Running time: 90 minutes
Screenplay: Ron Clements, John Musker, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio
Directors: Ron Clements, John Musker
Starring (voices): Scott Weinger, Linda Larkin, Robin Williams, Jonathan Freeman, Frank Welker, Gilbert Gottfried, Douglas Seale
Princess Jasmine's slightly sexualised character design did very strange things
to my 12-year-old self...just as I was getting over Jessica Rabbit.
Agrabah street rat Aladdin (Scott Weinger) ekes out an existence by stealing food and living hand-to-mouth with his only friend, a little monkey called Abu (Frank Welker). Sultan's daughter Princess Jasmine (Linda Larkin) feels trapped by the luxury of the palace and resents being forced to choose a husband from a line of suitors just because the law dictates that she must. Jafar (Jonathan Freeman), scheming vizier and the top advisor to the sultan (Douglas Seale), makes secret plans with his parrot Iago (Gilbert Gottfried) to retrieve a magic lamp from the mysterious Cave of Wonders (Frank Welker). Jasmine runs away and meets Aladdin in the Agrabah marketplace, where they hit it off (naturally). Jafar learns that Aladdin is the only one who can enter the cave and retrieve the lamp and sets some sinister plans in motion.
Betrayed by Jafar, but, thanks to the light-fingered Abu, betraying him in turn, Aladdin finds himself stuck in the cave with the lamp. Noticing it's dull, he rubs it to give it a little shine and the rest is Disney history...
A little on the nose, but following the show-stopping 'Friend Like Me', it's hard
not to break into spontaneous applause.
To be fair, there are a great many Disney classics with all those things, but Aladdin has an extra ingredient to raise it above all others: Robin Williams as the Genie. When the character is on screen there are so many quick-fire jokes and impressions that you can barely catch them all. I heard a story once that Williams caused a huge headache for Disney by ad-libbing many of his lines, causing much of the initial work to be scrapped and reanimated from scratch. This, according the story, led to Williams not being paid for his work, presumably due to the extra cost of redrawing. Then when the film hit massive pay-dirt, the corporation gave him a Picasso for his trouble. Whether any of this is true, I cannot tell you for certain, but the Genie does have a humour that is distinctly Williams-like that nobody else could have delivered with anywhere near the same effectiveness. He even looks like him. Aladdin is great from start to finish, but when Williams has the mic it soars above every single one of its peers.
True genius, and, in my opinion, possibly Disney's best ever.
Other reviews are also full of high praise, although generally place Aladdin slightly lower in the pecking order, below The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast - see this review from Janet at the New York Times. There is also some fascinating information on the making of Aladdin in this review from Olly at Empire, which no doubt has more truth to it than the story I described hearing above.