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). The video and audio are outstanding and though the little ones might not be interested in the supplements, they’re there for the taking. Disney’s outdone themselves…again.
Video: How does it look?
“Aladdin” is shown in a 1.66:1 anamorphic image which looks brilliant. I only remember seeing this movie in the theater when it came out (in November 1992) and then on home video later on. Watching “Aladdin” on DVD is like seeing it for the first time. The vibrant colors nearly jump off the screen and it’s so nice to see animated movies shown in widescreen (albeit 1.66:1). I saw no evidence of artifacting, edge enhancement or anything else that might detract from this perfect transfer. It’s on par with the “Toy Story” movies – or anything produced by Pixar, for that matter. Suffice it to say that if it’s a great-looking picture you’re expecting, “Aladdin” delivers.
Audio: How does it sound?
Watching “Aladdin” on VHS is certainly no comparison to watching it in Dolby Digital 5.1. This isn’t a movie that’ll blow the roof off the place, but it has a very nice, crisp sound to most every scene. The songs, especially “Friend Like Me”, sound great and the surround effects to those songs (and others) come into play. To hear surround effects coming out of animated feature is a bit odd, but it does enhance the viewing experience. Voices sound clean and this dynamic audio is something to be proud of. This shows that Disney has gone the extra mile and re-mastered the soundtrack and the result is amazing. Another fine effort here.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This is the first time “Aladdin” has been on DVD and Disney has done it right the first time, like they have with all of their “Platinum” line of releases (though I notice that word isn’t on the disc anywhere). The first disc contains the anamorphic version of the movie along with two audio commentaries. The commentaries are both about the same in terms of content. They’re not too particularly as entertaining as the movie and I can’t see any child listening to these (unless it’s some sort of punishment). Still, to have them included is a nice touch for all of the adults who like the movie and want to know more about it (like me). Also included is a “Pop up Video” type of track with trivia from the movie. There are also four deleted songs: “Proud of Your Boy,” “You Can Count on Me,” “Humiliate the Boy,” and “Why Me,” which are all performed to some very rough-looking sketches (so if you’re expecting the final product, you won’t get it). Two deleted scenes “Aladdin in the lap of luxury” and “Aladdin and Jasmine’s First Meeting” are also shown in this format. Two music videos are also shown and are performed by several of today’s more popular artists which include Jessica Simpson and Clay Aiken to name a few. There are also some previews for other Disney titles and a preview of the second disc (so you know it has to be loaded when the first disc has a preview of what’s on it).
Ok…deep breath…this second disc is divided into two parts: the first is “Games & Activity” and the latter “Backstage Disney”. The games section houses just that – games. Here’s what are included: “Inside the Genie’s Lamp,” “The Genie World Tour,” “Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Adventure,” and a “3 Wishes” game. Each of these is entertaining and very clever, though I don’t know how much actual “repeat” playability that will come from this. Odds are that if the kids have an X-Box or whatnot, they’re spoiled by that. In the “Backstage Disney” section we find perhaps the most robust supplement in “A Diamond in the Rough” which is 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. Next up is “Alan Menken: Musial Renaissance Man,” which is fairly self explanatory. Menken worked wonders with the music here and the movie walked away with two Academy Awards (Best Song and Best Score) for Alan Menken. There is an eight minute featurette on the art of “Aladdin” which is rather interesting; as art played a big part of the movie (can you imagine it without the art direction)? A photo gallery and a trailer (as well as trailers for other Disney products) are also included. I’m sure I probably missed a few things as the menus tend to get a bit confusing. I’ll say this, “Aladdin” has finally come to DVD and it’s well worth your hard-earned money to add this to any DVD collection.