Created during the upswing of Disney’s animation Renaissance, Aladdin continued the high quality of The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. For a while, I considered it rather overrated, but recent viewings have proven that it is indeed a diamond in Disney’s collection. Much of the film’s success goes to the late, great Robin Williams as the frenetic Genie. For my generation, Aladdin was the first introduction to Williams’s delirious brand of humor, so fast-paced and jammed with impressions, puns, and comedic asides that re-watches are a must. The animation complements his frenzied personality, allowing the character to transform and dart around with abandon. His “all-powerful” status also allows for countless anachronisms, including Middle Eastern cliché revisions (“Wake up and smell the hummus”) and references to The Little Mermaid and Pinocchio. (Interestingly, some locations that Aladdin and Jasmine visit during “A Whole New World” foreshadowed upcoming Disney releases, like Hercules and Mulan.)
Of course, the soundtrack was also very well-received, earning Aladdin two Oscars for Best Score and Best Song for ”A Whole New World,” one of Disney’s best romantic duets. The Genie’s frenzied appeal highlights “A Friend Like Me” and “Prince Ali,” and “Arabian Nights” lived on as the theme song of the Aladdin TV series. While not my favorite of the Disney soundtracks, it is nevertheless fun and engaging.
Though none of the characters are as colorful as Genie, most are well-drawn and complex. As a male protagonist, Aladdin himself changes up Disney’s usual princess model, and Jasmine is a worthy addition to the roster of strong princesses. Sounding not unlike Vincent Price, Jonathan Freeman’s Jafar is also a formidable villain, able to make the word “boo boo” into something sinister. Aladdin also boasts one of the greatest number of individual sidekicks that I’ve counted: besides Genie, there’s Abu and the magic carpet for Aladdin, Raja the tiger for Jasmine, and Iago (a priceless Gilbert Gottfried) for Jafar.
Between the music, character dynamics, and brisk comedy, Aladdin deserves its reputation as one of Disney’s great successes; even this year, it spawned a Broadway musical. Oh, that Disney could return to these glory days!
Best line: (Genie, when first awakened) “Oy! Ten thousand years will give you such a crick in the neck!”Rank: 54 out of 60
© 2014 S. G. Liput
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