Aladdin Blu-ray Review
In their pre-Pixar prime, Disney had a string of four consecutive animated masterpieces, starting with BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, then moving to THE LITTLE MERMAID, ALADDIN and ending with THE LION KING. I know the other films have their passionate fans, but ALADDIN has always been my favorite. It holds up exceptionally well today, featuring great music, fun adventure and characters that are deep enough to keep the adults interested yet simple enough to hold the attention of young kids. But it helps that it features Robin Williams as the Genie, in what I consider the best voice performance in film.
Aladdin is just a simple peasant boy making his living stealing what he needs to survive with his helpful sidekick monkey Abu. But destiny intervenes when it’s revealed to the evil Jafar that Aladdin is the only one worthy enough to go into the Cave of Wonders and take the lamp that holds an all-powerful genie. Aladdin is tricked into the task, but things don’t work out for Jafar as Aladdin is the one that rubs the lamp and gets three wishes from the Genie. But Aladdin quickly learns that being rich and powerful isn’t what it’s cracked up to be and in the end, if you want the girl, the best thing is to just be yourself.
When ALADDIN first hit theaters, Robin Williams received numerous accolades for his performance as Genie and those of us alive at the time might have become numb to it. But revisiting it so many years later is a nice reminder that Williams was absolutely brilliant as the outlandish Genie. It wasn’t just the fast talking and funny dialogue; Williams truly excelled in the musical numbers, giving incredible life to songs like ‘Friend Like Me’ and ‘Prince Ali’. It takes a while for him to show up, but once he does the movie just flies by as the audience eats up everything he says.
Since Pixar and Dreamworks Animation have abandoned the musical numbers, it was almost odd watching an animated movie musical. But the songs in ALADDIN are what sets it apart from the other Disney films as every single song is enjoyable and sing-along worthy. Beast, Mermaid and Lion King all have great music as well, but the music in ALADDIN is so catchy that it’s hard not to tap your feet. I don’t like to place too much credit on any animated film to teach a lesson, but I always appreciated the subtlety of ALADDIN’s deeper theme. His interactions with Genie are great and it’s a blast hearing Robin Williams belt out ‘Prince Ali’, but sometimes the message of being honest to yourself and to others gets lost I the spectacle. It’s something I’ve always tried to preach and it’s something I want my children to understand and if Genie can help them, then that’s fine with me.
Animation has come a long way since ALADDIN and I know other Disney films have more notoriety, but for my money, ALADDIN was the pinnacle of Disney animation. The escape from the Cave of Wonders was 3D worthy (shame on Disney for not converting ALADDIN) and it was quite impressive for its time despite being commonplace now. But with timeless music and a great message, ALADDIN deserves a place in any movie library.
Video: I’ve never seen ALADDIN look as incredible as it does on this Blu-ray.
Audio: The audio was equally incredible.
There was no mention of the original, slightly racist version of ‘Arabian Nights’, which would have been nice. I know Disney likes to sweep that stuff under the rug, but I was hoping for an explanation for what they were thinking.
Commentary with John Musker, Ron Clements and Amy Pell and another commentary with Andreas Deja, Will Finn, Eric Goldberg and Glen Keane: I’m not sure when these were recorded, but they featured a lot of the commentators trying to remember certain things. They give some good tidbits and interesting information, but overall these were kind of dry.
Genie Outtakes (8:56): No footage of Robin Williams, but instead these are some of his outtakes over some unfinished storyboards. Good for those of us that can’t get enough Genie.
Aladdin: Creating Broadway Magic (19:02): Darren Criss (from ‘Glee’) introduces us to the production of the Broadway musical version of Aladdin.
Unboxing Aladdin (4:58): Joey Bragg (who is all over the Disney Channel) takes us through some of the hidden gems in Aladdin. It’s very…kid friendly.
Genie 101 (3:58): Scott Weinger (who voices Aladdin) teaches us about the history of Aladdin and how he has appeared in movies and TV shows over the years.
Ron & Jon: You Ain’t Never Had a Friend Like Me (6:01): These two talk about their friendship and how great life at Disney was in the 90’s.
The Blu-ray also features what I believe are all of the bonus features from the Aladdin DVD.