I can’t believe it was 23 years ago I first walked into the theater at the Disney Studios to see their upcoming animated feature, “Aladdin”! It promised to be a groundbreaking film, drastically different than any other. Just a few years earlier, “The Little Mermaid” revived Disney animation, proving that the company could still produce the type of animated feature that had worldwide appeal, and it was soon followed by “Beauty and the Beast.” Between the pristine animation and Alan Menken and Tim Rice’s music, Disney animated musicals were once again tops.
With Robin Williams as the voice of the Genie, and being allowed the chance to improvise on the script, it brought a unique zaniness that had not been seen in animated features before. I’m not sure audiences had ever roared with laughter in any full-length animated film as they did with “Aladdin.” In fact, Scott Weinger, the voice of Aladdin told me that at one point during a recording session with Robin, he laughed so much he actually fell out of his seat! Add in another standup comic, Gilbert Gottfried as the voice of parrot, Iago, and you’ve got an hour and a half comedy show!
I remember watching “Aladdin” for the first time, and while I loved it I wondered if it would hold up as a classic many years later, particularly with such modern references such as Robin Williams’ impersonations of Carl Sagan, Arsenio Hall and Rodney Dangerfield. Getting the chance to see the film again, I can assure you it’s as good as when it was first released. I’m not sure younger people will know the aforementioned celebrities, and references to Groucho Marx’s “You Bet Your Life” game show, or the impersonation of Rochester from the Jack Benny show when the Genie sings, “You’re the boss!” in “Friend Like Me.” Besides the lost references, there is enough zaniness and timeless humor to keep audiences of any age in stitches.
Over the years, at least for me, when I thought of “Aladdin,” it was the comedy of the Genie that first came to mind. He certain steals the show in the film, but what I forgot was the beautiful love story, the heart, the touching moments so reminiscent of Disney’s best films. It still gets you at the moment that Jasmine realizes that Prince Ali is the vagrant boy she met earlier. The “Whole New World” sequence, with Aladdin and Jasmine soaring around the world on a magic carpet, still give audiences just enough of a break from the hilarity with some necessary tender moments.
In addition to a gorgeous digital transfer of “Aladdin,” this new Diamond Edition release of “Aladdin” has the great bonus features from previous DVD releases and a few new goodies as well. Most notably is “Genie Outtakes,” nearly ten minutes of Robin Williams voice work that didn’t make the final cut. There’s a piece about bringing “Aladdin” to the Broadway stage, and a segment on some of the Easter eggs found in the movie. Scott Weinger, the speaking voice of Aladdin, delves into what went into the creation of the Genie character, and Ron Clements and John Musker, longtime Disney collaborators who wrote and directed “Aladdin.”
So your wishes have been granted, The Diamond Edition Blu-ray of Aladdin doesn’t disappoint!