Disney Reviews with the Unshaved Mouse #31: Aladdin

(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise. I do not claim ownership of this material. New to the blog? Start at the start with Snow White.)

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In her video on the rivalry between Dreamworks and Disney, the Nostalgia Chick called Aladdin “The first Dreamworks movie” and I think that’s pretty much spot on. Of all the movies of the Disney renaissance this is the one that most strongly bears the stamp of one Jeffrey Katzenberg. Celebrity voices? We got celebrity voices. Broad comedy for the kids with slightly more adult humour for the grown ups? Come in, my friend. Trendy pop culture references and catchphrases that seem refreshingly modern at the time of release but as the years go by seem more and more…um…
NOT!

NOT!

Yeah. This movie was really where that whole Dreamworks style was born. And that’s actually not a diss. I knock Dreamworks a lot on this blog (as is my God-given right as  a Disney fan), but I’ll be the first to admit that when their formula works it works damn well. One of the reasons I think Aladdin is so good is because it combines the best of both Disney and what would later become Dreamworks. It’s funny and snarky but it’s got also got a heart as big as all outdoors. And yes, it’s by far the most glitzy and “Hollywood” of the Renaissance Movies. That’s Katzenberg’s influence as well. When directors Ron Clements and Jon Musker showed Katzenberg the original test reel he hated it so much that he told them to start again from scratch. Now, you’ll remember, the exact same thing happened to Beauty and the Beast as well but this was different. With Beauty and the Beast, the original concept was reworked into an Ashman/Menken musical. Aladdin was ALREADY an Ashman/Menken musical. The new creative imprint that reshaped the movie after the disaster of the showreel screening (“Black Friday” as it was called) was Katzenberg and new script writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio. Even Katzenberg’s choices of phrasing were pure Hollywood; when telling the animators that Aladdin needed to be more heroic and someone worthy of Jasmine he said “He’s Michael J. Fox, he needs to be Tom Cruise.”
He needs to be more utterly terrifying?

He needs the grin of a mako shark and the cold dead eyes of a killer?

The fact that Aladdin is such a showy, glitzy, thrill ride I think leads some to dismiss it as the airheaded “pretty one” . “Sure” tut the snobs “It’s entertainment enough for the proles. But is it art?”
 
Balderdash!

Balderdash! 

Well, I would actually say that there’s more artistry on display here than in Beauty and the Beast. And lest you think I’m just engaging in more unwarranted BatB bashing I’ll throw my beloved Little Mermaid in and say it’s more artistically accomplished than that film too.
 
Mouse! How could you!?

Mouse! How could you!?

Let’s start with the artwork. The backgrounds in Mermaid and Beast are generic and pretty bland. Now look at Agrabah.
 Agrabah
Like the characters (with the deliberate exception of Jafar) everything about the city is curved, unique and inviting. The artists based the architecture of the city on Arabian calligraphy and it actually compliments the characters rather than simply being a static stage for them to perform. And the character animation is another giant leap. Think of how much character and emotion they manage to invest in the magic carpet, a goddamn rectangle. And that’s not even getting started on the feat of animation that is the Genie. So yeah, I don’t buy the argument that just because this movie is more fun than Beauty and the Beast it’s somehow less of an artistic achievement. If anything, the fact that it’s so entertaining while breaking serious new ground in the field of animation makes it an even better film in my eyes. Look at it this way:
Chocolate is great.
Broccoli is good for you.
But broccoli that tastes like chocolate CHANGES THE WORLD.
 
Let’s take a look at the film.
We open with our first number, Arabian Nights. There are six songs in this movie, three written by Howard Ashman and the other three written by Tim Rice after Ashman’s death. This is one of Ashman’s, and while this may seem sacriligeous…it’s not one of his best. Some of the lyrics seem to be stretching for a rhyme:
Arabian Nights! Like Arabian Days! More often than not/Are hotter than hot/In a lot of good ways.
A lot of good ways? How many good ways? In what sense are the ways “good”? Morally “good”? Are these Arabian Nights hotter than hot in ways that benefit the soul? Or are we talking about “hot” in the sense of…how shall I put this delicately? The hard fucking?
Yeah, that line bugs me just a smidge. It was another line that landed the movie in hot water, however. Originally the song included the line: “Where they cut off your ear/if they don’t like your face” which was changed after protest from the American-Arab Anti-Defamation League. You know, I gotta imagine that these days the American-Arab Anti-Defamation League sits around their office going “Hey. Remember back when the most troubling portrayal of Arabs in the media was fucking Aladdin? God I miss the nineties.”
"Well, enough chit chat. Pass me today's Fox News file."

“Well, enough chit chat. Pass me today’s Fox News file.”

Menken’s score makes up for the slightly below par lyrics though, conjuring a real feeling of mystery and wonder. We follow the singer, The Peddlar (Robin Williams), as he makes his way into Agrabah. The Peddlar was originally going to be the Genie, now in human form and retelling the story to the audience. You can still see plenty of clues of this; the beard, the blue clothes, the fact that he only has four fingers like the genie but unlike the rest of the human characters, the fact that he owns the lamp and of course the  fact that he’s voiced by Robin Williams. Of course that ends up contradicting the ending where the Genie is freed but still remains a genie so…we never find out who this guy really is. Or why he can break the fourth wall.

He's like an Abassid-era Zack Morris.

He’s like an Abbasid-era Zack Morris.

Once the song is done, the Peddlar welcomes the viewer to Agrabah and promptly starts trying to sell us his crap in a scene that was entirely ad-libbed by Robin Williams.

Okay, if I ever do a list of the Unshaved Mouse’s least favorite films of all time, Patch Addams and Jack will be near the top of that list. Hell, I don’t even like the supposedly good Robin Williams movies like Mrs Doubtfire and Hook. If pretty much everything Robin Williams did in the nineties was on fire, I would piss on it, but only the parts that weren’t burning. So when I say that I think Robin Williams is the best very, very good thing in this very, very good movie, I want you to understand how hard he had to work to win me over. It really makes me wish that he’d done more animation work and less live action because he’s far more suited to this medium. Hell, scratch that. I wish he’d been born a cartoon character and not a human.

Or a beaver. Dude would make an awesome beaver.

Or a beaver. Dude would make an awesome beaver.

The Peddler offers to sell us an old lamp by using the same pitch that pretty much every salesman uses when trying to palm off some piece of crap: It’s a conversation starter! The Peddler says that it once belonged to a man who was much  more than what he seemed; a diamond in the rough.

The movie proper begins with Jafar waiting for Gazeem in the desert in the dead of night. Jafar is voiced by Jonathan Freeman, a large, very pleasant American man who’s terrified of parrots.

Now THAT's acting!

Now THAT’s acting!

Andreas Deja, Jafar’s lead animator designed the character to completely contrast with everyone else in the movie and indeed with Agrabah itself. While all the other character are made up of big, sweeping S curves, Jafar is a tall, thin, angular pillar of triangles. Jafar is pretty much the Disney villain archetype in its purest form. If you took all the Disney villains, ground them together into a fine powder and then smoked that powder you would see Jafar and he would try to eat your soul. Sure, he’s clearly derived from Maleficent  (Oh God, please no one mention Thief and the Cobbler, please no one mention Thief and the Cobbler…) but c’mon, Sleeping Beauty was thirty years prior, you can’t really say they went back to that well with undue haste. Anyway Jafar is a great villain, maybe the best in the canon…

Oh please, this whole movie's just a rip off of Thief and the Cobbler.

Oh please, this whole movie’s just a rip off of Thief and the Cobbler.

Curses! Taran_Wanderer_2! Damn you, my implacable arch nemesis!

Ugh.

Okay, this review is going to be a long one as it is and I really, really, really don’t have the time to do an in depth discussion of the epic clusterbollocks that was Richard Williams’ The Thief and the Cobbler. I probably will do a review of it some time down the line but for now I’m just going to talk about whether Disney ripped off the movie or not.

And in my expert opinion as a guy on the internet with a blog? Probably not.

Yeah, there’s certainly similarities.

Zigzag,-the-Thief-and-the-Cobbler

Clearly Zig Zag was the inspiration for Jasmine.

And there’s a few story elements that are suspiciously similar, like Zig Zag the Grand Vizier controlling the naive Sultan and trying to use his influence to marry the Sultan’s daughter. But the basic story of both films is totally different and other than being blue and having a beard Zig Zag bears no resemblance to Genie and not really that much to Jafar, either. If there is a reason for the similarities beyond mere coincidence (and hey, that can happen) then I’d guess it was the animators who worked with Williams on Who Framed Roger Rabbit possibly seeing snippets of Cobbler or maybe even working on it themselves, which they then either consciously or unconsciously incorporated into Aladdin when they crossed over to Disney. Plus, if it was plagiarism, what’s in it for Disney? You rip off something that’s successful when you hope to steal a little of that success for yourself. Cobbler wasn’t even released at the time Aladdin went into production, it still hadn’t been released when Aladdin hit cinemas and for all anyone knew would never be released (this thing was in production for almost THIRTY YEARS). Now, you want to see a real rip off? Look at the cut of Thief and the Cobbler that Miramax released on the cheap after they got tired of waiting for Williams to shit or get off the pot and took control of the movie. They gave Zig Zag’s previously silent vulture sidekick Phido an Iago-esque dubbing over, gave the Thief and the Cobbler (also silent characters) new voices replete with pop culture references and adult humour and added some truly, truly atrocious songs for the Princess. Seriously, listen to Am I Feeling Love?, one of those rare songs that sounds like its own parody. Now, before you run to the comments let me stress that I actually really like Thief and the Cobbler (and yes, I’ve seen the re-cobbled cut as well, before you ask). It’s the kind of weird acid trip of a cartoon that I just live for and it has  the best hand-drawn animation that I have ever seen. Ever. Period. Without qualification. But it’s not a good film. And, here’s where I lose all my animation nerd cred, I don’t think it was ever going to be. I don’t buy the theory that if Williams had just been given more time and money he could have made the greatest animated movie of all time. The best animation of all time? Sure. But having great animation doesn’t make a great animated movie any more than having the best director of photography in the world guarantees that you’re going to make a great film.  And you know what? Williams was kind of asking for it. I mean, treating your animators like shit and firing them over the slightest mistake is one thing, but not even using storyboards because they’re “too restrictive”? Animation is not fucking beat poetry, you can’t make it up as you go along! It’s possibly the single most expensive, intricate and difficult artform in human history. If you try to do it without any kind of forward planning you…well you end up with a film that takes thirty years to make and costs millions and millions of dollars that it will never make back. This movie was never going to be better than Aladdin in any area other than it’ animation because Aladdin has better characters, better songs, a better script and a better story. Sorry. In my opinion, the better movie won.

twocentsOkay so Jafar asks Gazeem…

JESUS I’M AT 2200 WORDS AND I’M THREE MINUTES INTO THE MOVIE.

Ahem. Sorry.

Jafar asks Gazeem if he “has it” and Gazeem gives him half a golden scarab. Jafar takes out the other half and combines the two, causing the scarab to come alive and go flying off into the desert night. Jafar and Gazeem follow on horseback and arrive in time to see the Cave of Wonders rising out of the sands. The Cave of Wonders is a giant talking tiger head voiced by Frank Welker (He Whose IMDb Page Stretches Unto the Crack of Doom) and if you’ve always wondered why his voice sounds so familiar kindly allow me to blow your mind.

I'll get you next time Gadget...

I’ll get you next time Gadget…

Jafar sends Gazeem in, telling him that “the rest of the treasure is yours but the lamp is mine”. The Cave warns Gazeem that only the diamond in the rough can enter…him.

Excuse me a moment.

David? I don't want to make a gay joke but I'm really tempted.

David? I don’t want to make a gay joke but I’m really tempted.

Just take it one day at a time, Mouse. And know that I love you.

Just take it one day at a time, Mouse. And know that I love you.

I love you too, David.

I love you too, David.

Okay, where were we? Jafar basically tells Gazeem “Oh, that’s you. You’re totally the diamond in the rough. I can tell.” and Gazeem enters the Cave who promptly swallows him whole.

Some days are easier than others. Gotta stay strong.

You will not break me, movie!
Back, foul temptress!

Iago, voiced by Gilbert Gottfried, starts ranting that they’re never going to get the lamp. Usually Gottfried is at best an acquired taste but here he’s probably the second best thing in the movie after Williams.  His schtick gels perfectly with the little feathered sociopath and the way he plays off Jafar is just fantastic. He also gets some of the funniest lines not just in this movie, but in any Disney movies (“I think I’m going to have a heart attack and die from NOT SURPRISE!” is one for the ages.) This scene sets the two characters and their relationship up perfectly. Iago is flustered, frustrated and angry, Jafar is all “Paaaaaatience Eeeeeeeyaaaaagoooooo, Paaaaatience.” Jafar says they will have to find the diamond in the rough.

We cut to our main character Aladdin (Scott Weinger) escaping over rooftops with a stolen loaf of bread while being pursued by the palace guards led by Razoul, who’s voiced by Jim Cummings…

Take a shot.

Take a shot.

Clements and Musker were determined that Aladdin would not be just another bland male Disney lead and the character went through a great deal of revision and reworking before arriving at his final form. And I gotta say, I think they did a fantastic job. Aladdin is charismatic, likeable, utterly decent and yet canny and wily enough that he doesn’t come across as a bland saint. He’s introduced with the song One Jump Ahead. It’s a brilliant, hilarious romp of a song as Aladdin and his monkey friend Abu (Frank Welker again) outwit the guards. It leads up to a bit where Abu grabs a sword and threatens the guards who scream “He’s got a sword!” only for Razoul to yell “You IDIOTS! We’ve all got swords!”

You know, I think this moment explains why Razoul is still in charge of the guards even after Aladdin’s been made Grand Vizier in Return of Jafar, and why he’s never fired all the way through the TV series and the King Of Thieves.  Aladdin probably went to the Sultan first chance he got and said “Look, your Majesty? Don’t know if you’re aware of this, but the guy you have running security in this place is the second most evil guy in the movie. Seriously, he’s total scum. Maybe you could call him in here and tell him that the palace is moving in a different direction and we don’t see him continuing on with us here?” And the Sultan would be all “Dude, I hear you. Guy’s an ass, I get that…but he is literally the only one on the payroll smart enough to remember that he has a sword. And he’s the only one who can remind the other guards that they have swords.  He is literally the linchpin of our entire military.”

Aladdin escapes and is about to chow down on some well-earned bread when he sees two urchins searching for food. Well, it’s a Disney movie and you have to show the lead being nice to children (seriously, count how many times they do this from Little Mermaid on) so he gives them the bread.

Meanwhile a crowd has gathered to watch as Prince Achmed, the latest in a long line of suitors to undertake the perilous Quest for Jasmine’s Lady Parts, rides through Agrabah.

Okay...somebody needs to be looking where you two are going.

Okay…one of you needs to be looking where you’re going.

 The two urchins run out in front of him and almost get the business end of his Poor-Person whip but Aladdin intervenes. Achmed tells Aladdin “You are a worthless street rat, you were born a street rat, you’ll die a street rat, and only your fleas will mourn you!”

Fortunately for Achmed, the palace gates close behind him before Aladdin can tear his head off and get Abu to shit down the hole. Seriously, look at Aladdin’s expression here.

Tom Cruise. Totally seeing it now.

tom-cruise-20100623022855958

Abu and Aladdin go home to their hovel. Normally this is where the main character would get an “I want” song, but Aladdin is too poor to afford one so he sings a few lines of a sad reprise of One Jump Ahead.

The next morning at the palace Prince Achmed is leaving in a huff because Rajah, Jasmine’s pet tiger, took a bite out of his undies. The Sultan, voiced by Douglas Seale, pleads with him to stay but Achmed storms out with all the quiet dignity that only a man wearing purple frills and love-heart underwear can muster. Furious, the Sultan goes out the garden and we get our first look at Jasmine.

jasmine_picture_jpg

Excuse me a moment.

wolfeyesarnie leeringQuagmirehqdefaultHomer

Aaaand I’m done. Sorry. I’m so sorry. But…JESUS!

The Sultan tells Jasmine that she has to marry a prince by her next birthday. Jasmine is pissed because, shit, she’d have been happy with just a book token or something.  The Sultan says that she’s only got three more days or…something’s going to happen. He won’t say what. But it’ll be bad. Count on it. He also says that he wants to make sure that she’s provided for when he’s gone. You know, when she’s the ruler of this entire kingdom with the massive palace, infinite wealth, army of guards at her command and bad ass tiger that don’t take no shit. Yeah, she’ll definitely need someone to look after her. Jasmine says that she’s cooling on the whole concept of being a princess and the Sultan leaves saying “Allah forbid you should have any daughters!” True story, watching this movie as a little kid I always wondered who Alan was and why he’d have a say in the matter.

No daughters! A-HA!

No daughters! AH-HA!

The Sultan retires to his toyroom and seeks help from his most trusted advisor, the Royal Vizier. Who it turns out is Jafar! Yes! You read that right! The Royal Vizier turns out to be evil!! This is some M. Night Shyamalan shit right here!

 Meanwhile, Jasmine escapes from the palace and makes her way to the marketplace where she’s seen by Aladdin. Aladdin falls instantly in love with her because he’s…y’know…alive. I was going to say “straight” but hell, even if he was gay IT’S JASMINE.

Girl please, nobody's THAT gay.

Girl please, nobody’s THAT gay.

Aladdin saves Jasmine from getting her hand cut off when her naiveté gets her in trouble with a street vendor. Aladdin pretends that Jasmine is his sister (which is disturbingly plausible considering they look so similar). This scene establishes perfectly why these two make such a great couple. Despite having lived such a sheltered life Jasmine instantly cottons on to the scheme and they make good their escape. Jasmine is, as she later says, “a fast learner” and you do genuinely understand why these kids would be attracted to each other. The relationship makes sense and feels organic, rather than just being a cog in the plot’s machine.

Oh. The passion.

Oh. The passion.

Aladdin takes Jasmine back to his place…

The Todd

…and they take in the view of the palace. They swap hard-luck stories; Aladdin talks about the crushing poverty, constant physical danger and starvation and Jasmine talks about the strictures of living a life of royal privilege and we all pretend that those two are remotely equivalent.

Wow, she does have it hard.

Wow, she does have it hard.

They’re about to kiss when the Royal Guard bursts in. Jasmine and Aladdin both think that they’re the ones the guards are after. Aladdin asks Jasmine if she trusts him and after a moment’s hesitation she says “Yes?” and Aladdin takes her hand and jumps out the window. They go falling through the air (presumably with Jasmine screaming “Actually you know what? NO!”) and land safely only to get caught by Razoul.

"He's got a hat!" "You IDIOTS! We've all got hats!"

“He’s got a hat!”
“You IDIOTS! We’ve all got hats!”

Jasmine reveals her secret identity to the stunned guards and orders them to release Aladdin. But Razoul says that his orders come from Jafar and that she’ll have to “take it up with him”, and Jasmine coldly replies “Believe me, I will.”

For Jafar's sake, I hope "it" and "up" both mean what I think they mean.

For Jafar’s sake, I hope “it” and “up” both mean what I think they mean.

Jasmine confronts Jafar, telling him that Aladdin’s innocent. But Jafar feigns regret and says that unfortunately, Aladdin’s sentence has already been carried out. She asks what the sentence was, and he says it’s the kind where you tend to be a lot shorter after at the end than you were at the start. Jasmine runs off in tears, and Jafar tells Iago “I think she took that rather well.” Okay Jafar, I never thought I’d say this to anyone else, but you’ve earned it.

You magnificent bitch.

You magnificent bitch.

Of course Aladdin has not been beheaded because that would be horrifying and Disney movies don’t do that kind of thing.

Ahem. Any more.

Ahem. Any more.

Aladdin has been locked up in the dungeon, lamenting the fact that the girl he loves has to marry a prince. Abu breaks into the prison and manages to unlock his shackles but he’s still imprisoned and is just about to give up when an old prisoner tells him about the Cave of Wonders and shows him some of the wealth that could be his for the taking.

Rubies. The size. Of a tangerine.

Rubies. The size. Of a tangerine.

When Aladdin makes the rather reasonable point that they’re in jail, the Old Prisoner shows him a secret way out of the dungeon. Thinking that this crazy geriatric convict with vast personal wealth and the ability to leave at any time is clearly legit, Aladdin agrees. Jafar (oh yeah, the Old Prisoner is Jafar in disguise, spoilers) takes him out to the middle of the desert and summons the Cave of Wonders. The Cave decides that Aladdin’s on the guest list, but warns him to touch nothing but the lamp and he and Abu enter the cave. Wait a minute…

I thought “only one may enter”? Not “only one and his pet monkey”. How come Abu gets a pass? Maybe the Cave of Wonders just can’t say no to monkeys?

Maybe because no one fucking can?

Maybe because no one fucking can?

The reach the treasure vault which is like what Scrooge McDuck would see if he almost drowned and his heart stopped beating. Abu almost goes crazy but Aladdin warns him not to touch anything. They then meet the magic carpet. God, I love the carpet. Randy Cartwright, who animated the character, was hugely disappointed when he was told that he’d be animated basically a featureless rectangle. But he decided that if he was going to animate a rectangle, it was going to be the best damn rectangle the world had ever seen. Aladdin asks the carpet where the lamp is, and he leads them to it. Aladdin ascends the stone steps to get the lamp, and it looks like they’re home and dry. But then something grabs Abu’s attention…

The bandit. 'Ad been frowin' 'em away.

The bandit. ‘Ad been frowin’ ’em away.

Aladdin grabs the lamp, Abu grabs the ruby, and all hell breaks loose. The Cave turns into a nightmarish hellscape of lava and collapsing rocks and Aladdin and Abu are only just rescued by the flying carpet who picks them up and flies them though the best CGI that nineties animation could buy.

CGI CGI 21351820995_1163_playstation-logo

Meanwhile on the surface the Cave of Wonders is roaring like someone who just realised that turning your own insides to lava might sting a tad. Aladdin, Abu and the Carpet reach the entrance but Jafar takes the lamp from Aladdin and flings him back down into the cave.

LAZY BASTARD KOOKABURRAS!

LAZY BASTARD KOOKABURRAS!

The cave sinks beneath the sands forever and Jafar laughs maniacally, thinking that he’s finally gotten the lamp. But when he searches his pockets, he comes up empty. Cue wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Down in the cave, Aladdin comes to and sees that they’re trapped. They’re is a bit of good news, however. Abu was able to steal the lamp from Jafar before they got thrown down. Aladdin rubs it and suddenly we’re in a Looney Tunes short.

looney-tunes-9-3a

Robin Williams even went so far as to call Aladdin “A Warner Brothers cartoon in Disney drag.” and Chuck Jones himself called the movie “the funniest feature ever made”. Actually, the way the genie keeps shifting between different designs while still retaining his essential “genieness” reminds me a lot of Jones’ own classic Daffy Duck cartoon, Duck Amuck, where Daffy is constantly being transformed by a malicious animator but is always still recognisable as being Daffy.  The Genie explains that Aladdin has three wishes through the song You Ain’t Never Had a Friend Like Me.  This was the first song Ashman and Menken wrote for the movie and it’s an absolute delight, a hilarious, lyrically ingenious, catchy as hell blast of a tune.

The song over, Genie explains that he can grant Aladdin any three wishes he wants but that there are three rules: He can’t wish for more wishes, he can’t off anybody, he can’t make anyone fall in love with anyone else and he can’t bring people back from the dead. Three rules. Count ‘em. Three.

Of course, Aladdin doesn’t want to blow one of his wishes on just getting out of the cave so he tricks the genie into getting them out without actually saying “I wish”. And it’s a good thing that genie’s such a sport because it would be a very bad idea to piss him off given that he is fucking omnipotent.

An arab getting a flight without being being detained by security for five hours? TRULY THIS GENIE HAS THE POWER OF A GOD!!!

An arab getting a flight without being detained by security for five hours? TRULY THIS GENIE HAS THE POWER OF A GOD!!!

We now get to a scene where Disney, in my opinion, actually improves on the source material. You see, Aladdin as told in One Thousand and One Nights doesn’t really have a message other than “Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a magical friend who could do anything, wouldn’t it suck to lose him and wouldn’t it be awesome to get him back again?” But Disney’s version, to its credit, actually explores the morality of having someone like the genie bound to the lamp and forced to grant wishes for all eternity. When Aladdin casually asks the genie what he’d wish for if he had the chance, the genie is stunned. No one has ever considered him enough of a person to ask him that. The genie admits that he wants to be free more than anything else and Aladdin is so touched that he makes the genie a deal; after he’s gotten his first two wishes he’ll use his third to set the genie free. The genie is sceptical, and from his perspective that makes perfect sense. How many people are going to trade away the almost limitless power that comes with even one wish? But he allows himself to believe that maybe Aladdin will come through for him. Aladdin makes his first wish, to become a Prince so that he can woo Jasmine.

Yeah. 'Cos that always turns out well.

Yeah. ‘Cos that always turns out well.

In Agrabah, Jafar has decided that since he can’t get the lamp, he’s going to have to seize power the old fashioned way, marry Jasmine and then off her and the Sultan after the wedding.

His full name is Jafar Lannister. Not a lot of people know that.

His full name is Jafar Lannister. Not a lot of people know that.

He tries to hypnotize the Sultan but gets interrupted by the arrival of Aladdin into Agrabah with his whole entourage.

No. Jesus, NO!

No. Jesus, NO!

This leads us to Ashman’s next song, Prince Ali. It’s hands down my favorite song of the movie, a hilarious luxury rap dressed as a Broadway musical number where Aladdin (in the guise of Prince Ali Ababwah) struts into town while the genie switches forms, spreading the word of his awesomeness. It also has, no lie, my single favorite few seconds of animation in any movie.

"He's got the monkeys!" Let's see the monkeys!"

“He’s got the monkeys! Let’s see the monkeys!”

Despite Jafar’s best efforts, Aladdin enters the palace and wastes no time charming the Sultan. Jafar meanwhile, can’t shake the feeling that Prince Ali seems somehow familiar.

"Hmmm...Iago, ask Mr Kent, or maybe his friend Superman. Perhaps they know who he is."

“Hmmm…Iago, ask Mr Kent, or maybe his friend Superman. Perhaps they know who he is.”

Jasmine overhears Aladdin telling the Sultan how he will “win her” and is pretty pissed.

""Win me" how exactly? What do you mean by that?"

“”Win me” how exactly? What do you mean by that?”

"Um...well, you know..."

“Um…well, you know…”

"No I don't fucking know. Win me how? How are you going to win me?"

“No I don’t fucking know. Win me how? How are you going to win me?”

"Jasmine, I think what he meant was..."

“Listen Jasmine, you got it all wrong…”

"Shut the fuck up. He's a big boy. He knows what he said. Win me how?"

“Shut the fuck up. He’s a big boy. He knows what he said. Win me how?”

"Just...just..."

“Just…just…”

"What?"

“What?”

"Just...I dunno...win you."

“Just…I dunno…win you.”

"Sorry, maybe it's me. I'm a little fucked up, maybe I just don't get it. Win me how? Like a carnival prize? What am I? A mouldy fucking teddy bear? You gonna throw a ring on a hoop and get me off some fuckin' carnie? HOW THE FUCK ARE YOU GONNA WIN ME?!"

“Sorry, maybe it’s me. I’m a little fucked up, maybe I just don’t get it. Win me how? Like a carnival prize? What am I? A mouldy fucking teddy bear? You gonna throw a ring on a hook and get me off some fuckin’ carnie? HOW THE FUCK ARE YOU GONNA WIN ME?!”

Did I mention that Jasmine’s awesome?

Later that night, Jasmine sits forlornly on her balcony while Aladdin mopes in the garden and tries to work up the courage to talk to her. Well of course, when looking for advice on how to get with a woman, there’s only one person to turn to: Jack Nicholson.

"Hey kid. You ever dance with the Red Rooster in the pale moonlight?"

“Hey kid. You ever dance with the Red Rooster in the pale moonlight?”

The genie gives Standard Disney Platitude #13: Just Be Yourself, but Aladdin says that if Jasmine knew who he really was she’d laugh at him.

Oh yeah. She's in stitches.

Oh yeah. She’s in stitches.

So he decides to double down on Project Rich Douchebag and flies up to see her on the magic carpet. Things get off to a rocky start when he almost gets mauled by Rajah but Jasmine warms to him a little and he convinces her to go for a magic carpet ride with him. This leads into A Whole New World (Rice). It’s one of the few serious songs in a movie that’s full of comedic ones. And it’s pretty good…but it’s no Am I Feeling Love!

Ha.

I kid of course. This is a fantastic song, beautifully written that perfectly captures a sense of wonder to go along with the spectacular visuals. The song ends with them watching a fireworks display in China.

"What are they celebrating?" "Some crossdresser saved everybody or something? I dunno."

“What are they celebrating?”
“Some crossdresser saved everybody or something? I dunno.”

Jasmine has pretty much sussed that Prince Ali is Aladdin and she tricks him into spilling the beans. Jasmine angrily asks him “Why did you lie to me?”

"Also: Who the fuck reattached your head?!"

“Also: Who the fuck reattached your head?!”

Aladdin, rather than doing the sensible thing and admitting the whole story, triples down on Project Rich Douchebag and says that he really is a prince (which, actually, is technically true) but that sometimes he dresses up as a commoner for the lulz. Jasmine believes him, and now their relationship seems to be on firmer ground. He leaves her back to her balcony, gets a goodnight kiss and, in a lovely moment, swoons only to be caught by the carpet who flies him safely down to the garden.

“For the first time in my life” says Aladdin “Things are starting to go right.”

Okay, Aladdin? You say things that stupid you deserve everything that comes to you. On Jafar’s order, Razoul and the palace guards ambush Aladdin, knock him unconscious and throw him off a cliff.

"He's affected by the pull of the earth's gravity!" "You IDIOTS! We're all affected by the pull of the earth's gravity!"

“He’s affected by the pull of the earth’s gravity!”
“You IDIOTS! We’re all affected by the pull of the earth’s gravity!”

Little word of advice. Anyone considering taking up the noble sport of “Breathe When They Breathe” should take note that this scene is not for greenhorns.  My brother John went completely blue trying and to this day he still has a slightly cerulean hue. Aladdin passes out before he can reach the lamp, but by chance his unconscious fingers brush against it and genie pops out and, on his own initiative, uses Aladdin’s second wish to rescue him.

Back at the palace, Jasmine tells her father that she wants to marry Prince Ali, but the fix is in. Jafar has brainwashed the Sultan, and Jafar tells her that they are to be married, and anyway, Prince Ali left.

"He said he was going to visit his friend "Cliff" who lives by the sea."

“He said he was going to visit his friend “Cliff” who lives by the sea.”

But Aladdin appears from behind the curtains and outs Jafar as being a right old bastard. Jafar tries to use his staff to keep control of the Sultan but Aladdin susses what’s going on and smashes it, freeing the Sultan from his control.

Jafar realises that the game is up, but before he escapes he sees the lamp and finally realises that Aladdin and Ali are one and the same.

"And that means that Mr Kent is...CURSE YOU KAL-EL!"

“And that means that Mr Kent is…CURSE YOU KAL-EL!”

Jafar escapes in a cloud of purple smoke (how else?) and the furious Sultan orders that he be captured. But his mood lifts very quickly when he sees that Aladdin and Jasmine have become and item and he joyously exclaims “Praise Alan!”

AHA

The original Aladdin story doesn’t have any mention of three wishes. The genie basically grants Aladdin as many wishes as he likes. This was one of the first things that  Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio changed when they were brought on to the movie and it was a very important change. The original, pre-Black Friday version of the movie kept the unlimited wishes. But it makes the scene where Aladdin tells the genie that he can’t set him free a lot weaker. Because, he’s got unlimited wishes. Sure, he may not be able to set the genie free now, but there’s no reason to think that he won’t do it a few million wishes down the line. Here though? Aladdin has one wish left, once it’s gone, it’s gone. And who knows when Genie will have another master who’d even consider setting him free? But this is what things have come to. Aladdin is so self conscious that everything he’s gotten has come from the genie that he tells him that he can’t honour his promise and set him free. Genie is devastated. The trust and friendship that has built up between these two characters has become so strong that he’d actually allowed himself to believe that it was possible. Genie retreats into the lamp and Aladdin is called away by Jasmine’s voice before he can patch things up.

But there is rusery afoot!

“Jasmine” was actually Iago mimicking her voice. Iago sneaks into Aladdin’s room and steals the lamp, using its power to become parrot emperor of the world! Sorry, my mistake. He actually just gives it to Jafar. I just thought that he’d try to use the lamp for himself because parrots are so ruthless in their quest for power.

the-three-caballeros-13

“One soul at a time, my friend. One soul at a time.”

Jafar summons the genie and makes his first wish: to rule on high as Sultan!

In the middle of the Sultan presenting Aladdin to the people of Agrabah, the genie appears and lifts the entire palace, placing it on top of a mountain which will just play merry hell with the foundations.

Sultan Jafar appears and demands that the now ex-Sultan and Jasmine bow to him. Jasmine cordially invites him to eat from the sack of infinite dicks. Funny thing, I only just realised re-watching the movie for the blog that the Sultan is actually halfway down to bowing before Jafar before Jasmine tells him to screw off and he stands up again looking embarrassed. Jafar then makes his second wish, to become the most powerful sorcerer in the world.

Shit just got real

 Jafar exposes Aladdin as a fraud and sings a dark reprise of Prince Ali, and within moments has turned Aladdin back into a street rat, Abu back into a monkey, Rajah back into a kitten and Galvatron back into Megatron. He magically casts Aladdin and Abu into one of the palace towers and sends it rocketing off to Antarctica.

While he himself goes straight to Bahia.

While he himself goes straight to Bahia.

Lost, helpless and freezing to death, Aladdin tells Abu that he should have just freed the genie when he had the chance.

Well duh

Actually, joking aside, I do like the fact that Aladdin’s breaking his word to the genie has real consequences. It’s a good message. They’re saved when they find the magic carpet frozen in the ice, and he flies them back to Agrabah.

Jafar has set himself up as lord and master of the place, turning the Sultan into his court jester and Jasmine into…

Red Jasmine

Um…guys?

I’m seeing odours and hearing colours. That’s not normal, right?

Holymotherof…

No words...should have sent...Jodie Foster!

No words…should have sent…Jodie Foster!

Well Jasmine may now be hot enough to ignite the atmosphere and end all life on earth, but Jafar is still a buttmunch and she refuses his advances. Jafar then tells the Genie to make Jasmine fall in love with him. Genie tells he can’t because a) it’s against the rules and b) he’s a genie, not a fucking bottle of rohypnol. But Jasmine sees Aladdin sneaking up behind Jafar and so, again showing how quickly she can adapt to his schemes, pretends to be in love with Jafar to distract his attention. Linda Larkin, who plays Jasmine, has great fun with Jasmine in this scene as she tries desperately to think of ways to compliment Jafar (“I just love the little gaps between your teeth!” “Go on…”). Aladdin almost gets the lamp but at the last second Jafar sees him reflected in Jasmine’s crown and we get the final clinching proof that Jafar is pure evil:

PUNS!

Your time is up!

Your time is up!

Don't toy with me!

Don’t toy with me!

Thing are unravelling fast now!

Thing are unravelling fast now!

Get the point!

Get the point?

I'm just getting warmed up!

I’m just getting warmed up!

Ice to see you!

Ice to see you!

Now, given the way the fight is going, you would be forgiven for thinking that what Aladdin says next is the single most stupid thing anyone could possibly say in that situation. But you would be wrong.

"Are you afraid to fight me yourself you massive prick!?"

“Are you afraid to fight me yourself you massive prick!?”

"A prick am I? Perhaps you'd like to see how massive a prick I can be?"

“A prick am I? Perhaps you’d like to see how massive a prick I can be?”

Looking up

Looking up

So let’s be grateful for small mercies. Instead, Jafar responds to Aladdin’s calling him a snake by changing into a…fuck you, it’s late, I’m tired and you do not need me to finish that sentence for you.

MAGIC WAND, MAKE MY MONSTER GROW!

MAGIC WAND, MAKE MY MONSTER GROW!

The animation of the giant Jafar cobra is phenomenal, lightning fast and quite terrifying. Aladdin puts up a brave fight, trying to skate to safety on a massive ruby.

"How did you stop him? The bandit?" "We burned the forest down."

“How did you stop him? The bandit?”
“We burned the forest down.”

But he’s quickly caught in Jafar’s coils. With Carpet dead, Abu a toy and Jasmine drowning in sand, it looks like it’s all over for the street rat. But when Jafar taunts him, asking him how he thought he could defeat the most powerful being on earth, Aladdin realises he has one card left to play: Jafar’s ego.

I’ve read some people complaining that what Aladdin does next is crazy and stupid and that it’s only by a million to one shot that Jafar wishes to become an actual genie, not to have the powers of a genie, not to have powers greater than a genie and so on. But to be honest, I think that argument misses the point. It doesn’t really matter how much more powerful Jafar gets. He’s already pretty much a god, any more power is just academic. If Aladdin tried to steer Jafar too obviously towards what he wanted, he’d just end up giving the game away. Anyway, Aladdin reminds Jafar that as long as the genie is around there will still always be one being on the planet who’s more powerful than he is. Jafar swallows the bait and uses his last wish to become a genie. Of course this means that he also gets his own sexy black lamp and is trapped in it until the direct to video sequel for all eternity. All his spells are reversed and Aladdin finally does the right thing and sets the genie free, even though doing so means that he can’t marry Jasmine. The Sultan decides, fuck it, what’s a law between friends and decrees that Jasmine can marry whoever she wants.

Ah, here's where I left my book.

Ah, here’s where I left my book.

 The movie ends with Genie flying off to Disneyland and Aladdin and Jasmine singing a reprise of Whole New World as carpet carries them off into the moonlight.

 ***

This. Thing. Fucking. KILLED.

Biggest film of 1992. Highest grossing animated film to date. Still to this day the third highest grossing traditionally animated movie of all time. Aladdin immediately entered the popular consciousness, won near universal critical acclaim and remains one of the most influential animated films of all time (for good and ill). It marked the beginning of what we would recognise as the modern animated film. It is also a fantastic, funny, beautiful and often very sweet movie and I love it to bits.

To the Disney animators who’d lived through the Mourning Era, a success like Aladdin must have been almost unimaginable, even after the one-two knock outs of Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. It must have felt, as they watched the reviews and the boxoffice roll in, that they were now at the very crest of the wave.

But, amazingly, there was something even better just on the horizon…

Scoring

Animation: 18/20

Clean, polished, appealing, tight and smooth. But enough about my buttocks.

The Leads: 20/20

They’re Disney’s greatest couple. You may disagree, and that’s fine. But sometimes a Mouse must make a stand.

The Villains: 19/20

I’d honestly give Jafar a perfect score if Maleficent’s influence wasn’t so obvious.

Supporting Characters: 20/20

Yeah, another perfect score. Genie, Abu, Iago, Carpet…I just can’t think of another Disney movie where the supporting cast is this excellent.

The Music: 18/20

Having to take over from Howard Ashman must be the most daunting job in the world. Kudos to Tim Rice.

FINAL SCORE: 95%

NEXT TIME: NAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

Sun

NEXT UPDATE: 27 June 2013

Neil Sharpson AKA The Unshaved Mouse, is a playwright, comic book writer and blogger living in Dublin. The blog updates every second Thursday. Thanks for reading!

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