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!

134 comments

  1. This review got me laughing in certain places more than usual! Great job!

    Robin Williams did end up doing more voice work in animated films: “FernGully: The Last Rainforest”, “Robots”, and “Everyone’s Hero” to name a few.

    Lol, I love your picture of what Taran_Wandering2 (or whatever his name is) looks like!

    You say that Tim Rice and Alan Menken worked on 3 songs for this film? I know two were “One Jump Ahead” and “A Whole New World”, but what was the 3rd one?

    And “Aladdin” is far from the highest-grossing animated film to date. The highest-grossing is “Toy Story 3” with over a billion dollars. Unless you took inflation into consideration. A good list of them can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_highest-grossing_animated_films

    Yeah, I know it’s Wikipedia, but Wikipedia’s amazing!

  2. Yippee! Lion King!
    (And now it’s time for ‘Did You Know’ with Paper Alchemist: Did you know the opening lines of ‘Circle of Life’ translate to ‘look, father, there’s a lion, oh yes it’s a lion, a lion’? Very appropriate, I think.)

    I watched ‘Aladdin’ the other day for the first time since I was six. You’re right, it’s stunning. I usually fly into a frothing rage when I see Robin Williams, but you’re right about that, too – he does great voice work. And I can’t sing for shit, but ‘A Whole New World’ is one of those songs that’s impossible not to sing along to. Also, the carpet may just be one of my favourite supporting characters ever.

    And (this may contradict what I said before, but having refreshed my memory) while I enjoyed the recut version of ‘Thief and the Cobbler’, you’re right about that, too. The animation is like an excellent picture book come to life, but the pacing is too slow and on the whole it’s a very odd film. They ended up putting style over substance, which I don’t think is a good idea, ever.
    Come to think of it, is there any particular reason you don’t do a ranking for plot?

    Excellent, hilarious post. I’m loving the snowball of running jokes. For some reason, ‘lazy bastard kookaburras’ gets funnier every time (I can make out a ‘lazy bastard Zazu’ on the horizon!) And ‘You IDIOTS! We’ve all got _____!’ is gold.
    By the way, there’s a great parody of Disney princess songs by a guy called Paint on YouTube. It’s called ‘After Ever After’ or something like that. The Jasmine one is brilliant.

      1. …That joke is from Rescuers Down Under, isn’t it? Yeah..I just realized that after rereading your RDU review.

      1. No, the kookaburra joke is perfect – how many times do we see people falling off cliffs/towers in Disney movies, after all?

        Cool! I only know that first line, but ‘ingonyama’ pops up a lot in the music throughout.

  3. Is it just me or are most villains from the disney renaissance are different gay stereotypes, you have the drag queen with Ursula, the macho man Gaston, Prissy Jafar, and the sinister gay of Scar. I can also make a case for The Great Mouse Detective, Pocahantos and every other mention in that nostalgia chick video,
    The reason I’m mentioning this is because how obvious these things are to an adult eye, and questions are raised as to why this happened. Couldn’t have been animosity towards gay culture as Ashman was openly gay and a extremely influential at Disney during his tenure. Maybe it was practical in the sense that “Gay” villains have more personality and thus more memorable? Or Ashman subconsciously wanted to explore gay subculture with his creations?
    You Mr. Mouse seem to be better read than me on Disney production lore so that’s why I’m asking.

    1. I like your theory, but that same Nostalgia Chick video touched on another possible interpretation, which is that the flamboyance and posturing of these villains is a way to demonstrate their arrogance and vanity. I think this is probably what the creators intended the audience to see.
      That said, I’m absolutely convinced that Scar is gay.

      1. I think ultimately it’s a matter of format. We’re talking about Dramatic/Musical stories aimed primary at kids. A colorful villain with a theatrical flair and a memorable personality has more of a chance of being perceived as gay than not. The hero is more leading man and thus more blank. Side Characters are more freewheeling in their design. Just a trend I’ve noticed, not the law.

        Also The Andreas Deja comments seems to point to an affinity for “gay” characterizations.

        As for my rationalizations

        Ursula is based on Devine, a gay icon, and behaves in a totally unfeminine manner while still “acting” as an approximation of a woman, but like one from a male perspective. The line “Body Language” just sold it to me.

        Gaston has that song where he’s celebrating his virility with focus on adam’s apples, big arms, hairy chests and shooting things with his “gun” while singing a Broadway class musical.

        Jafar is just so prissy, he’s like an internalized drama queen. His approach to seducing Jasmine is brainwashing her father and forcing her to do it. Like no flowers or any other type of attempt at winning her heart. It’s like he likes the status of having her than actually having her.

        I really don’t have to say anything about Scar as it’s just too obvious. Lives alone from all other lions, shares his den with Hyenas, terrible on the local ecology and that eye shadow.

      2. I don’t actually buy the “villains are coded gay.” theory. I’m willing to chalk it up to the fact that there’s just a lot of coincidental overlap between gay tropes and villain tropes.

    2. It also could be because the “gentleman villain” has traditionally a stereotypical British touch (consider here that Ratigan is based on the description of a villain which was created long before “gay stereotypes” where much of a thing…though naturally the ham is all Vincent Price, and is based on his former performances), never mind that two of the villains from the renaissance era ARE British. When I look at Ratcliffe I see mostly how an American would picture are really snotty Brit.
      There are some thing which shouldn’t be overanalysed, like the whole “Jafar is darker than Aladdin and Jasmine” discussion (for one, he actually isn’t and two even if he were, villains are often either very pale or very dark….I guess because everything which is extreme is perceived as unusual and therefore potential dangerous by the human mind, while everything we know is automatically seen as something we can trust.

      1. I always did take the “evil fop” trope to be popular in America for similar reasons to the “evil Brit” trope. The basic story of the United States gaining autonomy was (in romanticized terms at least) the victory of the not-so-polished yet rugged, red-blooded commoners over the upper-crust, blue-blooded nobility who were all about appearance and less about physical toughness because they had guards to do that stuff for them.

        And of course, a lot of the villains’ camp just comes from Renaissance movies being Broadway influenced, making their feel quite campy already.

    3. Very interesting. I think the only ones that don’t follow the subtle homosexual villains are Frollo, Shan-Yu, and Clayton. For some reason, have never noticed that before, even though I have heard that a few of these villains are questionable. Thanks for picking that up.

  4. I am one of those heathing heathens who prefers “Aladdin” to “BatB.” Yes, the latter may have better songs (per the critics) and it’s aged better due to lack of pop culture references, and God knows I identified with Belle the second I saw her walking down the street with her nose in a book while I look at Jasmine and sign/gnash my teeth with envy . . .

    but darn it, “Aladdin” is just so much more fun! And no small part of that is due to Robin Williams, nevermind that technically Genie became part of the early-90s trend of fast-talking, kooky characters. (Frankly, I’m delighted they were able to bring back Robin Williams for “King of Thieves” — heck, they even referenced back to the Peddlar, thus putting an elegant cap on the trilogy.) And Jasmine is one of the best — possibly the best — Disney heroines, period. I have a theory that it’s Bared Naval Power, and as evidence, I point to Jasmine and Ariel as the only Disney princesses to have their animated shows featured as the Princess Power Hour.

    One tiny quibble: Genie doesn’t actually say that wishing for more wishes is against the rules . . . he just says don’t do it. So Aladdin doesn’t. Come to think of it, Jafar doesn’t either, without even being warned against doing it.

    Jafar FAILS!

    1. Heathing right along with you. I don’t know if this is just the nostalgia talking, but I didn’t see BatB until my teens, and I just think ‘Aladdin’ has a much better (read: less annoying) supporting cast, it’s funnier, the art style is fresher and more distinctive, and the whole thing has more heart and energy.

    2. Yeah. Even though I DO NOT like pop-culture references (which is the main reason why I am not a fan of DreamWorks), I prefer Aladdin to BatB any day. Jasmine and Aladdin are more interesting than Belle and Beast, and Aladdin has less issues than BatB. But BatB will age better than Aladdin

  5. I’m not a huge fan of Aladdin but it is a movie that I enjoy a lot. I think the thing is it doesn’t quite have the heart that normally wins me over with other Disney films, the comedy plays too big a role. Which is kind of a weird thing to say because the comedy is great but for a comedy to really capture my imagination, it has to be REALLY damn good. Aladdin just doesn’t quite cut it as far as that goes.

    That being said, this is still a movie that I pop in every now and then and have a rollicking good time watching. Robin Williams really is excellent in this, either Siskel or Ebert (can’t remember which) actually said he should be nominated for Best Supporting Actor on their show and along with Tom Hanks in Toy Story I really do think Williams had the most realistic chance of being the first voice actor nominated for an Academy Award. The songs are all excellent, just like you, Prince Ali is probably my favorite. I actually have a friend named Ali and we constantly sing lines from that song when he’s around.

    So while Aladdin is a very good movie, it’s not one of my personal favorite. Top 15 for sure, top 10 is a maybe. I certainly like it a lot more than Lion King though, but we’ll get to that in a couple weeks.

      1. I don’t not like it, I’m just not a huge fan. I’m kind of with Doug Walker on it, I don’t care for Simba as a main character, I find some of the songs annoying (I Just Can’t Wait to Be King is godawful), and I don’t care much for the lesson of the film. So I like it alright, but it’s middle of the road Disney for me.

      2. I saw Lion king two times in theatres…
        nevertheless, I agree that Simba is the greatest weakness of the movie, I never cared for this character either (and what an awful choice for the adult voice). Lion King mostly works because it has great animation and music, but the story in itself is a little bit simple and unfocussed. It’s a good one, but I’m not sure that it would make my top ten…And Scar as a villain is overrated, I especially don’t like the voice acting for him…with the exception of the “Be Prepared” scene, in this one his voice suddenly becomes charismatic enough to draw me in, but otherwise, he just lacks the talent some of the other villain voice actors have (the German voice is awesome, though….)

      3. I have noticed at least several issues that people seem to have with The Lion King. Swanpride mentioned that Simba’s character is the weakest part of the movie…I’d like to ask how? I’ve heard others say that he is an asshole as a kid and a cucumber as an adult. But, you know, you do realize that he’s that way because of living about 3/4 of his life in guilt and regret right? And this movie is his journey to overcoming that?

        1. As far as him being an asshole, I will say he is brash, spoiled and arrogant as a young cub but an asshole he is not. Mistreating everyone? Hardly. Did he mistreat Nala? No. Did he mistreat Mufasa during his morning lectures? No. Did he mistreat Sarabi, even though he got a bath in public? NO. If anyone, he purposely challenged Zazu to lose him and venture into the Elephant Graveyard. The purpose of his attempts to head into the Elephant Graveyard was to show Simba’s experience and curiosity and his desire to be just like his father, later to be disciplined as well as introduce the hyenas. His disobedience has nothing to do with him being an asshole. That’s like saying Aladdin was an asshole because he lied to Jasmine about who he was and going back on his promise to set the Genie free, or that Belle was one for sneaking into the West Wing despite the Beast’s warning to stay out. If Simba was truly selfish like many seem to think, he would not have saved Nala in the graveyard or stuck up for Zazu. The idea of Simba’s character is that he is just like any other kid would be, including the spoiled elements. Kids are curious, impatient, disobedient, excited, and energetic. If he was the perfect noble character from the very beginning, wouldn’t the movie seem out of place? To take it even further, if you’re a kid who has been told that you are going to be the next highest authority, how would you feel? The same applies to Simba. His character is something a lot of people have in common.

        2. Another issue people seem to have is that Simba has no reason to think he is responsible for Mufasa’s death. Of course Simba has EVERY REASON to think he is responsible! For one thing, his roar echoed across the canyon and a herd of wildebeest came straight for him! One could argue that herds tend to run AWAY from a sound that scares them instead of TOWARD it, but anyone, especially someone as young as Simba, would not be thinking of that! He did not see the hyenas chasing them down, and he did not see Scar sending Mufasa to his death. He thinks that if he hadn’t “caused the stampede”, Mufasa wouldn’t have died trying to save him. The movie just doesn’t come out and say those exact words because that fact couldn’t be that more blatantly obvious.

        And let’s say for a minute that Simba DIDN’T think his roar caused the stampede. If you look closely at the herd stampeding down the hill, Simba had ample time to escape by taking the path that Scar took, but completely failed to do so. Thus, in his point of view, his part in this whole thing was bigger than Scar’s. To blame Scar for suggesting that he stay and work on his roar would be the equivalent of Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins blaming the stage performers for his parents’ death because they had scared him. They were just doing their job. Scar was probably doing his job for Simba’s matter as Mufasa may have told him to do so, according to Simba’s perspective.

        3. And of course, almost everybody seems to complain about this scene; about how the lionesses just seem to “take Scar’s word for it” in regards to Simba’s guilt over the death of Mufasa. If you want a technicality about Simba confronting Scar before the lionesses, you have to keep in mind that they didn’t witness the incident. Therefore, they don’t have the right to accuse Scar or disbelieve anything he says. Simba’s return also shocks Scar as he backs down, and even claims to be surprised about his arrival. At this point, any attempts by the lionesses to accuse him would be extinguished. Scar also did think Simba was dead to begin with, so if they did accuse him that would have been his defense.

        How would Simba’s guilt have contradicted the story Scar originally told the lionesses if he mentioned the aftermath of the events and not the roots? He DID tell them they were killed in a stampede, but he ever tell them how it began? This isn’t contradicting, it actually adds more to the story. Considering Scar was there when it happened, nothing leaves questionable. Even if Simba did die, it wouldn’t have made any difference because Simba still started the stampede as far as everyone knew. And because Simba admitted it out loud, Sarabi’s response showed they took not Scar’s word for it, but SIMBA’S. That would also explain his current appearance as to why he never returned when Nala asked him earlier.

        Also, considering there was a stampede that occurred, even a mouse could startle a herd and cause devastating consequences. There is no way anyone can be remotely curious at that point. Wildebeests, as a rule, have very good hearing and startle easily due to their poor eyesight. I believe this is why the Lion King’s creators chose a wildebeest herd for this movie. Keep in mind Scar said who was ‘responsible’, and not who killed Mufasa. That would obviously refer to the stampede incident, considering the lionesses knew how Mufasa died because Scar told them.

      4. *slow clap for Dan* Amen, brother.
        Besides, Simba has to have flaws. Every character does. Otherwise, you end up with an abomination known as the dreaded Mary Sue.

      5. Swanpride, kind of ironic that you say Scar’s voice becomes more charismatic during “Be Prepared”, because for the majority of that song, it isn’t Jeremy Irons singing but voice actor Jim Cummings. Irons apparently had a cold or something while recording that scene and so Cummings (who also voiced Ed the hyena) took over and finished the song for him. It’s damn near impossible to tell the difference if you don’t already know about it

      6. Eh, no need to convince me that Simba wallowing in guilt makes sense….that part of the movie works fine. Little Simba is a little bit too much of a bragger to my taste (I always want to smack him during “I can’t wait to be king”, which makes it hard to rout for him during the first part of the movie. I’m always way more interested in Mufasa vs Scar than in him during this part. Though that wouldn’t be a problem if the later development would be done a little bit better….it starts of well with the talk between them (perhaps my favourite part of the movie), but from then on, Simba doesn’t really seem to develop, he just jumps from one state of mind to another. And I’m with the nostalgia critic on this one: That he goes back to confront his “mistake” (which never was one to begin with) and not even his mother stands by him undermines the message of the movie.

      7. “And I’m with the nostalgia critic on this one: That he goes back to confront his “mistake” (which never was one to begin with) and not even his mother stands by him undermines the message of the movie.”

        Honestly, this is where I think Doug made a really stupid statement. There is a BIG difference between someone making a small mistake and you telling a close friend or family member that you were responsible for the death of THEIR loved one. I can’t believe I even have to say this, but Sarabi and everyone else was IN SHOCK. I mean, what would be the first thing you feel if someone you loved told you they hit another person you loved with their car and that hit person died because of it? The same applies to Sarabi when Simba admits to her that he was responsible for Mufasa’s death.

        See, this is why it really annoys me about how people don’t get this scene; it’s so blatantly obvious what is going on and it makes MUCH more sense than Doug, and especially Confused Matthew, give it credit for. Matthew is just a stubborn idiot when it comes to The Lion King, but come on Doug! You’re smarter than this!

        And there’s no reason to think that after Sarabi got over her shock and if it had not been revealed that Scar was the one who killed Mufasa in cold blood, she would have forgiven and even comforted Simba afterward. Especially since he said it was an accident. But she couldn’t even get to him anyway, because Scar was already attacking Simba left and right as well as surrounding him with the hyenas, backing him up towards the cliff. Also, keep in mind that Nala had asked Simba why he never came back; well, this is the reason for them, as well as the reason for their current predicament,

        I remember when Doug was doing Disneycember for the first time and I had looked forward to his Lion King review. Up until he came out with it, I had heard him say nothing but good things about it and had no reason to think he would say what he said about it. But he REALLY let me down with it, and it disappoints me to this day. I wouldn’t let it affect that much IF so many people weren’t following suit and considering it “cool” to hate The Lion King. I personally think that’s more Matthew’s fault for coming out with such a false, irrational, hate-driven review, but Doug certainly did not help.

        Seriously people, this scene is NOT hard to figure out. I’m sick of people acting like it is.

      8. The reaction I would expect is “what did you do?” not “Say that this isn’t true!” As a mother, I would want the full story first before judging my child. And I CERTAINLY wouldn’t stand around like a ninny while the untrustworthy uncle tries to throw him off a cliff.
        But you kind of missed Doug’s point there. The whole movie is about “You have to confront your past and your mistakes”. But that doesn’t really work out because 1. Simba actually did nothing wrong (how much better were this if Simba were at least partly responsible) and 2. When he confront his “mistake”, it’s initially nearly his downfall. The only reason why admitting what he supposedly did doesn’t lead to his death is because just in the nick of time is turns out that it wasn’t his fault after all.
        So the message is “You have to confront the past and if you are lucky it turns out you are innocent….and if you aren’t, you better shut up, because it leads to your death otherwise” ????????
        Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the movie, I just think that it’s not the greatest movie Disney ever did. And if it looked like a dark era movie, animation-wise, I don’t think that it would be that beloved. It’s really more the visuals and the sound which makes this movie, not the story.

      9. Sarabi already knows what SImba is referring to (the stampede). In a sense, she kind of already did get the full story, in the sense that she knows Mufasa died in the accident, and she just heard Simba tell her that he had caused that accident. Again, she is in shock just like everyone else. She was not in a position to defend him physically or emotionally AT THAT MOMENT (would one mother lioness really be able to take on a male lion PLUS his legions of hyenas?). She wasn’t given time to get over it.

        That’s why I believe Doug is the one who missed the point. The movie’s lesson actually wasn’t really “You have to confront your past and your mistakes” as much as it was “you can’t run away from your problems, you have to learn from them.” We know Simba didn’t make any mistakes, the movie isn’t saying that. Like I said before, we saw Scar kill Mufasa.

        Other morals include: from one form of leadership after another shows another lesson as to how you control your power if you were a ruler. With great power comes great responsibility. When Simba discovers how Scar’s power is abused, it elaborately establishes how Simba learns from this whereas earlier in the movie, he thought he could do whatever he wanted. As for Scar, don’t ever commit any sin (kill, lie, etc.) for the sake of possession or envy, and learn to control your trust from others wisely. After Scar faces Simba in the final showdown, he gets devoured by the hyenas because he used their trust against him regarding the death of Mufasa, stating they were the real enemy as a defense. And to put the cherry on top, the Circle of Life teaches the wildlife in a manner: the food chain, and the balance in breed of the food chain. Mufasa elaborates on the balance in breed, implying you have to respect others below you in the food chain such as the Antelope. The funny thing about that is Timon mentions the food chain, which I actually think about when watching Animal Planet or National Geographic. There are a LOT of lessons implanted in this movie.

      10. Oh, and we do at least see Nala trying to defend Simba even before it’s revealed that it was really Scar’s fault. She calls out his name as he trips over the edge of the cliff (I assume she tried to get to him but was held back by either the hyenas or one of the lionesses [for safety]).

    1. I completely understand what you mean. I enjoy Aladdin but it never quite won me over the same way as other disney movies. Although I did adore Jasmine and she is one of my most liked female characters period.

      Again great Review Mouse had me in stitches the entire time. Although I do miss map of sarcastic Europe. It appeals to me on a visceral level.

      I am interested to see how you tackle the Lion King since it’s the first renaissance film with a primary focus on talking animals. Something that afterwards becomes popular again for the Disney market.(Rescuers down under didn’t quite have the same impact even though it. was. so. pretty.) Although they’d been building that up with the animal sidekicks in previous films. However saying that, Iago could talk. Abu can talk a little. Why couldn’t Rajah? Do Tigers not posses mystical powers of interspecies communication? hmm Quite possibly the oldest question in existence and when answered silence will undoubtedly fall.

      Also Every time I see Frank Welker in a voice acting role I just end up humming the scooby doo theme.

      Anyways excellent review as always and now to look forward to one of very very very few films I like Matthew Broderick in. Go Simba Go!

      1. Ol’ SMOWE is in intensive training for the Pocahontas review. It makes sense if you assume all three animals can understand human speech. Parrots have a voicebox that can actually form human words. Monkeys don’t really but they’re physically close enough to humans that Abue can at least make a stab at it. Rajah doesn’t even try.

      2. To answer that: The “talking animals” are actually a Disney misconception. The only “real” talking animals are the mice in Cinderella and The Rescuers. In all the other cases, the movie is either told from an animal pov from the get go, or there is some sort of explanation why communication with animals is possible (Ariel for example is a mermaid and can talk to certain water animals, but not to the dog, Tiana can talk to animals only in her frog form, Tarzan was raised by animals so naturally he can understand them, same for Mowgli, Jago is a parrot and the pet of a magician and Mushu is a mystical animal from the get go). There are a lot of animals which understand more than they should, but most of them are either mute or restricted to their animal sounds.

    2. Yeah, they could have toned down on the comedy and pop-culture references, as it just has too much focus, but I do disagree that it has less heart than its predecessors. For some reason, I was never a big fan of The Lion King. I just thought it was okay

  6. Ever seen Aladdin and the Cave of Cheeseburgers?

    You’ll have to do some digging around on Google to view part 2 though.

  7. Speaking of Aladdin-based videos, there’s of course this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zoj2mJWlKUk

    Back on topic, ‘nother long-time reader, first-time poster here. I think I’ve been lurking around the blog since Oliver & Company, though I soon went back and read many of the older reviews (except a couple ones whose films I didn’t want to spoil myself on).

    Having greatly enjoyed Doug Walker’s Disneycember, I quickly became a fan of the blog for taking the same concept yet going much more in-depth with it and analysing many things a 3-to-5 minute video wouldn’t get the time to. I’m also always glad to come across a text-based reviewer in a time where almost all internet reviews are video-based (well, apart from maybe some of those ‘professional’ types). Not I have any problem with video reviews, just that it’s nice to get some reading in once in a while.

    Since you mentioned it before, I’ve been wondering if a Kingdom Hearts side-review might be in store for the future. But I’d understand if the answer to that is no, after all you’re here to review movies and rewatching and recapping an hour-and-a-half-ish movie takes far less time than replaying a fairly lengthy jRPG.

    So, er, thanks for hearing me out, and good luck from here onwards.

    1. Welcome to the blog! Okay to be honest while a Kingdom.Hearts review is a great idea I don’t have a working Playstation anymore. Plus with my workload at the.moment? Not gonna happen unfortunately.

  8. Awesome review, as usual. Aladdin is easily in my top 10, but I’m even more excited for The Lion King, as it’s up there in my absolute favorites.

  9. Eh…okay…that’s what I feared….
    I have a personal problem with the movie for three reasons:
    1. I don’t like the dreamworks style, even if it’s done well, and I especially DON’T like it when Disney does it. Disney movies always have a timeless quality to it and Aladdin sticks out like a sore thumb.
    2. I don’t like the animation! I normally applaud Disney when they move away from the usual house style (one of the few credits I give to Pocahontas), but when they do, they should do something special, different, like the style of Sleeping Beauty or Lilo and Stitch. Not something which looks like it comes from a Saturday morning cartoon in higher quality.
    3. I don’t think that the Genie is funny. And Jago annoys me. And a villain who takes his plans from a parrot is just not threatening for me.

    But as I said, that’s more a matter of taste. I also have a lot of objections against the movie as a whole, the reason why I think that it is overrated (and you were way to nice in your review).
    1. The flying scene of the carpet…not the ones from “a whole new world”, the ones when he flies through the palace. They never looked good, even not back then, the animators were way to much in love with the idea of a computer animated “character”, and it would have been better to keep it to the scenes which do look polished. It kind of ruins the animation for me when there is something so obvious animated.
    2. To many things which lead to nowhere or are left unexplained…most notable the peddler, that’s a big lipped alligator moment if I have ever seen one, you could cut directly from the camels to the scene in front of the cave and the movie would miss nothing at all. BatB for example is beautifully framed with the stained glass windows, TLM has perhaps the best introduction of a main character in all Disney movies, but Aladdin has one of the worst introduction ever. But there is also Razul…who is never very well explained (is he in Jafar’s pockets of just a stupid soldier?) and who simply vanishes during the movie. They do something similar to Abu, btw, turning him into an elephant to make room for the Genie, which is just lazy writing. Either leave Abu out of the story from the beginning or try to include him (and turning him into an elephant is just cruel).
    3. The plot holes…oh the plot holes (and I don’t mean just the inability of everyone to recognize Aladdin immediately just because he wears different clothes). You obviously didn’t take my challenge, but here some examples: I assume Jasmine didn’t dawdle around and instead tries to get Aladdin released immediately after she goes back to the palace. So, when exactly was there time to kill Aladdin? For kidnapping her, nevertheless? Nobody even knew that she was out of the palace until she revealed herself. And when Jasmine buys Aladdin’s story about posing as a beggar – didn’t she listen to him? Why should he say any things he said in the if you see it isolated beautiful scene at his home (which is sadly undermined by the way Aladdin and Jasmine act towards each other later) if he were actually rich? (Well, it’s not like Aladdin really listened to her either, or he should know what she really wants already). And in the end…the sultan just changes the law. If it was THAT easy, why didn’t Jasmine convince him in the first place to do this?

    On top of all this…well, a lot has been said about Disney Princess movies and feminism. And I’m normally a defender of Disney in this regard. But this movie is perhaps the least feminist they ever did. Jasmine is the ONLY female in the whole movie (not counting some belly dancers…and I really don’t want to think about the implications of Genie creating humans out of the thin air), and while she says that she is a fast learner, the truth is that Aladdin has to rescue her all the time. First her hand, later herself. She also keeps saying that she isn’t a price to be won, but that’s exactly the way Aladdin treats her. He basically impresses her with his nice car(pet) and takes her on a joy ride. Nothing in their interaction suggests that he understands that Jasmine isn’t interested in all the fancy stuff. (And I think your review was very telling…Aladdin seems to be a movie mostly made for boys)

    The only thing I really like about this movie is the interaction between Aladdin and the Genie (I agree with you there). But otherwise, it’s only an okay movie. Not more. Certainly not better than half of the Disney Renaissance movies. Perhaps on one level with the mostly forgotten Tarzan.

    1. Ah, what can you do? Comedies are always subjective. I won’t argue with you on the plotholes. They’re there, I don’t mind them, you do. We’ll agree to disagree. Saturday morning cartoon? More like Golden age Warner’s short. And I’d strongly disagree about Jasmine being unfeminist. She’s the most active, resourceful and well written princess in the canon so far.

      1. Sorry, but I take a female character who stays strong, no matter what is thrown towards her, over one who has a big mouth but needs to get rescued all the time any day, even if she is a house wife. Jasmine is an example for a certain kind of female character you find very often in the 90th, the action girl, who nevertheless ALWAYS gets in over her head in the very end. And one of the worst kind, because the only thing Jasmine turns out to be good at is seducing a guy.
        If Jasmine were a strong female character, she wouldn’t act like a brat to get what she wants (risking a war in the process…I have my issues with Merida, too, but at least Brave addresses the consequences of this kind of behaviour), instead she would try to reason with her father, she would take a good look at Jafar, she would search for loopholes in the law herself. In the line-up, she is one of the weakest princesses, and not just because she is the only one who isn’t the protagonist of her movie, but because she is as character as outdated as her movie is. She is a product of her time – that’s more or less her only excuse. For a well written Action-girl, see the female cast of “The Incredibles”, “Tangled” or “Mulan”. Those are the kind of females I want to see on the screen, certainly not the demanding “I want moooooooooooore” brats from the 90s (which were okay for their time, the same way the classic Princesses were okay for theirs, but Disney has since then created a lot of layered, interesting female characters, who actually develop during their movie, instead of getting the world around them to bow to their demands).

      2. A-ha! So the heart of the swan is not chiselled from cold, unfeeling granite – you do like things after all! And, gosh darnit, they’re things I like as well! Everybody head on down to the Snuggly Duckling, I’ll buy the first round! 😛
        You sound like you’d be a huge fan of Studio Ghibli’s action girls.

      3. Actually…no….but it’s more that I’m not a fan of Studio Ghibli movies in general (haven’t seen all of them, though). They tend to do two kinds of movies, either the “Alice in Wonderland” like movies (thus said, I think that Alice and Shihiro are both as very well done child characters and I appreciate the creativity in both movies) or the ones which are just unbelievable preachy. Even Princess Mononoke is a movie which I think everyone has to see at least once, but I don’t really like it. There is something about the mind set behind those movies which rubs me the wrong way. And I really don’t get the thing with the short hair…did you ever notice that short hair seems to be some sort of requirement for being a true Ghibli action girl?
        In general, there are movies I like from each era of Disney. Nowadays the Renaissance movies get way too much credit…some of them are good, some of them not really, some of them are a milestone of animation (yes, I mean BatB), but just because they could make the animation more impressive thanks to the computer they are not automatically better.
        I also think that the picture of Aladdin and Jasmine as “Disney greatest couple” is often based more on the TV show (and yes, in THIS one Jasmine is a great action girl character and they have a great relationship) than on what is shown in the actual movie. When it comes to movie couples, nothing beats Rapunzel and Eugene (so far….who knows what Disney will come up with in the future).

      4. Ok swanpride, as someone who LOVES Ghibli and has seen every Ghibli film (except the most recent release From Up on Poppy Hill), I have to address a few of your points. First of all, Princess Mononoke is not preachy. That’s honestly the brilliance of it, that it really just presents this struggle between man and nature but doesn’t make a judgement about who is wrong and who is right. Like Ashitaka, the movie is on nobody’s side, it makes arguments for both nature and mankind. Even the villains are redeemable characters (except Jigo I guess, but Lady Eboshi is a character whose actions you can completely sympathize with). If you want to see a preachy movie, go see Pom Poko. Awful, terrible movie from Ghibli’s other main director, Isao Takahata. At the end of the film, one of the characters BREAKS THE FOURTH WALL TO TELL THE AUDIENCE THAT HUMANS ARE BAD AND THAT THE ENVIRONMENT MUST BE PROTECTED. One of the worst endings I’ve ever seen, completely breaks the whole film.

        And as far as the short hair goes, that’s more a personal Miyazaki thing. He mostly just uses it as a symbol of independence for his female characters. It is a bit strange how often he uses it though and how forcefully. In Castle in the Sky, when the main female character Sheeta finally stands up for herself, the villain shoots off her braids so that she has short hair.

        So now, out of curiosity, which Ghibli films have you seen? I’m wondering which ones you’ve missed

      5. Actually, Princess Mononoke was NOT the movie I had in mind when I talked about preachy…it’s one of the reasons I can appreciate this one a little bit more than any other Studio Ghibli movie. My issue with this one is more…let’s see, how I worded it once….the movie seems to be so set on being more than a movie that it sometimes forgets to BE a movie.
        Here, that’s the article in which I more or less wrote exactly what you just said about PM: http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/animated-movies/articles/178717/title/top-ten-animated-movies-everyone-should-see
        (That’s right, you really don’t have to defend this movie towards me, I know that it’s a good one).
        I have seen Spirited Away in theatres and Princess Mononoke and Ponyo on TV – I also tried to give Kiki’s delivery Service a shot, but I gave up pretty fast, because it felt so much like it was done for a younger age group than mine. And Castle in the Sky I tried once, too, but to be fair to the movie, I was pretty distracted when this was on, so saying that it “didn’t grab me” would be a little bit unfair, since I didn’t really pay much attention to it from the get go.
        I know, not a long list, but those are the movies which are considered the “best” (aside from Grave of the Firefly, which I certainly WON’T watch, no matter what happens), and if none of them speak to me (before you ask: with preachy I mean a “you young people have no idea how good you have it living in modern times” tone which I especially noticed in Spirited Away). It’s not that I think they are bad movies…I just don’t connect to them at all. I watch them, I appreciate the animation and sometimes the creativity behind it (just the scene with the foul god who isn’t one makes it worth to watch Spirited Away, even though I feel that in the end, the movie kind of fizzles out), but I just don’t feel invested in them.

      6. Fair enough. Spirited Away is like 1b on my list of favorite movies and Princess Mononoke is 16th. I really envy you that you got to see Spirited Away in theaters, that’s a pleasure that I have not yet had. Kiki’s Delivery Service is made for a younger audience but there is a lot there for older audiences as well. The movie is very mature, it knows how to use silence well and it has a great message about both the nature of art as well as our individual talents and abilities. Castle in the Sky is a great adventure film. While it does have some not particularly great voice acting, it’s an extremely enjoyable film that has MARK GODDAM HAMILL (AKA LUKE SKYWALKER) as the villain and some fantastic animation and music. I don’t blame you not wanting to watch Grave of the Fireflies, it’s good but man is it depressing. The other Ghibli films you should make sure to check out are My Neighbor Totoro and Porco Rosso, they’re both excellent. You might also enjoy Howl’s Moving Castle, but it’s not as objectively good as other Studio Ghibli films. And if you’re a fan of animation at all, you owe it to yourself to watch Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind just because of it’s huge influence on anime.

        Your article is really good by the way. I agree with all your choices (of the ones I’ve seen) except that I might have put Spirited Away instead of Princess Mononoke and I probably wouldn’t put Lilo and Stitch. I love Lilo and Stitch but I don’t think it’s a must see. I would replace it with Dreamwork’s best film, The Prince of Egypt. Thoroughly unique film with unbelievable visuals and a stunning musical score.

      7. “Lilo and Stitch” mostly got in because it has a really creative plot which addresses some themes which are rarely addressed in such a serious manner in ANY children’s movie…if I wrote the article today, I don’t think that it would be still on the list though. I’m not sure what would be there instead….perhaps Wreck-it-Ralph.
        Prince of Egypt is certainly a good movie, but I don’t think that it’s anything “special”. It’s one of the few DreamWorks movies I really like and it deserves a little bit more attention than it gets. But I think it could be better, especially the part with Moses finding a now home in the desert doesn’t really seem to fit the tone of the movie. I think “Spirit” is (with the right dubbing) a little bit better because it’s a little bit more unusual.
        BTW: I normally don’t watch the Ghibli movies in the English dubbing…I do it with the Disney movies because it’s the original language, but Anime I watch either with the German dubbing (which is usually the better one either way) or I watch the original with subtitles.

      8. Hoping this reply goes to the right spot (if not I apologize; might be a problem with my computer) but FUCK YEAH THE PRINCE OF EGYPT. Fie upon anyone who claims it has nothing special about it. That movie is spectacularly executed and heartbreaking in all the best ways.

      1. It seems to me that Jasmine isn’t supposed to be quite on equal footing with Aladdin; she’s a cross between a sidekick and a heroine. (After all, it’s his movie.) She has heroine aspects – her desirability, her defiance, etc – but while she does help him, he still has to fight his own battles, which I think reflects more of a hero-sidekick relationship.
        Not that I like it any less for that, of course.

      2. Yeah, but that’s the reason why I like Rapunzel and Eugene better…they are on equal footing.

      3. Yeah, but I think when a character’s name is the title of the movie, saying it sucks because that character gets more attention in the story than anyone else is a kind of pointless criticism.

      4. Yeah, but that’s not exactly my point…what annoys be about Jasmine that she says all the time how great she is, but she never does anything to back it up. Aladdin being the main focus wouldn’t be a problem if they wouldn’t spend so much time to build her up as something she isn’t.
        Though I do think that the romance would be way more powerful if Aladdin and Jasmine had first exposed Jafar together instead of Aladdin noticing what he does alone…it makes everyone else look so stupid that they didn’t see the hypnotic staff right there.
        It’s just…either do it right or don’t do it all.

    2. Ooooh, gonna have to disagree with you about the Peddlar being a BLAM. A true Big Lipped Alligator Moment comes out of nowhere, interrupts the flow of the narrative, contributes nothing to the storyline, and is never referenced again. The Peddlar doesn’t interrupt the narrative because he actually kicks it off, and he is referenced to again, albeit not until the end of the third movie.

      (But perhaps I’m inclined to be more lenient on the Peddlar oversight, since Shakespeare did the same thing with the beginning of “The Taming of the Shrew.”)

      1. Yeah, I wouldn’t call it a BLAM either. A BLAM has to be way over the top. Even if he doesn’t appear in the movie again, it makes sense for him to be there.

      2. Fair enough.
        I still think that this is one of the worst framing devices they ever used (especially since it doesn’t frame anything, unless you count the third movie, but since this wasn’t planed as a franchise I don’t). And an overdone one. I don’t know why, but it seems to be some sort of tradition to start an Arabian tale with some sort of story-teller (I guess it’s based on the 1001 night). Compared to the epic entries of the other three of the fab four, this one is a let down.

    3. Swampride, how are you going to say that Jasmine is a product of her time without including Belle and Ariel. All 3 are the “want more” princesses who does not fit into her town/atmosphere, and she complains less than Ariel and Merida. Ariel and Merida are a lot more worse than Jasmine EVER was, and at least she respected her parent more than either did.

      There are definitely plot-holes in the film that should have been addressed, but there are still less than BatB, and at least the plot holes does not contradict almost every aspect of the movie.

      I do agree with you that I do not like the DreamWorks approach. The comedy needed to be toned down, and pop-culture references are NEVER the way to go (unless it is supposed to be non-timeless in that specific era).

      I find both Aladdin and Jasmine to be one of the most likable and realistic couple and characters in the canon, and the characters work off really well together.

      This film is not the most feminist Disney films, and it does bother me that Jasmine is the only female character in the film.

      The way you feel about Aladdin is the way I think about BatB. Thanks for letting me be aware of this post though.

      1. I don’t….I always said that Mulan was the first princess with real character development. I just think that Belle works nevertheless very well because she is the ultimate relatable character (and role-model), while Ariel is more flawed and basically the typical teenager and therefore speaks to this age group.
        But mostly: They lack the “I say I can but I actually can’t” characteristic which annoys me so. Well, Ariel has it a little bit with her tendency to leap without a look, but she is a teenager and it’s portrayed as the action of one.
        And Belle doesn’t brag at all AND handles everything thrown at her pretty well.
        Don’t get me started on Pocahontas….that’s another case of more pretending than actually being.

  10. Mouse! Okay, I know I commented already but I went to see what else I could find on TW2 (‘stalking’ is such an ugly word). Clickety-click on his imdb profile, his last post on a message board was this:

    Re: Who are your favourite Disney princesses?
    “Princess Eilonwy, Miss Bianca, Penny (The Rescuers), Snow White and Lady are some of my favorites. Just to name a few. ”

    Snow White – another check in the box for Things That Appeal to the Twisted Mind of TW2 Bingo!

    1. I like how only two of those “Disney princesses” are princesses.

      (OK, yeah, even Disney admits Mulan made the line-up because “she embodies princess qualities” or whatever . . . but Miss Bianca, Penny, and Lady?!? At least Mulan was offered a position on the royal counsel.)

      1. The topic thread may actually have been “heroines” – but then.again, we are talking about a guy who named himself after ‘The Black Cauldron’.

  11. Oh, I nearly forgot: Aladdin has my LEAST favourite of all the Alan Menken Soundtracks (really, you gave THIS ONE so many points?)…mostly because the score is very forgettable. Really, this is the only Menken Disney movie from which I can’t remember a single score piece and that despite the fact that this is the ONLY soundtrack I actually own…it was a present I got shortly after the movies release, and I heard it often enough that I should know it by heart. But I don’t. I also have a beef with most of the songs, because most of them don’t add anything to the story, they are just there to give the Genie the opportunity to play around. The only really good song is “A Whole New World”, and I would discard it in a minute in favour of the song they had to cut when they rewrote the movie “Proud of your boy”.

      1. Eh…this one isn’t really in the run, due to the fact that I watched the movie exactly once and concluded that this is not made for my age group. (Though the one thing I remember really well of this one is the “villain song”).

    1. You might be glad to know that the new Aladdin Broadway musical (which restores characters and songs cut from earlier drafts) has “Proud of your Boy.” (Apparently, Aladdin’s mom isn’t in this, but he sings it to her “memory”.)

    1. Certainly unique…though I don’t like the mind set behind this kind of animation. The point of animation should never be to make something look “real” – if you want that, you can do it with real actors and be done it. The beauty of animation is for me to do something you can’t do with real actors. (It’s something which bothers me about the current obsession to make CGI look real, too).

  12. Ah yes, this film.

    This film has my favourite cast of side characters in any Disney film. I mean ANY film that can get me to like Gilbert Gottfried AND Robin Williams HAS to be doing something good.

    And the soundtrack- to die for! (…shit, just realized that wasn’t the joke to use…)

    I also have to give this film credit for one other thing: When my mom was pregnant with my older brother, she saw this film, and apparently my brother was…shall we say… quite active inside her?

  13. I agree with this article.

    The characters are extremely well-done (entertaining, developed, interesting), and work off one another really well. It is funny that the same people who complain about Aladdin and asmine are the same ones who praise Flynn and Ariel.

    The plot is extremely-well paced (even though there are some plot holes, but people excuse the major ones out of BatB, so whatever), and there are no filler scenes. It just flows perfectly.

    I do think the animation is extremely good, and is on par with The Lion King and the other Renaissance films.

    I am looking foward into your Lion King Review (even thouhg it has never been one of my favourites), and your Pocahontas review (I have a feeling you are goign to rip this movie to shreds).

    Great and well-written review once again.

    1. BatB has only one problem, the time-line issue in the middle (and that’s mostly because it seems like Belle and the Beast spend a lot of time together, if you think it’s only one day, it actually works out). Aladdin is riddled with plot holes, and most of them a based on the characters being blind and not asking obvious questions.
      And Aladdin is FULL of filler scenes…the very FIRST SCENE is a filler, because the peddler is totally unnecessary for the plot. Every single time the Genie plays around is a filler. BatB – has none. the Be our Guest scene comes the closest, and this one is of some importance because it shows the perspective of the enchanted servants. (Aladdin also stretches a lot of scenes out as much as possible).

  14. Unshaved Mouse,

    Are you planning to mention the Lion King vs. Kimba the White Lion debate at all during your Lion King review?

      1. The uncle of the hero plots to kill his own brother, the king, and take over the land, and succeeds. Then the hero is visited by the ghost of his father and charged with overthrowing his uncle who has taken over the role of king. . . . nope, no resemblance to Hamlet at all. 😉

      2. Well Hamlet is more focused on the brooding, undecisive hero who is more concerned with deciding what to do about his uncle(that he lived with) than a mistaken Simba thinking he was responsible for his fathers death and hiding out as a result. The character arches are a little different. One accepts his death with his pursuit of revenge while Simba’s more about hiding out.

      3. I read the review, and I have to say that’s some terrible writing. Sounds like a theater nerd who knows nothing about theater.
        Take this comment.
        ” Simba exhibits this same behavior, venting his feelings in mournful retaliation against responsibility, most notably when his childhood friend Nala attempts to persuade his to return to the Pride Lands. This delay between our characters adds a more haunting effect between the two works. It’s surprising that today’s audiences can be so moved by themes that were first implemented in literature almost four hundred years before.”

        That was a “choice” salad of thoughts and impressions wasn’t it. I would recommend picturing Calculon performing it and wringing every ounce of “Theater!!” out of it.

  15. Well that was a little harsh, but I stand that the article is overwrought and pretentious without the intellect to really back all that up. As for Hamlet, there are influences, but I wouldn’t call The Lion King a retelling.

    1. I can see where The Lion King is similar, as I have read Hamlet and studied it, and I will say that it is loosely based. I don’t think anyone has ever said that The Lion King is EXACTLY like Hamlet in every way.

      1. For me Hamlet is about a seething prince descent into darkness. Contemplating death and murder all day. The Lion King is about a prince who runs away from his problems and responsibilities and then grows up and accepts manhood.

        With Hamlet we have that famous soliloquy that’s a contemplation of suicide and accepting and acting like you have nothing left to lose. Like if you want to stand up to the challenges of life and conflict, death would be inevitable. Most people would not dare stand up because of fear of the unknown makes us all cowards.

        In the Lion King the famous moment has Simba sing hakuna motata

    2. I laughed at the part where the writer claimed Hamlet Sr. ruled Denmark with a reign of peace that his death interrupted. I take it someone wasn’t paying a lot of attention to Fortinbras’s arc.

  16. Yikes. I had no idea such an offhand comment would start such a discussion.
    I have studied Hamlet a bit, and while I’ll admit, as Gram Pol said, that there is a bit of a similarity with the father/uncle/son connections, it’s just so different in every other respect that it does seem accidental. The tone, the themes and values, the rest of the cast, the ending and the progression of the subplots, the way that said father, uncle and son are depicted… I’m just not sold on the theory. An evil uncle wanting (or actually managing) to usurp his brother’s throne is a pretty common trope. As for a heroic prince overthrowing a corrupt ruler (uncle or not), that’s been around since Classical times at least.
    Megamax, that’s a hilarious mental image. “To be or not to be, what a wonderful phraaaase!”

    1. I was thinking about it and maybe I was too hard on this film, it is pretty entertaining, so I probably should give it a re-watch. However, I’m surprised you where so nice about the CGI on the cave of wonders- I thought it stood out like a sore thumb. BTW- what is your opinion of The Princess and the Frog?

  17. God I love this movie. I was in the play a while ago and got Iago. I loved the part because of all the sarcastic lines. I barley had to bring anything because I’m the most sarcastic person I know. It was a lot of fun. (I’m always confusing my friends, because for some reason it’s hard to detect sarcasm through text. Who knew!?!)
    As much as I love Iago, I love Jafar 10x more. (If I was ever in an Aladdin production again, I would love to be him. Which would be awkward because he wants to marry Jasmine and I’m a girl…) Heck I love him so much, just because you sang his praise I’ll forgive you about the whole hating Beauty and Beast thing. For now. Heh heh heh.
    Love the review! Watch your back!
    Heh heh heh ha HA HA MWAH HA HA HA HA

  18. Great review! Man, Aladdin used to be a childhood favorite of mine. I’ll have to watch it again sometime soon. I agree with you that Aladdin and Jasmine are one of the best Disney couples, if not the best, ever. The animation quality of this one really improved after Beauty and the Beast and the complete aesthetic of this movie is very similar to that of a Dreamworks film with all the adult humor, pop culture references, and celebrity voice cast. However, it isn’t exactly timeless like its predecessors, The Little Mermaid and BATB, were. But Aladdin, even though I have not seen it in like 2-3 years, is still a fantastic movie.

  19. I’m late to this party but who cares? THIS MOVIE. I mean, I was a five year old boy when this first released and if I say this movie and its characters played a huge part in shaping me to be my adult self, it would NOT be a huge exaggeration, you know?

    I think I have watched it ten billion times in the twenty years since its release, Aladdin is THAT good. And this review is so neat. Al and Jasmine are the best Disney couple IMO as well, the supporting cast is fantastic and memorable(Magic Carpet is the coolest buddy to have!), the touching character arcs, the breathtakingly gorgeous backgrounds, the warm colors, Jafar that magnifique bastard, Iago(best Disney villain sidekick EVER!), the thrill and adventure, everything, I could go on and on and on. No wonder this had the best(read: least pathetic) Disney spin-off show and direct to DVD sequel (King of Thieves), the world created here was just that exciting, dynamic and magical! The PC game, the magic carpet board game, I was all over the bitching merchandise as a kid. My obsession was scary.. still is, a little bit!

    Agree with you that sometimes this unfairly gets a bad rap as just the “shallow, prettiest one” of the Big Four, but as Aladdin himself would sing, “If they just looked a little closer, they would see, I am soo much more than that!” :p Loved the brocolli that tastes like chocolate comparison you made, Mouse. 😉 It took BatB a 3D re-release to beat Ali’s second place in highest grossing traditional animation film list, and even then BatB barely managed it. Would have FAR preferred a 3D re-release for Aladdin and Mermaid over BatB! The flying carpet scenes and Agrabah rooftops would look brilliant in 3D but that’s just me.

  20. “Tim Rice’s score makes up for the slightly below par lyrics though, conjuring a real feeling of mystery and wonder.”

    I’m sure this is just a typo, but Tim Rice didn’t write the score, Mouse, Menken did. 🙂

  21. This surely is one of my favorite Disney movies, and I understand why it was such a hit. No wonder that it got two sequels and a TV series! Aladdin and Jasmine are a really good Disney couple though, and I also like the other characters (the sultan, Abu, Jafar, Jago and Genie) for what they are. So yeah, it’s pretty much the perfect Disney movie.

  22. May I correct you on the song titles? The song the Genie sings is just called “Friend Like Me,” not “You Ain’t Never Had a Friend Like Me.” Plus, in the “Beauty and the Beast” review, what you called “Tale As Old As Time” is actually “Beauty and the Beast,” and “Kill the Beast” is actually called “The Mob Song.”

      1. Don’t believe me? Check the soundtrack CDs. (Speaking of which, I just bought the “Aladdin” soundtrack today and really enjoyed it.)

  23. Great review once again Mouse, I guess I’m in the minority, but I’m not a huge fan of this one. I consider this the most overrated animated Disney film in their whole canon, but not the worst. My main issue with the film is the never ending pop culture references, they don’t fit in with the classic tale and take me out of the film, not to mention badly date it. It’s too bad because this movie feature some very entertaining characters, I love Jafar, and a great soundtrack. I don’t hate the film by any means, but get annoyed that it’s the third most popular Disney film on IMDB, while other really good 90′s Disney films like Hunchback get little love, or superior older Disney films like Sleeping Beauty are rated lower. Still love your blog, and your spot on Pocahontas review had me in stitches:-D

  24. Yay, we’re at Aladdin! This movie holds a very special place with me as my technical favourite Disney movie. That meaning that while it may not stand against some of the other movies in certain aspects, but most of the other movies that outshine it in certain ways have some kind of fatal flaw that Aladdin manages to lack. Basically while it can pale in comparison to a few other movies in certain aspects, it’s got this “all the right places” quality which lets me enjoy it all the way through. I guess in the manner of a “showy, glitzy thrill ride”.

    And so true about the AAADL. It’s funny being just old enough to look back and remember the general Western picture of Arabs before things took a turn for the awfuls.

    Ahh, Robin. In the wake of his recent passing, it’s definitely with a far-less-than-prideful air that I say that this movie, this one which upset Mr. Williams so much and which he held a long grudge with Disney for is my favourite of his works. It seems I am drawn with a gravitational attraction to those Planets-esque works which their contributors like the least. *sigh*

    Ha ha, Taran. You were kind of asking for it saying not to mention it. It would be funny if a critic who read your reviews ever reviewed one of the movies you accused of containing pilfered ideas and had a whole bit trying to discredit that idea. Heck, maybe there could be a series of just that. I can see it now: Cinematic Whores On Trial. Also, can I say that the meta quality of a lot of your sex-related jokes cracks me up tons?

    Hmm, Jim Cummings is the Renaissance’s drinking game target, huh? Hey, wait a second… The last take-a-shot guy was Sterling Holloway, who voiced Winnie the Pooh, AKA Edward Bear… Edward… Ed… Ed the hyena? Jim Cummings? Hey, Batman! I think I’ve got a conclusion cooking!

    Also, Jim Cummings also played Pooh later on, so I really am beginning to think those shots actually should be hunny shots.

    Anyway, on to Aladdin. I think Aladdin’s character is a big part of his movie’s being a favourite with me. I think Aladdin very well might be my favourite Disney protagonist. I think he’s got lots of points in my book because his story is a journey from the bottom to the top. Most of the other heroes are either royalty or even if not socially elite, are at least pretty popular with the public in some way (like Robin Hood for example), and most that aren’t don’t quite achieve as much, which yeah, could be a sign of being more grounded, but I’m just a sucker for a good underdog story, cheap and vaguely clichéd as they might be. But in this case it probably helps that Aladdin is for the most part a genuinely nice person who has just enough struggles with selfishness to make him human, but not unlikeable. Not to mention that his weak moments where he does put himself first usually cause trouble, meaning he gets less hero-centred-morality than a few of the other heroes (Ariel never really gets a “I really screwed up” moment the way Aladdin does). Also, some heroes stab their enemies, some get lucky and have fate clear the way for them, Aladdin uses his cleverness to turn his foe’s own villainy against him, which is my favourite kind of victory. As you might have noticed in some of my commentary on your novel, I’m kind of partial to clean-handed heroes.

    In short, Tom Cruise my rumpus, this guy’s a full on Michael J and I love the kid for it.

    As for Achmed, why look where you’re going if only a fool would dare fall into the way of such grandeur? Seriously, I bet if he stumbled into a house, he’d probably just blame its owner for not demolishing it to let him through instead. And them whip them because status means whipping privileges. Also, poor Jasmine. I bet if she wasn’t married in time, the law probably stated the Sultan would have to give her a pony! Truly too dreadful for mention!

    Hmm, I guess I’d buy that the Cave of Wonders wouldn’t count animals getting inside as cheating. If it did, that would mean it would have to collapse if a fly happened to get inside it. Actually, this is the middle east, maybe it would collapse if a fly got in, but would probably give the chosen one a pass if he brought his camel in. What I never got is why the Cave let Aladdin and Abu touch the carpet. It’s not the lamp, is it, so wouldn’t it have immediately caused the Cave to lose it by trying to hold Abu back from snatching the certain red precious stone in comparable size to a certain citrus?

    Also, true story, the first time I saw Aladdin when I was older, I thought the flying through the Cave of Wonders scene had been digitally altered for the DVD version. That scene is kind of dated, huh?

    Hmm, is there a list of Standard Disney Platitudes? If Oh My Disney doesn’t have those compiled already, someone down there ought to.

    You’re not the only one who was curious as to how Jasmine didn’t write off Ali as being Aladdin considering Aladdin was apparently dead. Also, am I the only one who wonders why Razoul agreed to bump off royalty for Jafar? I mean, yeah, Jafar’s kind of a big deal and what he says goes, but don’t you think getting in his bad books would rate a bit below, y’know, incurring the wrath of an entire country for inconvenience? I think his being the brightest bulb doesn’t say much.

    Man, poor John. On a related note, can Genie breathe inside his lamp? Maybe that’s the real reason he’s blue.

    I like Aladdin a lot, but I definitely think it’s one of those movies whose logic regarding magic is best left unquestioned. How it works that Jafar’s being a genie reverses all his magic and wishes except, for some reason, Jafar’s reversal of Aladdin’s wishes (turning Jafar into a genie turned Abu back into a monkey, but not back into an elephant) is beyond me. Though that Genie told Aladdin to wish to be a prince again instead of releasing him kind of supports the idea that the narrator is in fact the Genie turned human. If being freed meant he was a near omnipotent being with free will, why not just turn Aladdin into a prince once freed? If that wasn’t something he could do, that question would not need asking. Also, don’t blame the Sultan, he probably really didn’t want to be forced to sink money on that pony.

    About that animation score though, that description of your backside didn’t sound very “unshaved”, hmm… Is there more here not to be trusted than chapter titles? *raises eyebrow*

  25. I think this is my favorite Disney movie (and I was almost 30 when it came out, so I’m not viewing it through a childhood-tinged nostalgia filter). It has one of the best villains, I like that Jasmine’s legs don’t just fall open when she meets a “prince”, it has THE best supporting character in any Disney movie PERIOD, and nearly all the songs are fun and extremely catchy (the exception? Whole New World, which is this movie’s Soulless Oscar Bait song; in my opinion, the unforgivable sin of Beauty and the Beast is that it grave into stone the commandment “Thou shalt have at least one Soulless Oscar Bait song in every Disney movie, and also shalt thou get the current Flavor of the Month pop singer to re-record it for the credits and interminable airplay”).

    I get that some people don’t care for Williams’ Genie, but I think Williams works best when there’s an editor who can go through his ten minutes of schtick and pick out the 20 seconds or so where it all came together. Which is what they had here, and yeah, it’s laden with pop culture references, but it’s almost 25 years later now, and they still hold up pretty well.

    1. Jasmine is essentially a smart and feisty 1990s girl put into a Medieval Arabian setting though, so she would have more sense than to just fall for any prince, who walked into the palace trying to win her over. Then again, neither Cinderella or Aurora knew that their princes were princes either when they first met. So it seems like Disney were on the right track already in the ’50s.

      And really, those pop culture references never bothered me. I mean, they really should feel out of place in a story like this. But I have always been okay with them…

    2. I actually found Whole New World pretty enjoyable as far as end-credits worthy slow songs go. I seem to remember the first time I watched Aladdin as an older kid, I was expecting that sequence to be a good chance to take a nap, but discovered it was engaging enough, at least for me. No Friend Like Me or One Jump Ahead, sure, but no Go The Distance or Reflection either.

      …And certainly no Am I Feeling Love.

  26. ‘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.”

    How I love this bit

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