20 Weeks of Disney Animation: ‘Aladdin’
After The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, Disney continued in the tradition of Broadway style animated features with Aladdin.
By this time, Howard Ashman had sadly passed away and the film had begun to shift in a different direction from what Ashman and Alan Menken had originally intended. Because of this change, Disney brought in established Broadway lyricist Tim Rice to work alongside Menken to write new songs that would better fit the updated story. Unfortunately, this meant that many of the songs written by Ashman and Menken had to be cut, and only three of their songs ended up in the final cut. Despite this, the soundtrack remains one of the most fun from this period, with memorable numbers like “Friend Like Me” to sweeping ballads like “A Whole New World”.
For this film, legendary comedian Robin Williams voiced the character of the Genie. This was one of the first times that such a huge name was used to sell an animated movie. A talented comedian and impressionist, he brought his gifts of quick wit and improv to create a character that is one of the best in animation history. Of course, Williams himself was practically a living cartoon and the combination of Eric Goldberg’s animation and Robin Williams voice work create an unmatched performance.
As part of the agreement to star in the film, Robin Williams took a smaller paycheck in exchange for the company to not market him as the star. However, Disney did not follow this agreement and used him extensively in both the marketing and merchandising. This led to a fallout between the company and the actor leading to the character being recast in both the first sequel and the television series. Eventually, Disney and Williams resolved this issue and Williams went on the play the character one more time in Aladdin and the King of Thieves.
Though perhaps not the strongest film of the Disney Renaissance, it has left a commendable legacy, and received tremendous acclaim upon its release.
Live-action remake: The live-action remake of Aladdin was released in 2019. Starring Will Smith as the Genie, the film features songs by Alan Menken, with new lyrics from Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. A sequel and a spin-off for Disney+ are both in development. To check out Skyler Shuler’s review of the film, click here.
Aladdin in the theme parks: Aladdin has a prevalent presence across the Disney parks and has since the film was released. Several characters from the film can be seen walking around the parks and are available to meet. In the updated version of Fantasmic!, there is a new segment that includes the Genie and Aladdin and Jasmine singing “Part of Your World”.
As for Aladdin-themed rides, there is one at Walt Disney World called The Magic Carpets of Aladdin. It is similar to Dumbo the Flying Elephant, except the elephants are replaced with magic carpets. Variants on this ride appear at Disneyland Paris and at the Aladdin-themed land at Tokyo Disney.
From 1993 to 2017, the restaurant Aladdin’s Oasis was in Adventureland in Disneyland. Aladdin’s Oasis featured Aladdin-themed decor and also offered character greetings and a place to view live shows.
Sequels/Spin-off: The first sequel to Aladdin was 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.
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 second and final sequel in the Aladdin film series was Aladdin and the King of Thieves. This direct-to-video film was released in August of 1996 and acted not just as a sequel to Return of Jafar but also as a finale to the Aladdin television show that ran for two years.
For more details on both of these films, check out my 25 Weeks of DisneyToon Sequels.
Aladdin on stage: In 2011, a stage musical based on Disney’s Aladdin premiered in Seattle at the 5th Avenue Theatre. The show featured the original songs, including some cut from the final film, as well as newly written songs for the stage. It also featured the return of Jonathan Freeman, who reprised his role of Jafar from the film.
Following the Seattle production and a short tryout in Toronto, Aladdin officially opened on Broadway in 2014. The cast included Adam Jacobs as Aladdin, James Monroe Iglehart as Genie, and Courtney Reed as Jasmine. Iglehart would go on to win a Tony Award for his role.
In 2019, a special performance from the West End production was filmed. It was later announced that this would be available exclusively on Disney+. An official arrival date has yet to be announced.
Aladdin is available to stream on Disney+.