MOVIE: ***** (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: ****1/2 (out of 5)
Scott Weinger as ALADDIN
Robin Williams as GENIE
Linda Larkin as PRINCESS JASMINE
Jonathan Freeman as JAFAR
Frank Welker as ABU
Gilbert Gottfried as IAGO
Directed by: Ron Clements and John Musker
BY KEVIN CARR
It’s odd when you think about what has happened to the Disney ink-and-paint films. They did kinda shoot themselves in the foot, didn’t they? After all, the latest cell-animated film, “Home on the Range” grossed almost $100 million worldwide but was considered a box office disappointment. That’s because it had a budget of close to $110 million, folks.
So, what was the budget of the slick Disney masterpiece “Aladdin”? Less than $30 million, according to Box Office Mojo. I’m not a mathematical genius, but I know that it’s a lot easier to make a hit from a film that cost only $30 million than $110 million. Sadly, this is the result of the budget explosion for animated films. I realize that “Aladdin” is more than ten years old, but inflation hasn’t been that bad.
It’s been a decade since “Aladdin” has been available on home video, and it is really a treat to pick up the film and watch it again. To me, this was Disney’s last real masterpiece from their heyday that started with “The Little Mermaid.” Sure, “The Lion King” came afterwards, but I never thought it topped the creative genius that was “Aladdin.”
One might be tempted to say that Robin Williams is the thing that made the magic work in “Aladdin.” And I’m not one to deny the impact Williams had on the film. However, the real magic happened with the movie as a whole – not just the scenes that include the Genie. “Aladdin” was a phenomenally cast film, comprising the actors behind Jafar, Iago and even Abu the Monkey.
If you think of DVDs as the babies from a studio, then the classic Disney cartoons released as special double disc sets are the gifted children. Disney puts a lot of care into these DVDs, making them an experience in themselves. Sure, some of the special features fall flat, but they really pack a variety of content onto the two discs.
The first disc of “Aladdin” contains the film, along with almost six minutes of deleted scenes (shown in rough storyboard animation) and 14 minutes of deleted songs. There’s newly shot music videos, featuring Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey singing “A Whole New World.” However, it’s the deleted song “Proud of Your Boy,” which was lost when the character of Aladdin’s mother was cut from the script, that’s the best part. The scratch track performed by Alan Menkin is okay, but they recorded a new cut of the song with Clay Aiken. Not to pander to all the Claymates out there, but Aiken nails the song and has the perfect voice to bring the ballad to life.
To round out the first disc are two audio commentaries – one by the directors and the other by the animators. And if you don’t get enough trivia from those, there’s also a pop-up fact caption track that will add tidbits into the film.
The second disc includes almost two hours of behind the scenes footage assembled from a recent Q&A at Disney, hosted by Leonard Maltin. Taking supplemental videos to a whole new level, this multi-documentary strings together the different clips in an entire movie of its own.
Also included on the second disc are several DVD games, including a version of the Virtual Safari rides that were seen on “The Lion King” DVDs. This virtual magic carpet ride is hosted by Timon, but it just doesn’t have the same punch with Aladdin as it does with Pumbaa. There’s also a mildly amusing tour of the Genie’s lamp and a game that will allow you to make some wishes on Jafar’s dime.
Since Disney has a habit of pulling its best selling titles from the shelves periodically, “Aladdin” is a great purchase for the family. The neat extra features make it a must-buy – even if you don’t have kids.
My only real beef is the festering sore of edited lyrics from the opening song, “Arabian Nights.” The original theatrical release said of Arabia, “Where they cut off your ears if they don’t like your face, it’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home.” For the original video release (which is preserved here), the lyrics were changed to more politically correct ones after Arab groups cried racism. I find this sardonically amusing, considering we’re living in a time where innocent people are being beheaded to make a political point. Is it really racist if it’s true?
Specifications: Film digitally restored and remastered. Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Original theatrical widescreen (1.66:1) – Enhanced for 16×9 televisions. THX-certified, including optimizer. French and Spanish language tracks. English language subtitles for the hearing impaired.