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Aladdin (film)

Aladdin is a 1992 animated feature produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation, and released by Walt Disney Pictures on November 25, 1992. The thirty-first animated feature in the Disney animated features canon, the film is based on the Arab folktale of Aladdin and the magic lamp from One Thousand and One Nights. Several characters and plot elements are also based on the 1940 version of The Thief of Bagdad. Many aspects of the traditional story were changed for the film—for instance, the setting is changed from "China" to a fictional Arabian city, Agrabah. It was released at the peak stretch of the era known as the Disney Renaissance beginning with The Little Mermaid. Aladdin was the most successful film of 1992, earning over $217 million in revenue in the United States, and over $504 million worldwide.

The film was directed by John Musker and Ron Clements, both of whom had just finished writing and directing The Little Mermaid (1989). The musical score was written by Alan Menken, with lyrics written by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice. Aladdin features the voices of Scott Weinger, Jonathan Freeman, Linda Larkin, Frank Welker, Gilbert Gottfried, Douglas Seale, and, as the Genie of the lamp, Robin Williams. Although this was not the first time in which a major actor such as Williams provided voice-over work for an animated film, it was the first major American animated feature film in which particular attention was paid to a celebrity voice cast member, such as a major movie star, in the film as part of its promotion. This has led to a subsequent increased attention to the casts of later productions, as a major element of animated film marketing.

Aladdin was followed by two direct-to-video sequels: The Return of Jafar (1994) and Aladdin and the King of Thieves (1996), and an animated television series, Aladdin, set between the two sequels.

Plot

The story begins with a peddler singing Arabian Nights while riding a camel and tells about the story of Aladdin. On a dark night, when Jafar, the Grand Vizier to the Sultan of Agrabah, attempts to access the Cave of Wonders, a magical cave which holds treasures beyond the wildest belief -- above all is a magical lamp containing a genie is hidden. He and his talking parrot, Iago, learn that the only one who can enter the Cave of Wonders is the metaphorical "diamond in the rough".

Meanwhile, in the palace of Agrabah, Jasmine, the beautiful teenage daughter of the Sultan, must be married before her upcoming birthday, but she rejects every prince she meets, as she wants to be married for true love and not merely for wealth. Later Jasmine, frustrated with "having her life lived for her," climbs over the palace walls, and sees the marketplace for the first time, where she meets the street urchin Aladdin and his sidekick/monkey/partner-in-crime, Abu, and the two young people are seen to be falling for each other. Jafar uses a machine to see that the "diamond in the rough" is Aladdin. Jafar sends a group of guards to capture Aladdin while Jasmine is still with him. Jasmine tells Jafar to release him, but Jafar lies and tells her he is already dead.

Jafar, disguised as an old man, releases Aladdin from prison and leads him to the Cave of Wonders. They are told by the tiger-shaped head of the cave to touch nothing but the lamp. Aladdin enters the cave and encounters a magic carpet before finding the lamp. Abu tries to steal a ruby and causes the cave to start collapsing, but the carpet helps them to the entrance. Jafar takes the lamp from them and tries to kill them but Abu takes the lamp back and bites his arm causing him to knock Abu back into the cave just as it collapses.

When Aladdin awakens, he is given the lamp, and after rubbing it a genie is unleashed, revealing that he will grant Aladdin three wishes. Aladdin dupes the genie into freeing them from the cave without using a wish. Jafar, having lost the lamp, plans to trick the Sultan into marrying him forcefully to Jasmine, then kill off both of them.

While contemplating his wishes, Aladdin asks for the genie's opinion. The genie admits he would wish for freedom, since he is a prisoner to his lamp and must follow the orders of the lamp's master. Aladdin promises to wish him free with his last wish. Happily the genie grants Aladdin his first wish: making him a prince so he can marry Jasmine. They parade to the Sultan's palace, much to Jafar's dismay, but Jasmine initially rejects "Prince Ali" considering him a buffoon like all the others before him. Later that night, Aladdin meets Jasmine, and takes her on a magic carpet ride through the sky. She soon realizes that he is the same boy she met in the streets and that he has lied to her. Aladdin comes up with a story that he sometimes dressed as a "commoner" to escape the pressures of palace life, and she believes him. Aladdin returns her home and they kiss.

Jafar sends the guards, who slap Aladdin in chains and throw him off a cliff into the ocean. The lamp falls from inside his turban, and rubs against his limp hands luckily releasing the genie, who then rescues Aladdin as the second wish after liberally interpreting Aladdin's nodding head. Aladdin returns to the palace, smashing Jafar's staff and revealing the vizier's plot to Jasmine and the Sultan. Jafar realises Aladdin's identity, and escapes. Surprised by Aladdin's bravery, the Sultan decides that Aladdin should be King. This made Aladdin stuck in a dilemma as he needs it to use his final wish to become king, but resulting in breaking his promise that he made to Genie to free him. Iago later steals the genie's lamp and brings it to Jafar, who becomes the genie's new master and uses his first wish to become sultan. Jafar then wishes to become a powerful sorcerer and turns Aladdin back to rags, sending him to a blizzard-swept, far-off place.

Aladdin uses the magic carpet to return to Agrabah, where Jafar is keeping the Sultan, the Genie, and Jasmine as his slaves. He offers Jasmine a place as his queen and wife, but she refuses. Jasmine then notices Aladdin coming in the palace, who was about to get the lamp. She tries to make a diversion by tricking Jafar into believing that she's desperately in love with him. Jasmine gives Jafar an extremely passionate kiss, but he sees Aladdin's reflection in her tiara. Aladdin fights Jafar as he transforms into a giant cobra. When Jafar boasts that he is "the most powerful being on Earth," Aladdin tells him that he isn't as powerful as the genie. Jafar uses his final wish to become a Genie and tries to gain control of the universe with his powers. But he forgets that genies are bound to their lamps and is sucked into his new black lamp dragging Iago with him. The genie then flicks the lamp into the Cave of Wonders.

Aladdin and Jasmine say goodbye to each other now that Aladdin is not a prince so they cannot be married. Aladdin wishes for the genie's freedom, much to the genie's surprise and happiness. Since Jasmine loves Aladdin, the Sultan changes the law so that Jasmine can marry anyone she chooses and she chooses Aladdin. The genie then leaves to explore the world while Aladdin and Jasmine celebrate their engagement.

Production

In 1988, Howard Ashman suggested Disney make an animated musical adaptation of the story of Aladdin. After writing a storyline and songs with partner Alan Menken, Ashman delivered it to directors John Musker and Ron Clements. In 1991, the script was delivered to studio chief Jeffrey Katzenberg, who thought the script "didn't engage", and only approved it after rewrites from Clements, Musker and the screenwriting duo of Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio. Among the changes to the script were the removal of the character of Aladdin's mother, Princess Jasmine was made a stronger character, Aladdin's personality was reworked to be "a little rougher, like a young Harrison Ford," and the parrot Iago, originally conceived as a "British" calm and serious character, was turned into a comic role after the filmmakers saw Gilbert Gottfried in Beverly Hills Cop II. Gottfried was cast to provide Iago's voice. The concept of a calm, serious British bird would later be worked into The Lion King's Zazu.

Most characters' designs were based on the work of caricaturist Al Hirschfeld. Jafar's design was not based on Hirschfeld's work because Jafar's supervising animator, Andreas Deja, wanted the character to be contrasting. Aladdin, designed by a team including supervising animator Glen Keane, was originally made to resemble actor Michael J. Fox. During production, it was decided that the design was too boyish and wasn't "appealing enough," so the character was redesigned to add elements derived from actor Tom Cruise, rapper MC Hammer, and Calvin Klein models. Computer animation was used in a number of scenes in the film, such as the tiger entrance of the Cave of Wonders, the scene where Aladdin tries to escape the collapsing cave, and the texture for the magic carpet.

Musker and Clements created the Genie with Robin Williams in mind; even though Katzenberg suggested names such as John Candy, Steve Martin, and Eddie Murphy, Williams was approached and eventually accepted the role. Williams came for voice recording sessions during breaks in the shooting of two other films he was starring in at the time, Hook and Toys. Unusually for an animated film, much of Williams' dialogue was ad-libbed: for some scenes, Williams was given topics and dialogue suggestions, but allowed to improvise his lines. It was estimated that Williams improvised 52 characters. Eric Goldberg, the supervising animator for the Genie, then reviewed Wiliams' recorded dialogue and selected the best gags/lines. Goldberg and his crew then created character animation to match Williams' jokes, puns, and impersonations.

Williams also provided the voice of a merchant in the opening scene, which was completely unscripted (the production left Williams a table with props and asked him to describe the object in character). The double role originally led to the merchant revealing to be the Genie disguised, but that idea was later dropped (the merchant returned in the ending of Aladdin and the King of Thieves).

Cast of characters

  • Aladdin/Prince Ali Ababwa, voiced by Scott Weinger, is a poor but kind-hearted thief who lives in Agrabah. His singing voice is supplied by Brad Kane.
  • Jafar, voiced by Jonathan Freeman, is the Grand Vizier of Agrabah. He is a tall and slim figure who wears dark and moody clothes and owns a pet parrot named Iago. Manipulative, impulsive, power hungry, and downright remorseless, Jafar plots to use his sorcery to usurp the throne, kill Aladdin, and marry Jasmine. He is based on the similarly-named character played by Conrad Veidt in The Thief of Bagdad.
  • The Genie, voiced by Robin Williams, is a comedic genie, with nigh omnipotent power, but can only be exercised when his master wishes it.
  • Princess Jasmine, voiced by Linda Larkin, is the princess of Agrabah. Sick and tired of life in the royal palace, she sneaks out to find a new life. According to the law, she must find a prince to marry before her next birthday. Her singing voice is supplied by Lea Salonga.
  • Abu, voiced by Frank Welker, is Aladdin's kleptomaniac pet monkey with a squeaky voice. He is based on the character of Abu the thief, played by Sabu in The Thief of Bagdad.
  • Carpet, a sentient magic carpet whom Aladdin and Abu meet inside the Cave of Wonders. Carpet is Aladdin's primary mode of transportation in the film and one of the Genie's oldest friends and consistently beats the Genie at every game they play.
  • Iago, voiced by Gilbert Gottfried, is Jafar's sarcastic, foul-mouthed pet parrot.
  • The Sultan, voiced by Douglas Seale, is the pompous but kind ruler of Agrabah. He tries desperately to find a suitor for his daughter Jasmine. He is visually based on Miles Malleson in The Thief of Bagdad.
  • Rajah, voiced by Frank Welker, is Jasmine's pet tiger, whom she considers her only friend.
  • Razoul, voiced by Jim Cummings, is the head of the palace guards with a love for killing and who desperately wants to capture Aladdin. While he is extremely loyal to the Sultan, he will commit any murder for fun as long as he can get away with it, displayed by his will to kill "Prince Ali" on Jafar's orders, without consulting the Sultan first.
  • The Peddler, voiced by Robin Williams is a mysterious merchant who appears at the beginning of the film. After promoting useless goods to the audience, he reveals the magic lamp and begins the story of Aladdin. His singing voice is supplied by Bruce Adler.

Music

Aladdin was praised for its musical score by composer Alan Menken and songwriters Howard Ashman and Tim Rice. Menken and Ashman began work on the film together, with Rice taking over as lyricist after Ashman died of AIDS-related complications in early 1991. The following six songs are featured in the movie.

  • "Arabian Nights" (Ashman) is the intro theme, sung by an off-screen Bruce Adler. It was originally longer, and one excerpt of the cut lyrics was featured in Return of Jafar, and later became the title theme of the TV series. A reprise of the song originally planned for Aladdin's ending is featured in the Aladdin and the King of Thieves closure.
  • "One Jump Ahead" (Rice) features Aladdin singing while running from the guards. Shortly after escape, Aladdin reprises the song.
  • "Friend Like Me" (Ashman) sung by the Genie. In the song, the Genie shows off his powers to Aladdin, telling him that he is a friend unlike any other.
  • "Prince Ali" (Ashman) is sung by the Genie, and is used to introduce Aladdin's royal alter ego, Prince Ali Ababwa.
  • "A Whole New World" (Rice) is a love theme sung by Aladdin and Jasmine while they travel the world on the magic carpet. The song won the Academy Award, Grammy Award, and the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song.
  • "Prince Ali (Reprise)" (Rice) is sung by Jafar. Using his newly gained powers, Jafar sings this spoof of "Prince Ali" while revealing Ali is only a street rat, and sending him to the ends of the earth.

The compilation Classic Disney: 60 Years of Musical Magic includes "A Whole New World" on the red disc and "One Jump Ahead" on the blue disc. The compilation Disney's Greatest Hits also includes "A Whole New World" on the blue disc.

Eight others were written, but removed from the film (most of them sung by Jafar). The DVD Special Edition released in 2004 includes four songs in early animations tests, and a music video of one of them, "Proud of Your Boy", performed by Clay Aiken. That version also appears on the album DisneyMania 3. Demo versions of these tracks were released on the "Music Behind the Magic" box set. Others included in the DVD are "You Can Count On Me" (not included on DVD - originally performed by singer, Derek Young, who was later replaced due to a recasting of Aladdin's speaking voice). "You Can Count On Me" demo version performed by Alan Menken (replaced by "One Jump Ahead" in the movie), "Humiliate the Boy", and "Why Me" (both replaced by "Prince Ali Reprise").

Reception

Aladdin was well-received by critics, with most praise to Robin Williams' Genie. Warner Bros. animator Chuck Jones even called the film "the funniest feature ever made." However, some criticism was reserved for the couple, Aladdin and Jasmine, and many reviews considered it inferior to its predecessors The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast.

It was the most successful film of 1992, with $217 million in the United States and over $504 million worldwide, being the biggest gross for an animated film until The Lion King two years later. As of 2008, it is the third highest grossing traditionally animated feature worldwide, behind The Lion King and The Simpsons Movie, however adjusted for inflation it is ahead of The Simpsons Movie.

Awards

Academy Awards

Award Recipient
Best Music, Original Score Alan Menken
Best Music, Original Song ("A Whole New World") Alan Menken & Tim Rice
Nominated:
Best Music, Original Song ("Friend Like Me") Howard Ashman
Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing Terry Porter, Mel Metcalfe , David J. Hudson, & Doc Kane
Best Sound Mark Mangini

Golden Globes

Award Outcome
Best Original Song ("A Whole New World") Won
Best Original Song for ("Prince Ali") Nominated
Best Original Song for "(Friend Like Me)" Nominated
Best Original Score Won
Special Achievement Award for Robin Williams Won
Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy Nominated

Other Awards

Controversies

"Arabian Nights" lyrics

One of the verses of the opening song "Arabian Nights" was altered following protests from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. The lyrics were changed in July 1993 from "Where they cut off your ear if they don't like your face/It's barbaric, but, hey, it's home," in the original release to "Where it's flat and immense and the heat is intense/It's barbaric, but, hey, it's home." The change first appeared on the 1993 video release. The original lyric was intact on the initial CD soundtrack release, but the re-release uses the edited lyric. The rerecording has the original voice on all other lines, then a noticeably deeper voice says the edited line. Entertainment Weekly ranked Aladdin in a list of the most controversial films in history, due to this incident.

The ADC also complained about lead characters Aladdin and Jasmine being portrayed, with Anglicized features and Anglo-American accents, in contrast to the other characters in the film, who are dark-skinned, have Arab accents and grotesque facial features, and appear villainous or greedy.

Similarities to The Thief and the Cobbler

Animation enthusiasts have noticed similarities between Aladdin and Richard Williams's unfinished film The Thief and the Cobbler (also known as Arabian Knight under Miramax Films and The Princess and the Cobbler under Majestic Films International). These similarities include a similar plot, similar characters, scenes and background designs, and the antagonist Zig-Zag's resemblance in character design and mannerisms to Genie and Jafar. Though Aladdin was released prior to The Thief and the Cobbler, The Thief and the Cobbler was started much earlier in the 1960s, its production being mired in difficulties including financial problems, copyright issues (when it was about Mulla Nasruddin in the 1970s), and late production times caused by separate studios trying to finish the film after Richard Williams was fired from the project for lack of finished work. The late release, coupled with Miramax (a Disney-owned studio) purchasing and re-editing the film, has sometimes resulted in The Thief and the Cobbler being labeled a "copy" of Aladdin.

Robin Williams and the Disney studio

In gratitude for his success with the Disney/Touchstone film Good Morning, Vietnam, Robin Williams voiced the Genie for SAG scale pay ($75,000), on condition that his name or image not be used for marketing, and his (supporting) character not take more than 25% of space on advertising artwork, since Toys was scheduled for release one month after Aladdin's debut. The studio went back on the deal on both counts, especially in poster art by having the Genie in 25% of the image, but having other major and supporting characters portrayed considerably smaller. Disney's Hyperion book, Aladdin: The Making Of An Animated Film, listed both of Williams' characters "The Peddler" and "The Genie" ahead of main characters, but was forced to refer to him only as "the actor signed to play the Genie".

Williams and Disney had a bitter falling-out, and as a result Dan Castellaneta voiced the Genie in The Return of Jafar, the Aladdin animated television series, and had recorded his voice for Aladdin and the King of Thieves. When Jeffrey Katzenberg was fired from Disney and replaced by former 20th Century Fox production head Joe Roth (whose last act for Fox was greenlighting Williams' film Mrs. Doubtfire), Roth arranged for a public apology to Williams by Disney. Williams agreed to perform in Hollywood Pictures' Jack, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, and even agreed to voice the Genie again for the King Of Thieves sequel (for considerably more than scale), replacing all of Castellaneta's dialogue.

When Williams re-teamed with Doubtfire director Chris Columbus for 1999's Bicentennial Man, Disney asked that the budget be cut by approximately $20 million, and when the film was released on Christmas Day, it flopped at the box office. Williams blamed Disney's marketing and the loss of content the film had suffered due to the budget cuts. As a result, Williams was again on bad terms with Disney, and Castellaneta was once again recruited to replace him as Genie in the Kingdom Hearts video game series and the House of Mouse TV series. The DVD release for Aladdin has no involvement whatsoever from Williams in the bonus materials, although some of his original recording sessions can be seen.

He is currently working on the film Old Dogs with close friend John Travolta, which is being co-produced and distributed by Walt Disney Studios.

Alleged hidden message

In the scene where Aladdin is attacked by the tiger Rajah on the palace balcony, Aladdin quietly says "Come on... good kitty, take off your claws" and the word "kitty" is overlapped by another, unidentifiable voice saying "psst... take off your clo...," which may have been unintentionally grafted onto the soundtrack. Some people reported hearing "Good teenagers, take off your clothes," which they considered a subliminal reference to promiscuity. Because of the controversy, Disney replaced the phrase with "Down, kitty" on the DVD release. This was left unedited whenever Aladdin aired on Toon Disney.

Cultural references

Genie's numerous imitations aside, Aladdin features many references to popular culture, especially from Disney's previous works. While the Sultan is making a pile of toy animals, one is Beast from Beauty and the Beast; Rajah's head briefly resembles Mickey Mouse, and the Genie pulls Sebastian from The Little Mermaid out of a recipe book (as the first two bars of "Under the Sea" are played); turns his head into Pinocchio's (complete with growing nose); says "Esalalumbo, shimin Dumbo!" to turn Abu into an elephant; and dons a Goofy hat before leaving on his vacation.

Many in-jokes were also done by the filmmakers, such as a "cameo appearance" from directors Clements and Musker, drawing some characters based on Disney workers, and naming a character "Razoul" after the layout supervisor, Rasoul Azadani.

The Goofy hat, Hawaiian shirt, and sandals that the Genie is wearing at the end of the film is a reference to a short film that Robin Williams did for the Disney/MGM Studios tour in the late 80's. In the film, Williams plays an excitable tourist who is wearing the same clothes.

Other impersonations of the Genie include Arnold Schwarzenegger, Peter Lorre, Señor Wences, Ed Sullivan, Groucho Marx, Robert De Niro, Woody Allen, Carol Channing, Arsenio Hall, Rodney Dangerfield, Jack Nicholson and William F. Buckley.

Home video

Aladdin was first released in VHS in October 1, 1993, as part of the "Classics" line. The previews include a VHS trailer of Pinocchio and an exclusive trailer for The Lion King. In its first week of availability, it sold over 10.8 million copies and went on to sell over 25 million in total (a record only broken by the later release of The Lion King). It entered moratorium in April 30, 1994. The movie was also released on laserdisc in 1994. The CAV Japanese version had many extras, such as documentaries, trailers and the book "Aladdin: The Making of an Animated Film".

On October 5, 2004, Aladdin was released on DVD, as Aladdin: Platinum Edition, part of Disney's Platinum Edition line of animated classic DVDs. The DVD release featured a version of the film with retouched and cleaned-up animation, prepared for Aladdin's planned but ultimately cancelled IMAX reissue in 2003, and a second disc with bonus features. It sold about 3 million units, less than any of the other Platinum Edition titles so far. The film's soundtrack was available in its original Dolby 5.1 track or in a new Disney Enhanced Home Theater Mix. The DVD went into moratorium on January 31 2008 along with its sequels.

Sequels and spin-offs

Aladdin was followed by Disney's first direct-to-video sequel, The Return of Jafar in 1994. The film saw the debut of a new character, Abis Mal, voiced by Jason Alexander, and all of the original cast, except for Robin Williams, replaced by Dan Castellaneta, and Douglas Seale, replaced by Val Bettin. The plot mainly focused on Jafar seeking revenge on Aladdin. However, this time, with Iago on Aladdin's side, Abis Mal becomes Jafar's new henchman.

Shortly after The Return of Jafar, the Aladdin TV Series was aired on television. The episodes focused on Aladdin's adventures after the events of the second film.

And in 1996, the final sequel to Aladdin, Aladdin and the King of Thieves was released on video. The story concludes as Aladdin and Jasmine are about to be married and Aladdin discovers his father is still alive.

The Hercules: The Animated Series episode "Hercules and the Arabian Night" can be seen as a coda to Aladdin's story. Jafar, now in the underworld and still bitter about his many defeats by Aladdin, teams up with Hades, equally bitter about his inability to best Hercules. They set the two heroes up to fight each other by kidnapping their best friends, Abu and Icarus, while making each think that the other is responsible. This works at first, but the two quickly realize that Hades and Jafar are behind it all and defeat them.

Aladdin, Jasmine, Genie, Abu, Iago, Jafar, Carpet, Sultin and Rajah were also featured as guests in the TV series House of Mouse. In related works to those series, Jafar was the leader of the villains in Mickey's House of Villains. Aladdin makes a quick appearance as well. Aladdin, Jasmine, Jafar, Genie, Abu and Carpet also appear in Mickey's Magical Christmas: Snowed in at the House of Mouse.

Attractions

Video games

Along with the film release, three different video games based on Aladdin were released, one by Virgin Interactive for the Sega Mega Drive, Game Boy (later ported to the Game Boy Color), PC and another by SIMS for the Sega Game Gear and Sega Master System, and another by Capcom for the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis (later ported to the Game Boy Advance in 2002). The Nintendo Entertainment System had both the Capcom version (but this was released in Europe only) and the Virgin Interactive version (released as "Aladdin 2" in Europe, but as "Aladdin" in America).

The TV series inspired another game by Argonaut Games, entitled Aladdin: Nasira's Revenge and released in 2001 for the PlayStation and PC. Also, in 2004 Vivendi Universal released Disney's Aladdin Chess Adventures, a chess computer game with the Aladdin license.

The Kingdom Hearts series features a playable Aladdin world known as Agrabah. Characters from the film include Aladdin, Genie, Jasmine, Jafar, Iago, Abu, Carpet and the Peddler. In Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, the plotline is loosely related to the storyline of the original film. In Kingdom Hearts II it is a mixture of Aladdin and The Return of Jafar. Genie is also a recurring summon in the series.

References

External links

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