Thursday, April 22, 2010

Review: Walt Disney's "Aladdin" a True Classic

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 190 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

Walt Disney’s Aladdin (1992) – animated
Running time: 90 minutes (1 hour, 30 minute)
PRODUCER/DIRECTORS: Ron Clements and John Musker
WRITERS: Ted Elliot & Terry Rossio and Ron Clements & John Musker; from a story by Ed Gombert, Burny Mattinson, Roger Allers, Daan Jippes, Kevin Harkey, Sue Nichols, Francis Glebas, Darrell Rooney, Larry Leker, James Fujii, Kirk Hanson, Kevin Lima, Rebecca Rees, David S. Smith, Chris Sanders, Brian Pimental, and Patrick A. Ventura
EDITOR: H. Lee Peterson
Academy Award winner


Starring: (voices) Scott Weinger, Robin Williams, Linda Lavin, Jonathan Freeman, Gilbert Gottfried, Douglas Seale, Frank Welker, Bruce Adler, Brad Kane, Lea Solanga, and Jim Cummings

Resourceful “street rat,” Aladdin (Scott Weinger) makes his living on the streets of Agrabah as a thief, ably assisted by his constant companion, a spunky monkey named Abu (Frank Welker). One day his eyes catch the sight of a beautiful young woman, whom he later rescues from an overzealous fruit vendor. Aladdin learns that she is Jasmine (Linda Lavin), the daughter of the Sultan of Agrabah (Douglas Seale), and she is walking the streets of Agrabah in disguise just to experience life outside the Sultan’s palace. Aladdin falls in love with Jasmine, but believes that he must be a prince to win her heart.

Later, Aladdin goes on a mission for another resident of the palace in disguise, Grand Vizier Jafar (Jonathan Freeman), the Sultan’s advisor. It is then that Aladdin comes into possession of a magical lamp. When Aladdin rubs the lamp, out springs the show-stealing Genie (Robin Williams). Genie takes a liking to his new master and uses his magical powers to help Aladdin get closer to Jasmine by disguising him the wealthy Prince Ali Ababwa. However, Aladdin must learn to be himself if he’s going to earn the love of the independent-minded Jasmine, and he’ll need all his smarts to stop the diabolical Jafar and his scheming parrot, Iago (Gilbert Gottfried), from overthrowing the Sultan to become rulers of Agrabah.

In 1989, Walt Disney Feature Animation began a second golden age of Disney feature-length animated films with The Little Mermaid. Almost with each successive film, the box office take grew – Beauty and the Beast in 1991 and Aladdin in 1992 (while the underrated The Rescuers Down Under floundered in 1990), peaking in 1994 with The Lion King, which at the time set a record for box office gross by an animated flick. The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin are quasi musicals, a sort of “lite” version of a Broadway musical. Of the trio, the most comic is Aladdin.

In some ways, however, Aladdin is old school. The filmmakers and the Disney story department created lively characters with strong personalities and provided each one with sketch comic scenes that helped to endear him or her to the audience. The character animation is superb, and the characters move with fluidity and grace. The animators also provided visual quirks and clever visual gags that further defined each character – the best, of course, being Robin Williams’ Genie. While the other characters are certainly good (Jafar and Iago and Aladdin’s Magic Carpet stand out to me), Williams steals scenes without coming across as a scene hog, and his non-stop antics and transformations make Aladdin such a special movie. Genie was and remains the character that best fits Williams’ manic comic personality, and it’s not William’s effort alone. Genie is a creation of both William’s work as a voice actor and the drawing skills of large group of animators.

When a movie has Williams’ comical madness and Alan Menken’s evocative score and the songs Menken co-wrote with lyricists Tim Rice and Howard Ashman (a frequent partner of Menken’s who died over a year before Aladdin premiered), it has the potential to be a great film. Add in a cast of wonderful and charming characters, a simple, straight forward romance filled with magic and magical creatures, and two deliciously bad, bad guys, and you have a Disney classic.

9 of 10

1993 Academy Awards: 2 wins: “Best Music, Original Score” (Alan Menken) and “Best Music, Original Song” (Alan Menken-music and Tim Rice-lyrics for the song "A Whole New World"); 3 nominations: “Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing” (Mark A. Mangini) “Best Music, Original Song” (Alan Menken-music and Howard Ashman-lyrics for the song "Friend Like Me"), and “Best Sound” Terry Porter, Mel Metcalfe, David J. Hudson, and Doc Kane)

1994 BAFTA Awards: 2 nominations: “BAFTA Film Award Best Score” (Alan Menken) and “Best Special Effects” (Don Paul and Steve Goldberg)

1993 Golden Globes:  3 wins “Best Original Score - Motion Picture” (Alan Menken), “Best Original Song - Motion Picture” (Alan Menken-music and Tim Rice-lyrics for the song "A Whole New World"), and “Special Award” (Robin Williams for his vocal work); and 3 nomination: “Best Motion Picture - Comedy/Musical,” “Best Original Song - Motion Picture” (Alan Menken-music and Howard Ashman-lyrics for the song “Friend Like Me”), and “Best Original Song - Motion Picture” (Alan Menken-music and Howard Ashman-lyrics for the song "Prince Ali")

Saturday, September 02, 2006

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