Thursday, July 21, 2011

Disn-A-Thon: Aladdin (1992)

Aladdin is a street-urchin who lives in a large and busy town long ago with his faithful monkey friend Abu. When Princess Jasmine gets tired of being forced to remain in the palace that overlooks the city, she sneaks out to the marketplace, where she accidentally meets Aladdin. Under the orders of the evil Jafar (the sultan's advisor), Aladdin is thrown in jail and becomes caught up in Jafar's plot to rule the land with the aid of a mysterious lamp. Legend has it that only a person who is a "diamond in the rough" can retrieve the lamp from the Cave of Wonders. Aladdin might fight that description, but that's not enough to marry the princess, who must (by law) marry a prince. [imdb]
Following very close on the heels of The Beauty and The Beast, Aladdin is a far more lighthearted and "loose" movie that ushered in yet another new style of animated film.  Another of Howard Ashman's final works, he and Alan Menkin brought a fun, jaunty sound to the music, with the help of Tim Rice after Ashman had passed.

Where Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid were "princess" films, this technically could be called a "prince" film.  The main focus is a scoundrel of a thief who, along with his pet monkey Abu, find the help of a genie to woo the beautiful princess, Jasmine.  Of course, there's the evil guy who tries to get in the way, some drama caused by Aladdin's selfishness, a magic carpet ride to a most-popular song, and a lot of fun jokes from the genie, voiced by Robin Williams.

The genie's jokes and impersonations seem a bit out of place, being modern and "now" compared to the setting of the movie. This is the biggest difference between Aladdin and many of the other animated films that came before it.  In the commentaries, this was explained (in a very deus ex machina fashion) with the understanding that the genie could transcend time and therefor understood many modern references while the other characters in the movie didn't.  The only time this concept was used prior to this (that I can recall) was in Sword In The Stone, when Merlin went "on vacation" to the 20th century.  Anyways, this brought about a new feel to the animated films, where characters would make modern references despite the setting of the movie.

There were a lot of special features on the 2-DVD set, not as many as my last review obviously, but still a great deal.  There were a few commentary tracks, which gave varying perspectives on the making of the movie. Also included was a pop-up trivia track, which was essentially just another subtitle track filled with lots of random bits of information... I suppose for people who don't like audio commentaries.  A nice documentary on the second disc was rather informative, but what I really enjoyed was the talk with the composer, Alan Menkin.

In all, this was a great set, but I can't help but want a nice blu-ray set for this one.  I'd love to see this (as well as every other film) in high definition.  Still, it's a fantastic film either way.