Disney Classics: Aladdin Part 1

The classical story of a poor boy acquiring the power of a genie, marrying the princess and becoming sultan of the kingdom is my favourite and ultimate Disney movie. Not only did I fall in love with the characters and the music, it also still fuels my fascination for fairy tales. I’m fascinated by the concept of Aladdin and own several different versions of this classical tale. Several versions of this story are extremely chauvinistic and discriminate against woman. In those versions Aladdin wasn’t the romantic, handsome hero, but a cruel, conniving and evil man that only wanted to use the princess to gain power. However, Disney, the master of telling tales, creates such a wonderful, childfriendly, swinging and romantic story that I wanted to do an in-depth analysis of this incredibly inspiring animated movie.

The movie begins by introducing the setting with the wonderful song Arabian Nights:

The storyteller, a peddler, shows you his merchandise and while it all breaks and falls apart, he interests you in something very special. A magical lamp that once contained a genie and changed the life of a young man, a diamond in the rough, completely. He takes us back to the start of the story where we first meet Jafar who wants to find the Cave of Wonders, because he is after the magical lamp. Together with his partner in crime, an ordinary thief, he discovers the Cave of Wonders, which is the mouth of a huge tiger and Jafar orders the thief inside the cave. Although the cave warns them that only one person can enter, the thief goes through with it and gets swallowed by the huge tiger. The cave is also one of Disney’s early uses of computer animation and it is integrated within the environment very well. Often with computer animation you can easily see what is classically animated and what’s not. In the case of Aladdin it was difficult to see the difference and they really brought the character of the tiger to life. Covered in sand, we are introduced to foulmouthed Iago, who’s definitely the funniest character in this movie and he offers an entirely different layer to the whole setting. He curses that his feathers are falling out and that they have failed again in getting the lamp. But Jafar shuts him up and tells him that they now have a lead, they have to find a diamond in the rough.

Disney immediately change the scene to Aladdin, who is being chased by the palace guards. Although he’s stolen bread, it is made clear that he doesn’t steal for fun or to get rich, he only steals to get food. They immediately depict him as a loveable, good guy, not a filthy thief like the one that helped Jafar. Aladdin jumps off the building, which he tends to do a lot, to escape the guards and disguises himself as a woman to outsmart them. The women he talks to, immediately like him, flirt with him and it is clear that Aladdin is loved by many. However, the guards see through his disguise and catch him. His pet monkey, Abu, saves him by pulling the hat of the guard over his eyes. Immediately the second song of the movie starts, One Jump Ahead, and this defines Aladdin even further as a thief that only steals to survive and it definitely creates a negative image for the guards:

The song ends with Aladdin jumping off yet another building and landing in an alley. Here we witness his kind and loving nature, when he offers his well-earned bread to two orphans that are clearly starving. Disney also makes a clear distinction between Abu and Aladdin, because Abu at first doesn’t want to give up his bread and after he sees how grateful the children are and how sweet and kind they are to him, he gives up his piece of the bread too. Aladdin and Abu have almost a brotherly relationship, they both learn from each other and Abu often tries to pull Aladdin back into reality.

Then Aladdin hears trumpets and goes to check out the noise. A crowd has gathered and two old men, who are the creators of Aladdin, explain that this is another prince that has come to marry the princess. Aladdin admires the prince at first, but when the two orphans from the alley run in front of the prince’s horse and the prince tries to discipline them with a whip, he intervenes and tries to teach the prince a lesson. This again shows Aladdin’s true nature, a diamond in the rough, someone who stands up for what he believes in and is honest and kind. However, he fails miserably as the prince then kicks him in a pool of mud and insults him horribly by saying: “You were born a streetrat, you will die a streetrat and only your fleas will mourn you!” After these insults the palace gate closes behind the prince, the crowd vanishes and it gets dark. Aladdin runs up to the palace gate and shouts at the prince that he is wrong, but then discovers that he does have flees and he gives up. His posture changes and Aladdin becomes sad. On his way home he begins a ballad about how he isn’t rifraf or a streetrat and that there is more to him. This introduces Aladdin’s problem, which we are already aware off, yet we didn’t know that this makes him depressed. He wants to achieve something with his life. This is what he tells Abu, who is sleeping on a pillow, while watching the palace that Jasmin lives in. One day things will change, they’ll be rich, live in a palace and won’t have any problems at all.

In the next shot we learn how ignorant and romantic Aladdin’s views about the rich life are. Disney shows that rich or poor, we are all people and all have problems, we are all equal in our own way and we should respect each other. They show us the inside of the palace and the prince walking away in anger. We see a shot of his butt and that something has ripped off his pants. The sultan asks him what’s wrong, but the prince won’t tell him. Angry, the sultan hops over to Jasmin, who is outside in the palace gardens. He calls her name and just when she’s about to turn around to face him, we see the huge head of Rajah, her pet tiger, who is holding a piece of the fabric of the prince’s pants. The sultan puts the two together and is not amused, although Jasmin tries to make it into a joke, when she sees his worried face, she stops laughing. She obviously cares deeply for her dad. They have a meaningful conversation in which their motives are made clear. The sultan says that by law she must be married to a prince by her next birthday. Jasmin says the law is wrong and that she wants to marry for love. Then the sultan explains that it’s not only the law, but also the fact that he’s not going to be around forever and he wants to make sure that someone is looking after his daughter. Jasmin explains that she feels trapped within the palace, to which her father replies that she is a princess and Jasmin yells out that maybe she doesn’t want to be a princess anymore. Then her father yells that he wishes Allah had never given him a daughter like this and he hops back to the palace. The sultan is quite fat and looks like a pingpongball from afar. Angrily Jasmin opens the doors of the birdcage and the birds fly away, she gestures them to come back. Now we know that Aladdin, as well as Jasmin are both tormented souls. They both want their lives to change and want to live their lives the way they want too. They both want to be free of the expectations of other people. This is a theme that children and teenagers can identify with, since they too want to grow up and live their own lives, be out of the control of their parents.

In the next scene we learn that the evil villain, Jafar, is actually the Grand Vizier of the sultan. Jafar hypnotises the sultan with his snake staff and gets his diamond ring. It is made clear that the sultan trusts Jafar, even looks up to Jafar and is completely ignorant of Jafar’s evil intentions. The sultan also adores Iago and thinks he’s a stupid pet parrot, while in fact we know better. He always stuffs Iago with horrible dry cookies and Iago has a deep hatred for the sultan. Which is shown when Iago ad Jafar retreat to their evil lair and Iago screams about ways to hurt the sultan, Jafar calms him down by explaining that they’ll soon be sultan themselves. In the next scene we see Jasmin escaping the palace gardens. Rajah tries to stop her at first, yet when she explains why she’s doing this, he nobly, but sadly helps her escape.

Next we see how Aladdin tricks a merchant and steals a big melon, which he then shares with Abu. In the same street we see the inexperienced Jasmin walking around the marketplace and bumping into people. Aladdin sees her from afar and is immediately intoxicated by her beauty. Jasmin gets in trouble for stealing an apple, which she gave to a hungry streekid. The merchant wants to cut off her hand and she screams that she doesn’t have any money, but will get it from the sultan. Just when the knife is about to hit her arm and Jasmin screams for mercy, Aladdin intervenes, yet again, and tricks the merchant into believing Jasmin is his sister and that she’s crazy. Jasmin feels insulted at first, but when she sees that Aladdin is actually helping her, she goes along with it and pretends that she thinks Abu is the sultan. Aladdin gives the merchant back his apple, which of course isn’t really the stolen apple, and tries to leave with Jasmin saying he’ll take her to the doctor, Jasmin then pretends a nearby camel is a doctor. Abu, roleplaying along with Aladdin and Jasmin, takes his leave by making a sultan-like speech in monkey language and taking a bow. Immediately all the goods that Abu had stolen from the crowd fall out and the merchant screams that they are thieves. The crowd, however, is amused and laughs at them. The three run away quickly.

Then we see a complicated construction and Iago creating lightning bolts by running on a wooden wheel. Iago is exhausted and asks Jafar respectfully if they couldn’t wait for a real storm. Jafar denies his request and places the diamond ring on a socket. He then discovers the identity of the diamond in the rough, Aladdin. Jafar sees him and Jasmin climbing up a building through an hourglass, which is an object that will return later on in the movie. Iago is surprised to see Aladdin, since they’ve been trying to capture him for a while and loses his grip on the wheel, he gets propelled against the wall and loses all his feathers in the process. The camera then zooms in on the couple seen in the hourglass and we see how Aladdin and Jasmin are getting closer, literally when she falls into his arms. He jumps across a building using a pole and lays down a plank for her to walk across. She shows him that she measures up to his skills by jumping across the building with a pole even better than Aladdin did. Abu is immediately jealous. They enter his humble home and Jasmin tells him her story. Aladdin tells her how wonderful he thinks it would be to live with servants in a palace, she tells him how horrible she thinks it’d be. And then through miscommunication they both exclaim that they don’t feel free. She immediately sympathises with Aladdin and he with her. They obviously have a lot in common, even though they’re both lying to each other. Aladdin grabs an apple from Abu and gives it to her by launching it from his elbow. Then he grabs another apple and takes a bit, leaving Abu with no apples for himself. Abu then tries to steal an apple from Jasmin and when Aladdin tells him off, Abu goes on a rant about the apple. When Jasmin asks what Abu said, Aladdin tricks her into believing Abu said that what her dad is doing to her isn’t fair. Aladdin and Jasmin both lean closer together and almost kiss, when they are rudely interrupted by the palace guards. They discover that they’re both wanted by the guards and then Aladdin decides to jump off the building, yet again. He asks her if she trusts him and offers her his hand. With hesitation she says yes and they jump. However, the guards had expected this move, since it’s Aladdin’s usual strategy, and they capture Aladdin. Jasmin reveals her true identity, but the guards can’t release Aladdin. She has to talk to Jafar to get what she wants, Jasmin is infuriated. Abu gets left behind in the alley.

Jasmin immediately confronts Jafar, but Jafar lies to Jasmin and says that he’s already executed Aladdin, cause after all, he kidnapped a princess. Jasmin not only lost the love of her life, Jafar also blames it on her, since he, of course, knows that Aladdin hadn’t kidnapped her at all. Jasmin is devastated and runs away crying, Jafar and Iago find this amusing. Jafar then disguises himself as an old man with a hunch on his back, Iago, and visits Aladdin in the dungeon. Here Aladdin is already freed by his loyal friend Abu, who tells him off for falling in love with the princess. Aladdin is miserable, he can’t get out of the dungeon and if he could get out of the dungeon he’d never be able to marry Jasmin, since he’s not a prince. Jafar, however, cleverly tempts Aladdin with freedom and wealth. He says that if Aladdin becomes rich enough, he’d be able to marry the princess. Aladdin goes along with this plan, but doesn’t have absolute faith in the old man.

After a long journey through the desert, they reach the Cave of Wonders. Aladdin enters the cave without problems and Jafar tells him that everything is Aladdin’s, as long as he brings the lamp to him. The cave, however, warns Aladdin not to touch anything. The faithful viewer knows by now that not one person, but two persons are entering the cave: the diamond in the rough and his sidekick: a cheeky monkey. This can only mean trouble. After Abu & Aladdin have reached the bottom of a very long staircase, they enter a hug treasure room. Aladdin immediately concludes that with a handful of this treasure, he’d be richer than the sultan. Abu runs towards the gold and wants to grab it, Aladdin stops him and warns him again: do not touch anything. Aladdin is very focused and not tempted at all, he wants to find the lamp and get out of there. Abu however is sulking and grumpily follows Aladdin through the room. Then a carpet that Abu was standing on, springs to life. It scares Abu and steals his hat, Abu flees to Aladdin and Aladdin is amazed, yet not scared, when he sees the magic carpet. The carpet gives the hat back to Abu, but Abu screams and yells at him. The carpet then turns around, totally depressed, but Aladdin tells Abu off and asks the carpet to help them. The carpet is very enthusiastically and shows them the way to the lamp.

The lamp is kept in a cave deep within the Cave of Wonders. It is surrounded by water and Aladdin has to climb a huge set of stairs to get to it. He does this with the utmost care and very slowly, while carpet and Abu wait for him at the entrance. However, Abu sees a huge red diamond standing next to him and in a hypnotised state he slowly walks towards it. Carpet tries to stop Abu, but fails and at the moment that Aladdin picks up the lamp, Abu hugs the red diamond. Immediately the voice of the cave speaks and all hell breaks lose. The whole cave turns in to lava and begins to fall apart. Carpet save Aladdin and Abu and gets them to the exit of the cave, however Jafar is waiting for them. Instead of rescuing Aladdin, he takes the lamp from him and throws Aladdin back into the Cave of Wonders. Abu bites him in the arm after witnessing this and gets thrown into the cave with Aladdin. Carpet, who’s at that point trapped underneath a huge rock, manages to save Aladdin and Abu at the very last moment.

Meanwhile, Jasmin is still depressed and the sultan, the loving dad that he is, listens to her story. Aladdin wakes up in the cave, together with Abu and carpet. At first they’re depressed about being locked up in the cave, yet Abu has managed to steal the lamp from Jafar. They immediately cheer up, even though they still haven’t found a way out of the cave and as far as they know are locked up there for life with a useless old lamp. However, Aladdin tries to clean the lamp and immediately fireworks, steam and a huge blue genie pop out of it. The genie gives a new layer to the whole story. He’s a very fast-paced character who makes lots of references to our modern world. He’s the only character from the movie that is introduced halfway through the story, yet he’s the one most people remember. The genie exclaims that 10.000 years locked up in the Cave of Wonders has given him a horrible crick in the neck. He hangs Aladdin on the wall, saying ‘Hang on a second!’, and picks up his head from his body, turns it around 360 degrees and puts it back on. This short introduction has immediately defined him as a magical character that doesn’t abide the rules that the other character have to abide. Aladdin, however, doesn’t understand at all what is going on and so the genie starts a song explaining that he has three wishes and that this can be anything that he wants or dreams off. During this song the genie manipulates everything. He polymorphs into arms, butlers, a boxing trainer, fireworks, exotic female dancers, a bunny, a dragon, a certificate and hand puppets. He creates dinners, gold, baklava, dancers, neon lights, elephants, camels, boats. It is an amazing animation and the most energetic wonderful song. You can view it in the video below. It’s the Dutch version again, I hope you enjoy it, cause it’s done wonderfully.

Aladdin and Abu aren’t impressed by genie’s wonderful performance, especially once the genie explains that he has a few limitations. He can’t bring people back from the death, he can’t kill anybody and he can’t make anybody fall in love with anybody else. Aladdin sees his way out and tricks the genie into freeing him from the cave by betting that the genie won’t even be able tog et them out of the cave. The genie proves them wrong, but Aladdin has had his first free wish.

In the meantime the sultan is reconciling Jasmin and Jafar, however Jasmin doesn’t accept Jafar’s appologie and actually threatens Jafar, by saying that when she’s queen, she’ll get rid of him. She walks out of the room, her dad hopping behind her, trying to convince him to reconcile with Jafar. Jafar and Iago watch them and Iago mocks them, displaying his excellent voice-imitation of Jasmin, which he’ll use later on in the story as well. Iago then cleverly proposes a new evil scheme to make them sultan: Jafar should marry Jasmin!

The genie has gotten Aladdin, Abu and carpet safely to an oasis somewhere in the desert and after accepting his free wish, they start talking about what to wish for next. When Aladdin asks genie what he’d wish for, he explains his own torment. The genie seems to be this powerful, bubbly and cheery person, yet he’s actually trapped within a little lamp. If he’d wish for anything, he’d wish for freedom. Again Disney acknowledges that no matter how powerful someone is, we all have problems, we’re all the same in our misery and happiness. Aladdin promises to use his third wish to set him free. Then they get down to business and Aladdin does his first wish: ‘Genie, I wish for you to make me a prince!’ In a weird game-like show the genie transforms Aladdin in a prince and Abu into a huge elephant.

In the palace Jafar is trying to convince the sultan to let him marry Jasmin, yet when he tries to hypnotise him, the music of a parade reaches them and the sultan goes out to watch it. The next song, Prince Ali, begins:

Although Prince Ali Abadwa, our own loveable Aladdin, has impressed the sultan, Jafar isn’t convinced and the three of them have an argument about the princess’ future. Jasmin walks into the room and hears the three of them saying they know what’s best for her. The feminist that she is, she is immediately infuriated and exclaims: ‘How dare you!? All of you! Standing around deciding my future? I’m not a price to be won!’ And she walks out on them, Aladdin tries to go after her, but the sultan stops him. Aladdin was being terribly arrogant and prince-like to impress the sultan, which is something that Jasmin despises, of course, Aladdin doesn’t know this. That night the team Ali has a meeting about the situation and genie advises Aladdin to tell Jasmin the truth. Aladdin, however, refuses, arguing that she’ll reject him if she’d know that he was a streetrat. He goes up to her balcony and tries to impress Jasmin with his arrogant new attitude. Jasmin, however, sends Rajah out to deal with him. When Aladdin takes off his hat to keep the tiger at a distance, Jasmin holds off the attack and asks him if he was the guy she met at the market, she doesn’t know Aladdin’s name. Aladdin, scared that his cover is blown, denies this and Jasmin is terribly disappointed. He then makes a big speech about how she was right and that she isn’t a price to be won and jumps off the balcony. Jasmin is terribly surprised that he’d survives this and even more surprised to see a magic flying carpet. He then says he can show her the world with a ride, he offers his hand and asks if she trusts him. She immediately recognises the gesture from the first time that she met Aladdin and her suspicion that he’s her love rises. She accepts and the famous song, A Whole New World starts:

They eventually land on the rooftop of a Chinese house and watch the fireworks. Jasmin then tricks Aladdin by saying: ‘It’s a shame Abu had to miss this.’ Aladdin, without thinking and enchanted by his love for her, immediately responds with: ‘Nah, he hates fireworks and he doesn’t really like flying either.’ Jasmin, first angry, demand and explanation. Carpet gestures that Aladdin should tell her the truth. Aladdin is still too insecure for this and tells her a lie. He says he dresses up like a streetrat every now and then to escape life in his palace, but he assures her he’s a real prince. He adds that he didn’t tell her this before, cause it sounds a bit weird, a prince dressed up as a streetrat. Jasmin recognises the similarities with her own recent escape out of the palace and she reconciles with Aladdin. Carpet is terribly disappointed in Aladdin, but Ali is terribly happy. They end the evening with an ultimate romantic kiss on her balcony and Aladdin feels like he’s conquered the world. When he, however, gets to the garden again, he’s captured by Jafar’s palace guards and thrown into the sea. Genie, who’s lamp was hidden inside Ali’s hat, manages to save Ali at the last moment and although they have their disagreements, it’s obvious that they both care deeply for each other.

Jasmin is still totally in love and hums the tunes from A Whole New World, but Jafar and the sultan give her a surprise visit. The sultan says that she has to marry Jafar, it’s obvious to us that Jafar finally managed to hypnotise the sultan, but Jasmin doesn’t know of this deceit and takes it seriously. She explains that she choses Prince Ali, to which Jafar replies that Ali’s gone, but then Ali comes out of his hiding place and proves him wrong. Ali then accuses Jafar of trying to murder him, but Jafar says he’s lying. The sultan confirms this and Jasmin panics, she doesn’t understand what’s happened to her loving father. Ali immediately sees through Jafar’s scheme, snatches the snake staff and smashes it. The sultan orders Jafar to be taken prisoner, but Jafar & Iago manage to escape. Ali and Jasmin embrace and the sultan discovers that his worries are over: his daughter has found her husband. He immediately forgets about Jafar and starts preparing Ali’s introduction to the people as their new sultan. This is when the consequences of Ali’s lies finally sink in, Ali never wanted to be sultan. Jafar and Iago meanwhile retreat to their lair, where Iago starts packing his stuff, but Jafar breaks out in laughter. Jafar has seen the lamp within Aladdin’s hat and tells Iago that Ali is actually the streetrat Aladdin. He has the lamp and Iago has to steal the lamp from him.

When Aladdin and the genie are alone, the genie congratulates him on his victory. Aladdin now has everything he ever wanted, yet Aladdin seems very sad. The genie then asks Aladdin to set him free, but Ali refuses. He can’t set the genie free, because then everybody will know Ali’s a fraud. The genie is terribly insulted and retreats into his lamp, sticking out his tongue. Aladdin then becomes terribly angry and smashes a pillow into the lamp. Abu and carpet, who have been watching the two fight look disapproving at Aladdin and turn away from him. Aladdin then sees the errors of his ways and says he’s going to tell Jasmin and the sultan everything. However, we then see Iago, disguised as a flamingo, imitating Jasmin’s voice and luring Aladdin out of his room. Iago steals the lamp.

Aladdin finally meets up with Jasmin, who’s wearing a lovely blue outfit, she pushes him onto a balcony and doesn’t listen to what he’s trying to say. Then Aladdin’s standing in front of a huge crowd saluting them as their new sultan. Jafar watches all this and rubs the lamp. The genie comes out and he has to obey Jafar’s first wish: to become sultan. Immediately the sky changes into dark clouds of thunder. The sultan gets magically undressed and Jafar receives his cloths, to become sultan. Aladdin however defies Jafar’s authority and reaches for his lamp, only to discover that the lamp is gone. Jafar laughs at him and calls the genie Abubu. The genie, who’s now the size of a giant and looks terribly scary, picks up the castle and puts it on top of a mountain. Aladdin tries to convince the genie to stop, but the genie can’t help it, he’s got a new master now. Jafar is trying to get the sultan and Jasmin to bow down to him, but while the sultan is eager, Jasmin refuses. He then performs his second wish: to be the most powerful sorcerer in the world. Now everyone is doomed. Jafar makes Jasmin and the sultan bow to him, he transforms Rajah into a small kitten and Abu into his original little monkey form. In a wonderfully performed song Jafar also reveals Ali’s true identity to Jasmin. Aladdin apologises, but together with Abu and carpet Jafar puts him in a tower and then launches the tower into the sky like a rocket, using his snake staff as a gold club. Jasmin and the sultan are left to the mercy of Jafar and Iago.

The palace tower falls onto snowy mountain tops, but Aladdin manages to survive the horrible fall. He soon find Abu and together with him he sets off to make everything right again. On his way, he finds carpet, who’s stuck underneath the palace tower. They free him and are on their way back to Acraba. The sky has now turned red, Iago is torturing the sultan by stuffing him with cookies and Jafar is using Jasmin as his personal slave. He offers her freedom as his queen and she refuses by throwing a glass of wine in his face. He’s about to hit her in the face, when he remembers he has one wish left and he wishes for her to fall in love with him. The genie tries to explain that he can’t do that, but Jafar refuses to believe him. Then Jasmin sees Aladdin sneaking into the palace and decides to distract Jafar. She seduces him (which is quite a funny dialogue, played in the background while the camera focuses on Aladdin for instance, she says he’s got such a lovely beard etc) and when Iago discovers Aladdin, she kisses Jafar. Everyone is disgusted. This distracted Jafar sufficiently, while Abu knocked out Iago, but Jafar then sees Aladdin’s reflection in Jasmin’s Crown. The following carefully orchestrated fight takes place, during which Aladdin defeats Jafar by tricking him into wishing to become a genie.

Jafar & Iago defeated and blasted into the Cave of Wonders by the genie, Aladdin and Jasmin are reunited. They forgive each other for their mistakes, the sultan says that they can marry each other and Aladdin finally keeps his promise: he sets the genie free. The genie immediately starts packing his bags and he sets off on a journey around the world. The movie ends with Aladdin and Jasmin, in wonderful new outfits, flying away on the magic carpet, singing and kissing, fireworks and stars in the background. The moon then turns around: it’s genie laughing. Then the genie suddenly grabs hold of that frame of the movie and says: Made you look!

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