Thirty years ago Disney released perhaps one of its most iconic films from its renascence era. Aladdin told the story of a young Arabian thief who fell in love with a princess and through a series of events found and freed a magical Genie who made him a prince. Meanwhile the royal vizier named Jafar plots to overthrow the sultan by stealing the power of the Genie for himself. In the end Aladdin learns that he doesn’t need magic, he just needs to be himself.
Aladdin was originally thought up by lyricist Howard Ashman who wanted to do a musical adaptation of the 1001 Nights fairytale of the same name. After multiple pitches it was eventually green-lit by Jeffrey Katzenberg. The film would be co-directed by John Musker and Ron Clements after their success with The Little Mermaid. The screenplay was handled by Musker and Clements with Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio pitching in.
The cast for the film is seen as one of Disney’s most iconic. Scott Weiner voiced Aladdin, Linda Larkin played Jasmine (singing was done by Lea Salonga), John Freeman played Jafar and Douglas Seale play the Sultan. But perhaps the two most notable voices were comedians Gilbert Gottfried playing the parrot Iago and Robin Williams playing Genie.
Robin Williams was an interesting case since he was the team’s first choice. In order to pitch the idea to Robin they animated segments of his standup routine using the Genie character. Robin was delighted, and as gratitude for the success of Good Morning Vietnam (which was distributed under Disney’s Touchstone label) agreed to do the role.
The only condition was to not use him to advertise the film and not have his character take up more that 25% of the theater poster. The reason is that his upcoming film Toys was releasing around the same time. However despite this Disney used his character’s voice in advertising and featured him in McDonalds Happy Meal toys. This did not go well for Robin and from that time onward he had a sour relationship with he company.
The film released on November 11th, 1992 and made $504 Million at the box office on a $28 Million budget. The film was an instant success with many children laughing at the comedy of Genie and thrilling at the action & adventure of Aladdin on his journey.
Wanting to stroke while the iron was hot Disney green-lit an Aladdin television series for their Disney Afternoon lineup. The series began with the direct-to-video film Aladdin: The Return of Jafar in May of 1994. The film went on to sell 15 Million copies, starting the legacy of Disney’s direct-to-video sequels.
The series saw Aladdin embark on various Arabian adventures with a number of the cast returning. Genie was recast with veteran voice actor Dan Castellaneta after the fallout between Williams and Disney. The show ran from 1994 – 1995 and consisted of 86 episodes.
The characters from the series would later appear in a crossover episode of the Hercules cartoon in 1998.
The series ended with the direct-to-video film Aladdin and the King of Thieves in 1996. Not only did we meet Aladdin meet his father Casseim (Voiced by: Jon Rhys-Davis) but also the return of Robin Williams as Genie in exchange for an apology from Joe Roth and a $1 Million salary.
Since then the Aladdin Franchise has become one of Disney’s most profitable with tons of merchandise, toys, video games, books and more and even a Live-Action Remake in 2019. What was once a small idea grew into something nobody could have imagined. You could almost say it was like magic.
What are your fondest memories of Aladdin? Did you see it in the theaters or did you own it on VHS as a kid?
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