Aladdin: Diamond Edition (A PopEntertainment.com Video Review)
Updated: Apr 4
Aladdin: Diamond Edition
Featuring the voices of Scott Weinger, Robin Williams, Linda Larkin, Jonathan Freeman, Frank Welker, Gilbert Gottfried, Douglas Seale, Brad Kane, Lea Salonga, Bruce Adler, Charlie Adler, Corey Burton, Jim Cummings, Debi Derryberry, Jerry Houser, Hal Smith and Vera Lockwood.
Screenplay by John Musker, Ron Clements, Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio.
Directed by John Musker and Ron Clements.
Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures. 90 minutes. Rated G.
It’s easy to forget after all this time, but in the 1970s and 1980s, Walt Disney’s animation department was pretty much on life support. Though the studio was still doing okay with light live-action comedies aimed at kids, and by the late 1970s the studio started reaching out to older audiences (as hard as it may be to believe, before the PG-rated The Black Hole in 1979, Disney had never had a film that wasn’t rated G), the classic Ink and Paint animated tales which had made Disney a household name were a thing of the past.
Oh, sure, they were still trying, tossing out inessential oddities like Pete’s Dragon, The Rescuers and Oliver & Company. However, Disney’s animation arm seemed to be past its prime. In fact, a former Disney animator named Don Bluth had pretty much taken over as the cartoon king with films like An American Tail and Land Before Time and even the popular video game Dragon’s Lair.
The first real renewed sign of life for Disney’s animation studio was in 1989 with The Little Mermaid. That movie was acclaimed and did fairly well, but it only started a new golden age of Disney animation. The next two Disney films are arguably ranked high among the best movies (not just animated) that the studio has released in its long history. Beauty & the Beast was the first real shocker, a show that this ain’t your father’s Disney and the first animated film ever to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar.
Less than a year later, Aladdin followed up, in many ways a very different film, and yet every bit as massively enjoyable. Beauty & the Beast was mostly a romantic drama, while Aladdin was more of an adventure film, though it certainly had a terrific romance at its core.
Still, seeing Aladdin again 23 years later on Blu-ray just cements the fact that Aladdin is the best Disney animated film since… well, Beauty & the Beast. And yes, I am counting all of the Pixar films, many of which are terrific. However, Aladdin reminds you how rich and sumptuous hand drawn animation can be, before computers completely took over. (Ironically, one of the earliest Pixar jobs, a couple of years before Toy Story, was to bring Aladdin’s magic carpet to life.)
Aladdin is near perfect on every level. It is a spectacular action film. Literally, the Cave of Wonders scene is as good as anything in any of the Indiana Jones films. It has a sweet romance. It has a spectacular villain and a wonderful sidekick. (The parrot Iago is the best thing that Gilbert Gottfried has ever done in his career.) It is funny as can be, mostly due to the spectacular work of Robin Williams as the Genie. Seeing it again a year after Williams’ too-young death just deepens that tragedy.
Then there is the music. It’s not surprising that Aladdin is a hit Broadway musical as I write this (and not just because Disney revives pretty much every hit title they have sooner or later), because the songs of Aladdin are classic. From the gorgeous love theme “A Whole New World” to the fantastic Robin Williams vamp “Prince Ali,” to the hero’s opening salvo with “One Jump Ahead,” the songs are smart, funny, rhythmic and catchy as all get out.
While Disney has pretty much continued their hot streak for 20 years now, Aladdin is still one of the best movies they have ever made, and is better than all its predecessors. Yes, it’s that good.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2015 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: October 13, 2015.
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