Study Guide

Aladdin

Aladdin Introduction


Release Year: 1992

Genre: Adventure, Animation, Family, Fantasy, Romance

Director: Ron Clements and John Musker

Writer: Ron Clements, John Musker, Ted Elliott, and Terry Rossio

Stars: Scott Weinger, Robin Williams, Linda LarkinJonathan Freeman


This is a movie about a boy.

Sure, Disney had done the princess thing, and it had done it well. Snow White. Cinderella. Aurora. Ariel. Belle. But what about their princes? Yeah, things may have improved since the days of waiting for some random royal hunk to sweep you off your feet at a ball, but the folks at Disney couldn't shake the feeling that it was time for another change. A manly change.

Enter Aladdin. This was a chance to do for princes what The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast had done for princesses. This 1992 film would give us a story about a strong hero facing adversity to win the heart of the woman he loves…all while keeping his hair perfect and talking to animals.

Hey, you don't totally break up a winning formula.

The story is all about this guy Aladdin, a poor orphan who grows up on the streets of Agrabah. One day, he saves a princess in disguise and falls in love with her. Our hero figures it's an impossible crush until he finds a magic lamp with a genie inside who will grant him three wishes. Now all he's got to do is wish for fame and fortune and woo the princess, right?

Oh, if only life with a magical wish-granting genie were that easy.

Aladdin was the third movie produced as part of the Disney Renaissance, which began with The Little Mermaid back in 1989. Like its Renaissance siblings, this film was yet another blockbuster, and it cemented the narrative that the House of Mouse was back on top. We think the fact that it earned over $200 million in theaters and was nominated for five Oscars probably helped Disney's case. Just a little bit.

It may be a Disney princess's world, but Aladdin can hold his own.

  

What is Aladdin About and Why Should I Care?

Two words: the Genie.

Okay, we may need a few more words. How about "Robin Williams as the Genie"? If you've seen Aladdin, you probably know that the Genie is one of the most memorable characters from this movie—from any Disney movie, really. He's a big, blue, wisecracking, wish-granting, song-and-dance man who rips through impressions and jokes at the speed of light.

Well, okay, you say. Sure, he's funny, but what's the big deal?

Answer: the Genie pretty much single-handedly changed our idea of what animated movies could be.

See, before Aladdin, full-length cartoons mostly followed a formula—timeless stories told by professional voice actors. Pull lever, cash check. Classic Disney movies often featured the same voice actors doing all kinds of different characters. You might notice, for example, that Winnie the Pooh, the Cheshire Cat, and Kaa from The Jungle Book all sound a bit alike. That's because they're all done by the late, great Sterling Holloway. And that was all well and good. For then.

But the folks who worked on Aladdin had a different idea. Their movie called for a genie who was larger than life. He needed to defy time, space, and physics, so who better than the manic and brilliant Robin Williams to play him? The screenwriters wrote the part for him, and the artists created sample animations of his stand-up routines to convince him of what the Genie could look like on the big screen. Williams loved it, and a big blue star was born. Shazam.

Robin Williams also did something totally unheard of for an animated movie. He improvised. That's right: almost all of the dialogue that he did for the Genie came straight from him. He recorded almost 16 hours of material for the film, even though the writers and animators could only fit in a fraction of that. The Genie turning into Arnold Schwarzenegger? It's in. Doing a mean Jack Nicholson impression? A must-have moment.

At the time, this was a huge risk. It had literally never been done before. Robin Williams was a big-name star, and animated movies did not usually have big-name stars in them. They also didn't have characters morphing to do Ed Sullivan impressions and spewing out pop-culture references every two seconds. What if it was all a big fat flop? We're guessing the Aladdin folks had their air sickness bags ready on this wild magic carpet ride.

But it wasn't a flop. It was the opposite of a flop. It was the top-grossing movie of 1992, and it changed the way everyone made animated movies. Look at any of the biggest animated movies at the box office now: you can't get them made without fancy stars. (Sorry, professional voice actors.) And fast-paced jokes and pop culture references? Ask any of the Shrek, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda, or Despicable Me movies if they think those are a bad idea.

Yup, the Genie ushered in a whole new world of animation. There's endless possibilities for A-list celebrities to line their pockets for a few hours of voiceover work. And screenwriters can now pack in the gags to add fun for both the adults and kids. That's real magic.

And to think—all it took was just one little ol' genie.

Trivia

Scott Weinger not only provided the voice for Aladdin, but he also played D. J.'s boyfriend, Steve, on the TV show Full House. The show had a little fun with this coincidence when they did an episode at Disneyworld in 1993. D. J. imagines that she sees Steve dressed as Aladdin standing on a parade float. Hey, his voice does sound really familiar. (Source)

Disney movies are super wholesome, so people have always looked for naughty tidbits in them. For years, people swore that you could hear Aladdin saying, "Good teenagers, take off your clothes" when he's shooing Rajah away on Jasmine's balcony. The line is actually supposed to be, "Good kitty. Take off and go," but it is pretty tough to hear. Newer DVD versions of the movie have the updated dialogue, "Good kitty, take off," so that the delicate ears of future children may not be harmed. (Source)

Aladdin is more like Pinocchio than you'd think. Whenever he tells a lie, the feather on his turban falls forward. (Source)

The sequel to Aladdin, The Return of Jafar, was the first time Disney had ever attempted to make a full-length animated movie that wasn't intended to play in theaters. It went straight to video and made a bunch of money, too, opening the door for future direct-to-your-DVD-player sequels. (Source)

Aladdin Resources

Websites

The Official Aladdin
Disney's official movie website for all your Aladdin-related needs.

Book or TV Adaptations

One Thousand and One Nights
The Aladdin story comes from this super famous collection of folk tales. Along with the stories of Ali Baba and Sinbad, Aladdin's adventures are some of the most epic in these pages. Pop by and check out the whole thing.

The Return of Jafar
Kids love Aladdin. So why not give them more of what they adore? This direct-to-video sequel features more Jafar, more villainy, and more heroic adventures for Aladdin.

Aladdin on TV
The 86 episodes of this TV show were all about Aladdin's adventures after the events of The Return of Jafar. It's kind of weird, because for some reason Aladdin is engaged to Jasmine but still living on the streets of Agrabah. Also, the Genie is free, but he's still hanging around doing magic.

Aladdin and the King of Thieves
In yet another direct-to-video sequel, Aladdin is about to be married to Jasmine (finally) when he discovers his dad is actually alive. Talk about bombshells.

Once Upon a Time
Aladdin and Jafar aren't just cartoons: they made their live-action TV debut on ABC's Once Upon a Time during the show's sixth season.

Descendants
This live-action TV series is all about the offspring of famous fairy tale characters, which is why this show has a character named Jay, who's the son of Jafar. We didn't know genies could have kids.

Aladdin the Musical
Once Disney had lined its pockets via Aladdin sequels and spin-offs, it took the show on the road—to a little road named Broadway to be exact.

Articles and Interviews

Rolling Stone Review
The original Aladdin review from Rolling Stone magazine. 3½ stars—not too shabby.

Variety Review
Yet another review which calls Aladdin a blockbuster in the making.

Never Had a Friend Like Me
Genie animator Eric Goldberg remembers working with Robin Williams.

DVD Commentary Highlights
You could listen to the entire DVD commentary for Aladdin…or you could read this really comprehensive recap.

Video

The Voices of Aladdin
This little featurette is all about casting and recording the voices for the movie.

Aladdin: Honest Trailer
We'll be honest: Aladdin is the bomb.

Aladdin Theory: Genie Owes Aladdin a Wish
According to the Super Carlin Brothers, the Genie cheated Aladdin out of a second wish by saving him from drowning without Aladdin's express consent.

Aladdin Magic Carpet San Francisco
This 2016 video features a real-life Aladdin and Jasmine riding a magic carpet through the streets of San Francisco. (The magic carpet is really a rug on top of a motorized skateboard, but it's still pretty awesome.)

Audio

Aladdin Soundtrack
Put on your headphones and listen to the sweet sounds of the Aladdin movie score.

Broadway Cast Recording
The musical packs in even more terrific tunes.

Images

Movie Poster
Some original artwork from the film's 1992 release.

DVD Cover Art
You might have spotted this design on one of Aladdin's latest DVD releases.

Early Concept Art of Aladdin and Jasmine
Disney characters always go through lots of changes during development, and Aladdin and Jasmine are no exceptions.

All the Memes
What would a Disney movie be without a few good memes attached to it? This one riffs off one of our favorite songs from the summer of 2012.