Study Guide

Aladdin Screenwriter

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

Ron Clements and John Musker were fresh off the success of creating, writing, and directing The Little Mermaid. (A different team worked on Beauty and the Beast.) Now, when you manage to revolutionize the way Disney animated movies are made, you get to pick your next project. So, what would it be?

The two writer-directors passed on The Lion King (seriously, who would want to see a movie about lions?) and chose Aladdin.

Working off an initial story by lyricist Howard Ashman, Clements and Musker put together a story reel (basically a rough cut of the film with voices and some drawings) to show to Jeffery Katzenberg, the dude in charge of all things Disney animation at the time. It was April of 1991, and the movie was supposed to be released in November of 1992. Would he love the movie? Or really, really love it?

None of the above. Katzenberg hated it.

Lots of stuff wasn't working. For starters, the character of Aladdin just wasn't compelling. Clements and Musker had imagined him as a kind of younger Michael J. Fox type of guy. It seemed like all the other characters were overwhelming him. How do you have movie called Aladdin if you don't even care about Aladdin?

So, Aladdin got hunked up. That meant losing the shirt and giving him more of a Tom-Cruise swagger. Finally, Aladdin was starting to look like the kind of guy a princess might fall in love with.

These script changes also meant ditching some of the human characters. Aladdin originally had a mom. She was gone. He also had three friends—Babkak, Omar, and Kassim. Gone—though they ended up coming back for the Broadway musical version of Aladdin. And the Genie? He was originally supposed to grant unlimited wishes. Now that was down to three.

In the end, Disney brought in two more screenwriters—Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio—to kick the script up that final notch. This was good news for Elliott and Rossio, who didn't have long and illustrious résumés before working on Aladdin. They would go on to write several blockbusters, including Shrek and the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

Looks like the Genie made them into royalty, too. Hollywood royalty, that is.

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