The Disney Marathon: ‘Aladdin’


For the first time in the Disney Marathon…an undebatable classic. Something that everybody knows and loves. The first film I would consider a strong long-term contender for the top spot. Where will it land in the rankings?

For those just joining us, this is a movie marathon with a twist. Myself (cranky 30s blogger), my son Josh (stoic 9 year old Nintendo obsessive) and my daughter Amelia (drama llama 7 year old princess wannabe) are watching Disney movies in a random order and ranking them. We hope to see interesting differences in how we organise our lists.

Film: Aladdin

Released: 1992

Director: Ron Clements and John Musker

Cast: Scott Weinger, Robin Williams, Linda Larkin, Jonathan Freeman, Frank Welker, Gilbert Gottfried, Douglas Seale, Jim Cummings

Plot: Aladdin is a king-hearted but crafty urchin living on the streets of Agrabah who gets caught up in the schemes of the evil Jafar. Things take a turn when Aladdin obtains a magical lamp, releases a genie and makes his dreams come true.

Review: First of all, we need to acknowledge that this is one of the many successful efforts of Clements and Musker. If you’ve ever heard the term ‘Disney Renaissance’, you can chalk it up to these two. Although they were really pushing for Treasure Planet at the time, Michael Eisner set these two working on The Little Mermaid, and then Aladdin. They defined the most successful era of Disney animation in terms of style, tone and marketability. Everything Disney has done since has been influenced by their work as either following the trend they started or responding to it on some level.

Aladdin could very well be their magnum opus, as they took the formula established with the previous film and slapped Robin Williams in there for good measure. Even after all these years and after all these viewings the movie is incredibly well paced. The characters are simple enough to be read by a younger audience whilst being complex enough to be sympathetic on some level. We never go long without an exhilarating action scene or an up-beat musical number. It’s little wonder the live-action remake of these has generated the most criticism and push-back thus far. It’s a damn near perfect cinema experience for a family audience.

Interestingly enough we get introduced to Jafar (Freeman) first, hunting for a lost treasure in the desert with the help of a doomed mercenary. He learns that the only person who retrieve it is a ‘diamond in the rough’. Jafar tracks down the young homeless lad Aladdin (Weinger), a quick-footed thief with a heart of gold. He’s immediately the definitive charming scamp, physically modelled on Tom Cruise of all people. Aladdin, and his cheeky monkey Apu (Welker), have a chance encounter with Princess Jasmine (Larkin), who has snuck out of the palace for the first time and is posing as a commoner. Jasmine feels trapped but her confinement to the palace and the law requiring her to marry a prince and seeks a feeling of freedom. A connection forms between the two before Aladdin is arrested by Jafar for ‘kidnapping’ Jasmine.

Just a quick aside to mention how much we love the Sultan (Seale). He’s a fun bit of comic relief, and I like that he genuinely has his daughter’s best interests at heart. You can see that he’s also unhappy with putting her in this situation, even if it take him a while to come to his senses.

Jafar tricks Aladdin into entering the visually impressive Cave of Wonders to retrieve a magic lamp. By the way, when we say ‘visually impressive’, we are well aware that the CGI hasn’t aged particularly well. It’s the design that makes this timeless. That giant tiger head (also Welker) coming out of the sand is phenomenal, and the treasure rooms within don’t disappoint. The whole thing is shot with a sense of scale and bluster that you can’t help but get caught up. The attempted escape at the end has a remarkable effect on younger viewers, really having them biting their fingernails.

Of course, this is all lead up to the big reveal. Disney enticed Robin Williams into the project by producing an animated short of the Genie using a recording of his stand-up comedy. It was a smart move, and this is likely the best single performance Disney has ever captured. The Genie who is summoned from the lamp is kinetic, brilliantly funny and delivery one classic line after another. It’s testament to the quality of the film that this isn’t the single stand-out aspect, but the rest of the film raises to match it in many ways.

From here the film in on a non-stop peak with more memorable musical sequences and plot developments. It isn’t long before Jafar becomes wise to Aladdin’s new persona of Prince Ali, a plot to win the Princess’ hand, and takes control of the genie. The entire finale is on point, with the threat escalating rapidly with Jafar launching Aladdin possibly as far as the South Pole, trapping Jasmine in an hourglass and turning himself into a giant cobra. This is amazing, and it’s unbelievable that they cut it from the recent remake.

There’s really nothing we could complain about with this movie. It moves along so quickly that any cracks moves past quick enough that we don’t care. Although I would like to know how fast the carpet can fly, because is makes it to China and back in one night. This is an example of Disney at the top of their game and it’s never not boring.

Best Song: So much to choose from! ‘Prince Ali’ and ‘A Whole New World’ are classics, but ‘Friend Like Me’ makes the most of the talent and the form of animation with its frenetic sequence.

Coolest Easter Egg: If you’re quick with a pause button while Sultan is playing with his stacking toys you’ll find Beast in the mix.

Weirdest Trivia: We’ll be getting to this is an upcoming article, but Disney royally pissed off Robin Williams. They ignored his wishes and make him central to the marketing of the film.

Rating: TEN out of TEN

THE RANKING

ME

Click on the titles if you want to see what we said about these films!

Once again we have to point out that the scores above don’t factor in nostalgia and personal experience. The list below does, and I carry made nostalgia for Robin Hood.

  1. Robin Hood
  2. Aladdin
  3. Big Hero 6
  4. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  5. Emperor’s New Groove
  6. Fantasia
  7. Treasure Planet
  8. Chicken Little

AMELIA

Amelia has seen this one a number of times and always seems happy to rewatch it. She met Jasmine at Tokyo Disneysea and that was a real special moment for her. As a result we’re surprised it didn’t rate higher.

  1. Robin Hood
  2. Emperor’s New Groove
  3. Aladdin
  4. Treasure Planet
  5. Big Hero 6
  6. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  7. Chicken Little
  8. Fantasia

JOSHUA

The comedy in Aladdin really appeals to Josh, and having the triple-punch of Apu, Carpet and the Genie keep him more an entertained. The style and action of Big Hero Six really edged it out though.

  1. Big Hero 6
  2. Aladdin
  3. Emperor’s New Groove
  4. Treasure Planet
  5. Robin Hood
  6. Fantasia
  7. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  8. Chicken Little