Plot: What’s it about?
Ever since The Little Mermaid, Disney has re-invented the feature-length animated movie. This makes sense seeing as how they started it with Snow White. During the 1980’s Disney was in the financial dumps. Their live-action movies rarely made a profit and the animation, what they’d long been known for, was virtually non-existent. But, and I say again, The Little Mermaid changed all of that. A few years later Beauty and the Beast was nominated for Best Picture and in the Fall of 1992 Aladdin hit the screens and became one of the biggest money-makers of that year. If you’ve seen Aladdin, it’s mainly remembered for Robin Williams’ hyperkinetic performance as the genie. But there’s a story attached as well! As Roger Ebert puts it “Williams’ speed of comic invention has always been too fast for flesh and blood; the way he flashes in and out of characters can be dizzying. In Disney’s new animated film Aladdin, he’s liberated at last, playing a genie who has complete freedom over his form – who can instantly be anybody or anything…” I’m usually not a fan of animated movies, but Aladdin stands as the most entertaining one I’ve seen.
The plot is typical Disney in which we meet Aladdin (voiced by Scott Weigner), a street urchin who wanders the markets with his pet monkey, Abu. Princess Jasmine (voiced by Linda Larkin) is sick and tired of being ruled by her father who tells her that she must marry in three days. Seeking an escape, she jumps the wall and, as luck would have it, bumps into Aladdin. Aladdin, a diamond in the rough, stumbles across a lamp and rubs it. Then appears the genie (voiced by Robin Williams) that arises to greet three of Aladdin’s wishes (this then leads to the best song in the movie – Friend Like Me). Aladdin manages to manipulate the genie into doing things without actually using his wishes and we learn that there are three things that the genie can’t do: Kill someone, make someone fall in love and bring back people from the dead (these are, naturally, colorfully animated). But underneath it all is the story of love between Jasmine and Aladdin. She can’t marry anyone outside of royalty, so it seems hopeless that they will ever end up together. Then again, this is a Disney movie – so what do you think happens?
Memorable for Robin Williams’ performance, Aladdin is a great movie. I found it more entertaining than the far more successful The Lion King and I’ve not really managed to catch some of the newer animated movies that followed (Mulan, Hercules and Dinosaur). But the story is well-crafted and well-written and it has the right amount of humor that kids will love and adults can relate to as well. Oh, did I mention kids? I don’t know why, but kids love these Disney movies and as I write this I have two nephews waiting with baited breath for my review copy. They’ll watch the movies over and over again, several times a day. I just don’t understand it! This is this year’s Platinum Edition title (previous titles include Snow White, Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King) and it is loaded with supplements. Suffice it to say that whatever you wanted or needed to know about Aladdin, it’s on one of these discs. Aladdin combines characters, a great (yet formulaic) storyline and songs that you’ll want to sing along to (and if you don’t, your kids surely will).
Video: How does it look?
It’s been a while since I’ve sat down and watched this gem, but there’s no better reason than to finally see it on Blu-ray. Looking at my review for the DVD, I’d mentioned that the aspect ratio was 1.66:1, though the back of this box lists it as 1.85:1. I don’t think anyone should get too bent out of shape as I watched the film, I really couldn’t tell that anything was awry. The big improvement in this Blu-ray version over the previous versions is the quality of the picture which is, without a doubt, flawless. The movie is over twenty years old now and I was hard-pressed to find anything wrong. Colors are bold and pop off the screen, there is a smoothness and film-like quality to each and every scene. Stars in the night sky sparkle, flesh tones (for lack of a better word) are even and flawless. This looks as good as the film ever has and it’s a top notch effort. I’d expect nothing less.
Audio: How does it sound?
Aladdin has always been a very lively movie, from the songs to the deep voice of Jafar, it’s been an audio powerhouse in the realm of animated films. This Blu-ray gives us a new DTS HD Master Audio sound mix that really breathes new life into the movies. The songs, especially “Friend Like Me”, sound great and the surround effects to those songs (and others) come into play. There seems to be a depth to this movie that wasn’t present before and it really pays off. Obviously the vocal talents of Robin Williams are part of what made this movie so memorable and it’s a testament to the late actor that one of his most cherished roles sounds as good as it does here.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Though this is the initial Blu-ray offering, there was already a very robust DVD version. Disney has wisely added some new features to this Diamond Edition and the original “classic” bonus materials are included as well.
New to Blu-ray Supplements
- The Genie Outtakes – Robin Williams improvised so much from the script that they had nearly 16 hours of material of his audio. We get a look at a few of his alternate takes.
- Genie 101 – Scott Weinger who was the voice of Aladdin, takes us through the various transformattions of the famous (and formerly famous) celebrity references of the Genie (Jack Nicholson, Rodney Dangerfield, Peter Lorre and more).
- Ron & John: You Ain’t Never Had a Friend Like Me – Directors John Musker & Ron Clements sit down and discuss the experiences of their long-running partnership together at Disney.
- Aladdin: Creating Broadway Magic – Join host Darren Criss (from TV’s Glee) as we take “a new fantastic point of view” at the story of how Aladdin went from a classic Disney animated film to become Broadway’s smash hit with Composer Alan Menken and others.
- Unboxing Aladdin – Quite possibly the most annoying person on the planet, Joey Bragg from Disney Channel’s Liv & Maddy, points out a few things we might have missed while watching the movie. Though a bit interesting (look for Sebastian the crab from The Little Mermaid and Beast from Beauty and the Beast) I wanted to punch this kid in the face after about 90 seconds.
- DMA Exclusive: Deleted Song – “My Finest Hour” – Jafar takes the stage in this never-before-seen deleted song. Includes intro from Ron & John.
Classic DVD Supplements
- Deleted Songs – “Proud of Your Boy,” “You Can Count on Me,” “Humiliate the Boy,” and “Why Me.”
- Deleted scenes – “Aladdin in the Lap of Luxury” and “Aladdin and Jasmine’s First Meeting.”
- Music Videos – “Proud of Your Boy” performed by Clay Aiken which also includes an original story reel (in rough animated footage) as well as a behind the scenes of the video. “A Whole New World” performed by Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey (back when they were married) as well as a behind the scenes of that magical video.
- Disney Song Selection – “Arabian Nights”, “One Jump Ahead”, “Friend Like Me”, “Prince Ali”,”A Whole New World” and each can be played with the lyrics on the screen or not. Of note, this is the only HD feature in that it jumps to the song within the movie – obviously presented in HD.
- Inside the Genie’s Lamp – A look at the inside of the Genie’s lamp with Jafar’s commentary.
- The Genie World Tour – An animated look at the world travels of the genie with a bit of “classic” Disney thrown in for good measure.
- A Diamond in the Rough: The Making of Aladdin – A two hour documentary hosted by film critic Leonard Maltin. This shows a lot of behind the scenes material and about everything you wanted to know about the movie. Put it this way, the documentary is 30 minutes longer than the actual movie.
- Alan Menken: Musial Renaissance Man – Menken worked wonders with the music here and the movie walked away with two Academy Awards (Best Song and Best Score) and this feature pays homage to the composer.
- Audio Commentaries
- Filmmakers’ Commentary – Featuring co-writers/producers/directors John Musker and Ron Clements and co-producer Amy Pell, this track covers several aspects of the production process, including story problems, technical difficulties and various miscellaneous anecdotes. Like the majority of commentaries on Disney films, the speakers have an unfortunate habit of “name-checking”, whereby they announce who worked on which scene or character, which is a nice idea, but ultimately becomes a little annoying,
Animators’ Commentary – Featuring four of the film’s supervising animators, Glen Keane (Aladdin), Eric Goldberg (Genie), Andreas Deja (Jafar) and Will Finn (Iago), this track is essentially more of the same, with a lot of name-checking and anecdotes. The two largest personalities in the room, Keane and Goldberg tend to hog the track, with the other two saying very little, especially Deja, whose rather distinctive voice is rarely heard at all. Still, this is an interesting track overall.
The Bottom Line
Disney has shown us on multiple occasions that they really can deliver a high-quality special edition. Most all of the supplements from the previous DVD version are included (I wasn’t able to find the photo gallery, but…so what?) and a new slew of features have been added. Improved visuals and a new DTS HD Master Audio mix make this one a no-brainer.