Directed By: Ron Clements & John Musker
Produced By: John Musker & Ron Clements
Based On: “Aladdin’s Wonderful Lamp” (Arabian Fairy Tale)
Premiered On: November 25, 1992
Distribution By: Buena Vista Pictures
While it can be argued as to the popularity of the film itself compared to others in the Renaissance, one cannot deny that Aladdin has had one of the biggest impacts insomuch that it is one of the only Disney Animated Feature film to receive a televised series and not one but two straight-to-video sequels. A television series that lasted for eighty-six episodes, making it one of the few exceptions to the “65th Episode Rule” that was prevalent in the 90’s to early 2000’s where most Disney television shows could not extend beyond sixty-five episodes.
As to the film itself, the story goes that the wickedly sorcerous vizier Jafar has been seeking entry into the illustrious Cave of Wonders wherein there lies a magical lamp with a genie. While Jafar has succeeded in finding the Cave of Wonders, he cannot enter it himself as the Cave itself declares that only one who is a “diamond in the rough” can enter and even that individual cannot touch anything within save for the lamp.
Thus enters our titular hero, Aladdin a penniless thief who does his best to survive the streets of Agrabah and who, rather inadvertently finds himself in the company of the local princess, Jasmine, who has sought to run away from the palace lest she be forced to marry a man she does not love before her sixteenth birthday.
… Wait, if she’s fifteen, how old is Aladdin?
(Checks Disney Wiki…)
Ah, he’s eighteen…
Welp, moving on past that den of awkwardness, through some devious trickery, Jafar manages to con both Jasmine and Aladdin, the princess believing the thief had been executed while Aladdin is duped into entering the Cave of Wonders with the promise of a handsome reward should he retrieve the lamp. Aladdin enters the Cave but thanks in no small part to Abu, finds himself trapped with a seemingly useless lamp and an enchanted carpet that is not only able to fly but is actually sentient to boot.
Thankfully, Aladdin rubs the lamp and discovers that the lamp itself is quite worthless compared to what lay within, a “cosmically powerful” Genie who states that Aladdin is his new master and thus can receive any three wishes his heart desires though with a few quid pro quos and such. After tricking Genie into getting them out of the cave, Aladdin makes his first true wish, to become a prince so that he might be able to marry the princess. Of course, Jafar, after a time, manages to put two and two together and realizes just who the pauper turned prince actually is and sees to it that he gets the lamp, and Genie, for himself.
I’d go further into how Jafar is stopped but really, there’s too much karmic justice to be had there for me to spoil it to those who haven’t seen it so I’ll take a moment to talk about something that always intrigued me with Genie: the rules to what wishes he can and cannot grant.
Rule 1: He can’t kill anyone. Now, while I’m quite glad of this fact, that’s a rather odd thing for Genie to be incapable of doing. As most action films can attest, it’s frightfully easy to kill people so I wonder if it’s more of a matter of personal preference on Genie’s part.
Rule 2: He can’t make people fall in love. Yet… as powerful an emotion as love is, that begs the question of whether or not Genie can create other emotions in people. Take the animated film Anastasia for example. Rasputin all but admits to using sorcery to inspire the Russian Revolution and lead to the downfall of the Romanoff family. There are many, and arguably far more dangerous, emotions than just love.
Rule 3: He can’t bring people back from the dead. However… He goes on to add, “It’s not a pretty picture, I don’t like doing it.” This means that Genie can in fact bring people back from the dead but it’s not a true resurrection in the strictest sense of the word. They’d be brought back to life yes but they’d be stuck in whatever state their body is in at the time, making for quite the ugly picture I’m sure.
Last but not least is the unofficial Rule 4: No wishing for more wishes. Now one is a remarkably easy one to get around. I mean, seriously, for as long as I’ve ever contemplated the idea of what three wishes I’d make via a genie, this never once occurred to me. What’s the easy way of getting more wishes but not outright wishing for more?
Well, nobody ever said that you can’t wish for more genies now did they?
Heh, I love me a good loophole…
One last thing that I feel worth mentioning in regards to Genie, and by extension Carpet, is how old he is. Upon being released from the lamp, he states that ten thousand years can give one an incredible crick in the neck. I had initially passed this off as Genie being… well, Genie, until he later spots Carpet. He remarks, quote, “I haven’t seen you in a few millennia.”
… Just how long has Genie and Carpet been trapped in the Cave of Wonders? More to the point, who, or what, had put them there in the first place? The Cave proved that the only true treasures within it were Carpet and Genie, why would anyone go to such lengths to keep them hidden? Well, Genie I can understand, but Carpet?
He’s a sentient flying rug. Admittedly, one that can apparently fly from Egypt to Greece to China and back to Arabia far faster than should be possible and not once drop his passengers despite the speeds he must be going. So what exactly is the harm in having him “loose” in the world versus Genie? Heck, the television series showcased just how many other far more malignant magical threats there are that can be far worse than Genie could be even in the hands of a villain like Jafar.
Having said all that, let’s focus on the differences between this film and the original story.
First and foremost, contrary to its source material, that being the famous collection of Arabian folklore and stories in The Book of One Thousand and One Nights, or simply Arabian Nights, Aladdin’s story does NOT take place in Arabia but in China. The next major difference is that Jafar, or rather the sorcerer whose name I can’t pronounce let alone spell correctly, tricks Aladdin and his still living mother that he is the brother of Aladdin’s father. The overall plot remains the same from here save for another very drastic difference.
Aladdin doesn’t find a single genie. He finds two. One was bestowed to him by the sorcerer who either didn’t know of the genie’s presence or simply didn’t care as this genie, known as the Genie of the Ring, is actually quite weak in comparison to the Genie of the Lamp.
The most that the Genie of the Ring could do was free Aladdin from the enchanted cave whereas the Genie of the Lamp granted him riches, power, and a castle that was twice as magnificent as the sultan’s own. Also, because really I find this far too amusing not to make note of, that whole scene with Jasmine using her, ahem, feminine wiles on Jafar? That’s in the original story too.
As to my choice in song for the film… I’ll admit, if I was going with a song that fits the film as a whole, I’d say that the song “Arabian Nights” should be the one as a good tongue-in-cheek acknowledgement to the original source material. If I were focusing on the romance between Aladdin and Jasmine, I’d definitely say that “A Whole New World” definitely takes the entire cake. I’ll confess, it is, thus far, my favorite of the romance songs from Disney. However, in honor of the man who brought the miraculous power of laughter to the masses, my choice in song is “A Friend Like Me” as sung by Robin Williams, the voice of Genie.
Aside from being a stunning array of animation that I’m sure left many an animator with cramped hands, there is no better demonstration to what wishes Genie is capable of granting. More to the point though, this song helps demonstrate how much of a “diamond in the rough” Aladdin actually is. Considering all that he sees Genie is capable of granting him and the near limitless potential of three wishes, Aladdin focuses on something that even Genie admits that he cannot grant: love. He could have anything and everything that he has ever wanted in life but the one thing he wants is something that not even magic can grant…
Good job, Al. Good job.
Overall, I give Aladdin… Ah, who am I kidding, most of the Disney Renaissance get a solid 10 out of 5 stars from me and this one is no exception. It’s visually stunning, its music is nothing short of phenomenal and positively delightful to sing along with, and it’s a story that may be well known but can still be enjoyed by anyone, no matter how old or young they may be.