As Aladdin was being developed, the world of animation was going through some changes. Computers were finally getting advanced enough to create cartoon movies that looked just as good as the stuff skilled artists could draw. Within three years of Aladdin's release, Pixar would change the game entirely with Toy Story, the first full-length animated movie done completely on computers.
It was also the first movie to make us feel bad about donating our old toys, but we digress.
Aladdin was still old school. That means the movie was mostly drawn by hand, basically through the same process that Uncle Walt had first introduced with Snow White. First, animators would draw images on paper, one by one. Then, each image would be painted onto clear pieces of transparent plastic called cels. Photograph those cels and run them through a camera really fast, and the animation would look like it was moving. Magic.
Okay, we made that sound easy, but it definitely is not. It takes hundreds of animators years to create just one movie. A single second of animation for just one character requires about 24 drawings. Eric Goldberg, the animator in charge of all the Genie's scenes, made around 10,000 drawings for "A Friend Like Me" alone. Whoa. Our hands are cramped just reading that.
You might have noticed that we did say Aladdin was mostly hand drawn. That's true. While the majority of the film was handled by traditional animators sketching their hearts out, there are quite a few sequences that were done on computers. Aladdin's escape from the Cave of Wonders has big computer-generated backgrounds. The patterns on Carpet were also put on digitally because it would have been pretty tough to redraw those in every single cel.
The tiger's head at the entrance to the Cave of Wonders was also done by computer. The animators for Aladdin believe that it's the first CGI character ever to appear in a full-length movie. Well, the first one with actual dialogue, that is. Future CGI characters salute you, Cave of Wonders.