25 Weeks of DisneyToon Sequels: Week 1
For this first week of DisneyToon sequels, we watched the first one ever made by the DisneyToon Studios, The Return of Jafar. Marketed as “the first all-new Disney animated movie produced exclusively for video”, The Return of Jafar was released to VHS tapes in May of 1994. It became one of the best selling videos of all time and led to Disney’s practice of churning out cheap sequels to their beloved animated films directly to video, a venture that earned Disney a lot of money throughout the mid-’90s and mid-2000s.
Most of the original voice cast returns for this outing, including Scott Weinger as Aladdin, Linda Larkin as Jasmine, and Jonathan Freeman and Gilbert Gottfried as Jafar and Iago, respectively. The two notable replacements are Val Bettin as the Sultan and, most noticeably, Dan Castellaneta as the voice of the Genie. Due to an issue between Robin Williams and Disney, Williams opted not to return for this film. This conflict was later resolved and he came back to voice the Genie in the final entry of the series, Aladdin and the King of Thieves. Regardless, they gave the iconic role to Dan Castellaneta, the voice of Homer Simpson. His performance is nothing memorable but he gets the job done, both here and in the television series of Aladdin that proceeded this film. In fact, this film acts as the pilot to the cartoon series of Aladdin that premiered soon after The Return of Jafar was released on home video. With this updated cast and story, the end of this movie sets up the television series that ran from 1994 to 1995 as part of the Disney Afternoon lineup. The finale of the series came in the form of the aforementioned sequel, Aladdin and the King of Thieves.
The Return of Jafar opens up with another rendition of the song “Arabian Nights” and gives us a glimpse into the life of a new character named Abis Mal, voiced by the always entertaining Jason Alexander. He soon becomes Jafar’s new right-hand man as Iago the parrot leaves Jafar to make his own way in Agrabah, which makes for a new song. In fact, of all of the characters, Iago sings the most in this film which is an interesting choice, to put it nicely. The rest of the plot consists of- you guessed it- Jafar returning to Agrabah and terrorizing Aladdin, Jasmine, and the Genie and before you know it, the film is over.
Though The Return of Jafar is often looked upon with disdain by many Disney aficionados, it is not all that bad. Yes, the animation is noticeably cheaper than the original and yes, our beloved characters singing these new, boring songs makes one wish for the beautiful melodies of Alan Menken. However, on its own, the film is entertaining enough to capture one’s attention throughout its short runtime and makes for a fun, albeit unmemorable, return to the world of Agrabah.
Come back next week for the next installment, in which we watch the superior Aladdin and King of Thieves! Happy watching!