For the most part, Aladdin has a pretty straightforward narrative structure. One thing happens, then another thing, then another. Pretty simple, right?
Well, not so fast. Remember, that peddler character in the beginning? He's actually kind of important when you think about it. If you remember, he breaks the fourth wall and addresses the audience directly:
PEDDLER: Ah, Salaam and good evening to you worthy friend. Please, please, come closer—too close, a little too close. There. Welcome to Agrabah. City of mystery, of enchantment, and the finest merchandise this side of the river Jordan, on sale today, come on down! […] Wait, don't go! I can see that you're only interested in the exceptionally rare. I think then, you would be most rewarded to consider…this. Do not be fooled by its commonplace appearance. Like so many things, it is not what is outside, but what is inside that counts. This is no ordinary lamp! It once changed the course of a young man's life. A young man who liked this lamp was more than what he seemed. A diamond in the rough. Perhaps you would like to hear the tale?
Yes, we'd definitely like to hear this story. The Peddler then tells us the epic story of Aladdin and how he came across this magical lamp. Hmm…is it just us, or is there something familiar about this Peddler's voice?
Disney fans have long suspected that the Peddler is actually the Genie in human form. After all, Robin Williams provides the voice for both characters. And how else would the Peddler have the lamp and know Aladdin's entire backstory? Coincidence? We think not.
Ron Clements and John Musker don't think so, either. Apparently, the directors of the film originally intended to end the movie with a little surprise—the Peddler would reveal to everyone that he was the Genie all along. That idea wound up on the cutting room floor, and that means Aladdin only has half a framing device.
We think that's kind of better, though. We get just enough of a hint of what might be going on behind the scenes without getting beaten over the head with it. It's fitting for a story from the One Thousand and One Nights to retain a little mystery.