paves the way toward something different.
What can we expect in this new live-action adaptation of Aladdin?
-A new twist on iconic songs (plus a couple of new songs thanks to the great Alan Menken)
-Some homages to Robin Williams’ genie while also letting Will Smith make the character his own
-Some new characters to expand this well-known story
-The same colorful world we loved in the original film
So, are you a fan of the original Aladdin? Are you looking forward to the live-action remake of the film? Comment and let us know!
Also, stay tuned next week as we revisit another film that came before a major May theatrical release.
Mollie is a film enthusiast, aspiring writer/screenwriter, and a lover of all things Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Doctor Who. She is the co-founder of The Digital Shore (@thedigitalshore) and Above The Line (@atl_movies). You can follow her many adventures through Twitter and Instagram at @mcbeach.