Friday, January 31, 2014

Aladdin 1992

Personal Overview: I was dying to get to this one. It’s my favourite Disney animated film ever. I liked the original story from Arabian Nights, and I think what sealed the deal was the casting of Robin Williams as the voice of the Genie.

I still think Williams is the best bit of celebrity casting Disney have ever done. His scattershot adlib style suits the role so perfectly. I heard that they basically handed him the script and a licence to adlib as much as he wanted and they’d draw around what he did. That is largely what happens, although there are certainly instances where he can’t simply go off on his own tangent and has to stick to the story and the lines as written, although even then he seems to add his own spin to them. I’d love to hear what didn’t make it into the completed version.

Williams' one man tour de force aside, they do stick fairly closely to the accepted legend, although there’s a fair bit of embeliishment and some characters are altered or removed or included. Iago is one such inclusion. I do admit to wondering exactly why Jafar had a sarcastic parrot as a pet.

This is just FUN from beginning to end. They’d done the occasional bit of pop culture referencing and once in a while poking fun at their back catalog, but with Williams on board this went into overdrive in Aladdin and it helped make the movie the wonderful laugh a minute ride that it was.

I personally wouldn’t have thought this one would lend itself to a Broadway adaptation in the way the two predecessors did, but one is due to debut this year. It’s still popular as a movie and around the parks and Jasmine, despite not being the focus, was added to the Pantheon of Princesses.

The Beast, Sebastian and Pinocchio all make cameos and there are loads of other references to the studios and outside of it. I can remember when I first saw it with a friend we both went into hysterics over Williams' De Niro impersonation as the Genie (are you talkin’ to me?) and the same joke went right over the younger audiences heads although their parents laughed.

Aladdin had a cross generational appeal that earlier movies (mostly from the 80’s before The Little Mermaid) didn’t and that’s why it’s still popular and can still get plenty of laughs from me even on the umpteenth rewatch. It’s probably the only one where I can sing along with some of the songs too.

Hero/es: there are so many. Aladdin of course, that street wise,  slick character with a heart of gold underneath the rough around the edge exterior always seems to work with audiences. Jasmine has many heroic qualities, she’s very much a modern Princess and she stands up for herself and her family, of course being backed by a large angry tiger doesn’t hurt there. The Genie himself, he’s the focus of the story next to Aladdin and he helps Aladdin triumph even when bound by the laws of the lamp.

Villain/s: Jafar. Even before he opens his mouth and shows his true colours, and he does that before we even meet Aladdin, you know he’s a bad guy. He’s drawn that way. Of lesser consequence, and the laughs he get tend to mask how unpleasant he is, is Jafar’s assistant and almost constant companion the loud mouthed snarky parrot Iago. Casting comedian Gilbert Gottfried as Iago was another master stroke.

Cuteness Factor: there are again many contenders, but I managed to narrow it down to two. Abu, Aladdin’s best friend, the loyal monkey Abu. The fez and the vest just scream cute, plus he mugs for all he’s worth most of the time. I didn’t really warm to him as an elephant though. The other is Carpet. The flying carpet somehow manages to take on a character all of it’s own, even though it never says anything or has a face.

Animation: absolutely superb, a tour de force. You are in the faux Arabian Nights city of Agrabah, apparently it was based in some respects on the hometown of layout supervisor Rasoul Azadani who was from Iran. Then there’s the way they so brilliantly kept up with what Williams was doing. For me this one is faultless. Special mention must to go how they gave Carpet a character of it’s own, largely by moving the tassels to indicate emotions and feelings.

Final Words: Just one: WOW! I said it the first time I saw it and I say it again after many rewatchings. For me it’s as close as an animated film can get to perfection.

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