- by Jeff Beck
Aladdin (Diamond Edition): A Disney Classic Makes Its Blu-ray Debut (Blu-ray)
At long last, Disney’s 1992 classic “Aladdin” is finally making its way to Blu-ray. When it comes to Disney’s classic catalog of animated features, it might not be the very first one that some think of, especially since it was wedged right in between “Beauty and the Beast” (the first animated feature to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar) and “The Lion King” (which became one of their biggest hits of all time), but it has endured nonetheless, leaving behind an indelible mark that has lasted since its premiere 23 years ago.
Taking a slightly more exotic approach than usual, “Aladdin” begins with Jafar (Voice of Jonathan Freeman), trusted advisor to the Sultan of Agrabah, attempting to retrieve a mysterious lamp from the Cave of Wonders in the middle of the desert. Finding his efforts unsuccessful, he soon learns that he must find the right person to retrieve it for him, and that one person just happens to be a young “street rat” named Aladdin (Voice of Scott Weinger). On one of Aladdin’s usual trips to the market place to steal what he can with his monkey friend Abu, he encounters and falls in love with a disguised Princess Jasmine (Voice of Linda Larkin), who has fled the palace to escape having to marry a royal suitor of her choosing.
Guards eventually apprehend them both, bringing Jasmine back to the palace, and placing Aladdin in the dungeon on the orders of Jafar, who means to use him to complete his task. However, things don’t go exactly as planned, leaving Jafar empty handed and Aladdin with the lamp, which contains an all-powerful Genie (Voice of Robin Williams) willing to grant him nearly anything he desires. His thoughts immediately turn to winning the heart of the Princess, but it won’t be easy given his station in life, nor is Jafar willing to give up quite so easily in his quest to obtain power.
So why is it that, with all of the other Disney classics out there, people still continue to talk about how great “Aladdin” is today? For starters, the story is highly entertaining, featuring an incredible mixture of action, drama, comedy, and romance. On the surface, it may merely appear to be a love story between Aladdin and Jasmine, with a few thrills thrown in from Jafar’s lust for power, but taking a closer look, we find a great message about just being yourself (something Aladdin has a lot of trouble with throughout the film) and a deeper tale about following your heart, a difficult proposition for both Aladdin and Jasmine given their current situations. Leave it to Disney to give you a little something more than just your basic storyline.
Its other major strength, and probably what it’s most known for, is the brilliant score and multitude of great songs from musical mastermind Alan Menken, with lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice. Who can forget such tunes as “Friend Like Me,” “Arabian Nights,” One Jump Ahead,” Prince Ali,” and “A Whole New World?” They’re the kind of songs that, once you hear them, are guaranteed to get stuck in your head (something I can attest to ever since first seeing the film back in 1992). This makes it no surprise that the film had no trouble winning Oscars for Best Original Score and Best Original Song (“A Whole New World”), a common Disney combo won by several more of their animated classics, including “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Lion King,” and “Pocahontas.”
On top of all that, you get the same marvelous voice acting that we usually get with Disney’s films. Scott Weinger, only 17 at the time, does a marvelous job as the young Aladdin, giving him the perfect personality for the character. Jonathan Freeman gives a delightfully evil twist to Jafar, making you hate him, but also leaving you wanting to see his character more. However, the real star of the show here is the unparalleled Robin Williams, who is absolutely unforgettable as the Genie, delivering a vast range of impressions and mile-a-minute dialogue that can’t help but make you smile (make sure to check out The Genie Outtakes in the special features for a taste of some of his work that didn’t make the final cut). All combined, they help bring this amazing story to life by making each character their own and making them believable, which is not an easy thing to do in a tale of genies and sorcery.
With so much to like about the film, it’s not hard to see why it has endured as a classic for the past 23 years. The story grabs you and keeps you engaged throughout, the characters are vividly drawn and acted, pulling you even more into the story, and the gorgeous score and songs will have you singing and/or humming right along. Like with the other Disney classics, it accomplishes all of these things and more, leaving you with a timeless tale that is easily worthy of just as strong a recommendation as its animated brethren.
“Aladdin” makes its Blu-ray debut in a dazzling 1.85:1, 1080p High Definition transfer that makes the film look good as new again. Every frame has been marvelously restored, giving it a beautifully sharp picture and brilliant colors. The 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is equally outstanding, giving you the Academy Award-winning score and all of the unforgettable songs in crystal clear quality. Overall, the treatment that it has received easily makes this the best the film has ever looked or sounded, which is sure to please the fans who have been waiting patiently for this HD release.
The Genie Outtakes (9 Minutes): The directors and Genie’s Supervising Animator reminisce about working with the great Robin Williams and introduce several amazing outtakes from Williams’ recording sessions.
Aladdin: Creating Broadway Magic (19 Minutes): An interesting look at how “Aladdin” was turned into a Broadway musical.
Unboxing Aladdin (5 Minutes): A very brief featurette that points out many of the Easter eggs found in the film.
Genie 101 (4 Minutes): Another brief featurette, this time exploring the many impressions Robin Williams did as the Genie.
Ron & John: You Ain’t Never Had a Friend Like Me (5 Minutes): The directors reminisce about how they first heard about each other and how they met.
Classic Bonus Material: A mostly-outstanding collection of previously released special features that includes a fascinating look at some deleted scenes and songs, two informative commentaries, and an excellent, in-depth “Making of” documentary that covers multiple areas of the film. There is some pointless fluff in here (music videos and a couple of shorts for the kids), but there’s more than enough for anyone looking for serious bonus material.
Deleted Songs (14 Minutes) (4 Songs)
Deleted Scenes (6 Minutes) (2 Scenes)
Music Videos (3 Videos)
Disney Song Selection
Inside the Genie’s Lamp: Guided Tour (6 Minutes)
The Genie World Tour (3 Minutes)
2 Commentaries – 1) Writers/Producers/Directors John Musker & Ron Clements and Co-Producer Amy Pell. 2) Supervising Animators Andreas Deja, Will Finn, Eric Goldberg, and Glen Keane
Diamond in the Rough: The Making of Aladdin (71 Minutes)
Alan Menken: Musical Renaissance Man (20 Minutes)
The Art of Aladdin (9 Minutes)
With its unforgettable story, outstanding voice acting, and beautiful score and songs, “Aladdin” ranks as one of Disney’s very best animated classics. Now that the film has finally come to Blu-ray, there’s no better time to revisit it, especially with the excellent treatment the film has received and the multitude of special features that are included (pay close attention to the “Making of” documentary in particular). Just like with Disney’s previous releases of their great animated features, it can easily be said that this is a must-own from day one.
Available on Special Edition Blu-ray starting tomorrow.
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