Your wish is our command. It’s time to continue our Rotoscopers Canon Countdown as we journey through the pages of Disney history and explore each film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios. Today we spotlight an undeniable Disney classic from the peak of the Disney Renaissance, Aladdin.
Aladdin was released in November 1992. At this point in history, Disney had firmly established itself as relevant and successful. As we’ve seen over the course of the Canon Countdown, the ’80s weren’t kind to the studio but, by the time Aladdin rolled around, Disney was back at the top of its game. The Little Mermaid was a huge hit and Beauty and the Beast was the first animated film to ever be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. Disney was an influence to the public once more, and Aladdin was the next spectacle audiences knew they’d be wowed by. (Equally as important, Aladdin debuted in the same holiday season as The Muppet Christmas Carol and Home Alone 2: Lost In New York, both worthy of their own respective article series, obviously.)
Taking inspiration from the Arabic story collection One Thousand and One Nights (in some publications also called Arabian Nights), directors Ron Clements and John Musker brought Aladdin to life. The duo was fresh off The Great Mouse Detective and The Little Mermaid, and Aladdin marked the first of many male hero-based films they would go on to add to their Disney resume (Hercules and Treasure Planet eventually following).
There are many angles one could tackle in qualifying Aladdin as a great film, but the most natural and most encompassing of these is its enthralling characters. The standout is, of course, Genie, voiced unforgettably by Robin Williams and animated superbly by Eric Goldberg in a role that redefined the boundaries of animated personality. Genie is hilarious and the true heart of the story, and unlike anything before or after him. With a relatively small cast, Aladdin‘s characters also have significance of sharing many scenes together as a large group, something that isn’t seen too often in Disney films until the climax. As a collective body, they bounce off of each other well, with Genie’s extremity bringing out the outlandish in each of them.
Continuing their Disney tradition, Alan Menken and Howard Ashman wrote the songs for Aladdin through Ashman’s unfortunate illness and passing. Tim Rice came onboard to complete the songwriting process, including the Oscar- and Grammy-winning “A Whole New World.” One of the most notorious Aladdin backstage stories stems from a deleted song, “Proud of Your Boy.” The song was written for a draft of the script that included Aladdin’s mother as a prominent character, and was said to be incredibly indicative of Howard Ashman’s passion and emotion. It was ultimately recorded professionally by Clay Aiken in 2004 and included in the 2014 Broadway adaptation of the film.
Despite its immense success and universal acclaim, Aladdin took a while to be infused into the Disney theme parks in any significant capacity. Disney-MGM Studios (now Disney’s Hollywood Studios) heralded an Aladdin parade at the time of the film’s release, but that was knowingly temporary. It would not be until 2001 that the film received any more love, and even then it was just a simple Dumbo-style attraction, The Magic Carpets of Aladdin in Magic Kingdom. 2003 saw the opening of the fantastic Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular at Disney California Adventure, which closed last year to make way for a similarly styled Frozen production. Perhaps the most inventive way Aladdin can still be experienced in the parks is something most tourists probably don’t know about. Inside DisneyQuest at Walt Disney World’s Disney Springs is a virtual reality experience in which guests can don a helmet and become an Abu-style monkey flying their own magic carpet through Agrabah. The diversion’s technology is incredibly ’90s, but that doesn’t detract the experience from being thoroughly fun.
In other Disney media, Aladdin found more natural success. 1994’s The Return of Jafar became the first ever direct-to-video Disney sequel. Its high profits were enough to convince executives to keep the trend going for nearly fifteen years to follow. So you can thank Aladdin for all of those wonderful direct-to-video releases! 1996 saw the video release of Aladdin and the King of Thieves, and both sequels served as bookends to an 86-episode Aladdin television series. Elsewhere, as mentioned earlier, 2014 (finally!) saw Aladdin‘s arrival to Broadway. (Here’s hoping for a tour soon!)
For the animation addict, it’s easy to soak in plenty more Aladdin goodness. Over the years, the film has received the royal treatment in terms of DVD extras, with the recent 2015 Diamond Edition Blu-ray assembling all of that, plus new material, into one mega-set with everything the Aladdin fan could ever ask for. It’s definitely worth checking out.
We hope you’ll keep joining us as we continue through Disney history. In an unprecedented line-up, next on the list is something really worth roaring about…
What do you love most about Aladdin?
Edited by: Kajsa Rain Forden