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Wednesday
May222019

Aladdin Pt 3: Free at last! A 'Whole New World' awaits.

In Part 1 Ben introduced us to the romantic heroes and their evil nemesis. In Part 2 of our re-watch of Disney's Aladdin (1992) Timothy took us into the Cave of Wonders where our 'diamond in the rough' met the whirlwind vocal performance of Robin Williams as the Genie. He discussed stylistic, color palette, and comic choices in the storytelling on the fantastical journey. We return to the film just as Aladdin has dropped his pompous prince pretenses and admitted that the Princess is not a prize to be won and promptly jumps off her balcony just as she requested.

Part 3 by Nathaniel R

- Startled by his sudden humility and agreement, as well as the not so mundane matter of magical carpets, Jasmine drops her own defenses and becomes curious about this new prince. She can't shake the feeling that she knows him.

- Does Jasmine have facial blindness that she can't remember the only man she ever almost kissed in her life? The one from the day before no less!

-Aladdin moves at quite a clip but we know it's been no more than two days due to the plot business because she has only three days to get married by the laws of both Agrabah and childlike-attention-spans-of-target audiences. 

- Tim spoke of Aladdin's intuition and it is a beautifully realized aspect of his character. He's not aware of it, per se, the way he is in regards to his other physical and mental skills, so he's more of an idiot savant when it comes to emotional intelligence. He instinctively gets the Genie's pride / Jafar's competitiveness / and Jasmine's need to roam. He harnesses all three in the course of the plot, the latter not to manipulate her like the other two but to free her spiritually/romantically though he isn't thinking of all this when he asks...

You would't want to go for a ride, would you?  

- Jasmine joins Aladdin on the carpet after he says "Do you trust me?" an echo of their previous meeting and the directors smartly give Jasmine a close-up; she knows this is that street-rat after all. Cured of facial blindness! Although how can you forget a face like Aladdin's?  He looks just like Prince Eric with a tan only way sexier given the stronger nose and that near-constant shirtlessness. 

-I dig so much that Jasmine gives Rajah a little wave from the carpet before Aladdin starts singing to her. Both of our romantic heroes have consistently realized bonds with their animal companions that aren't cast aside for plot or setpiece splendor but are ever-present. It's a beautiful way to show the gentleness in both heroes, this affection for animals. Note how Jafar, in contrast, never remotely cares when his spirit animal, Iago, is hurt. These movies were crafted with such care.

- Aladdin starts singing the Oscar-winning song "A Whole New World" and Jasmine soon joins in since it's a musical and she also knows the lyrics. The soaring full-length-song romantic spell is only broken twice, first for a sight gag of the sphynx losing its nose (hee) and then for some truly wonky animation when Jasmine pets a horse from a roaming harras as they whiz by.  

A third interruption only extends the romantic spell as they stop for a rooftop break and fall harder in love though Aladdin is still having a difficult time with honesty. There's truly stellar Best Supporting Actor (or Actress?) work happening from the magic carpet in this sequence. Kudos to the animators.

A whole new world (Don't you dare close your eyes)
A hundred thousand things to see (Hold your breath, it gets better)
I'm like a shooting star
I've come so far
I can't go back to where I used to be


A whole new world (Every turn a surprise)

With new horizons to pursue (Every moment, red-letter)
I'll chase them anywhere
There's time to spare
Let me share this whole new world with you

 

But mostly we're caught up in the reverie of these two falling in love in what is essentially a sex song if you think about it. I'm aware that that's an adult read of the song which is just as functional and more commonly thought of as a vague 'have an adventure with me!' ballad... but it's the with me focus that seals it.

-Though a lot of animated movies, including this one at times, err on the side of staying noisy and busy, even when stillness would help, this scene ends very quietly, with a perfect low-key comedy of the magic carpet pushing Aladdin into his first kiss with Jasmine.

The scene ends with Aladdin in the kind of swoony hopelessly-in-love closeup usually reserved for Disney Princesses, and Jasmine backing away from while giving him bedroom eyes (literally... as she's slipping behind the veil into her bedroom).

Before the duetAfter the duet

That shot is a full-circle close of the film's romantic setpiece because the scene actually began with her coming out of her veiled bedroom when she heard Prince Ali outside (consider the two images directly juxtaposed above and note her complete change in regards to Aladdin / body language with her curtains; he's definitely invited into the royal bedchamber. The next day, in point of fact, when she announces she chooses him for marriage.

- But we're getting ahead of ourselves. There's a few plot points to overcome before the nuptials. Aladdin gets caught and cast off a cliff with a boulder to weigh him down and drown him (scary sequence for wee tots) but the Genie saves him.

- Meanwhile Jafar's nefarious plan to marry Jasmine by keeping the Sultan under his magical control run into two problems...

I will never marry you!

- Jasmine's will and Aladdin's surprise resilience -- sorry Jafar, he's not dead. The last act of the movie is really good for Jasmine as a worthy Princess heroine because she really exerts her agency, repeatedly defies orders, chooses her life partner, and shows that she's as quick of a wit on the draw as the man she loves (but more on that in a bit).

-Jafar is (temporarily) defeated and Jasmine will marry him. So why is Aladdin so bummed? It's because it's beginning to settle in that he can't play-act the Prince forever. Here's where we come to one change of heart I've had about the movie.

You just won the heart of the heart of the princess -- what you are going to do next?

-I was disappointed in Aladdin back in 1992 (I know I know it's blasphemy) but it's because we were coming off of The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast in which I (and the rest of the world) fell back in love with Disney Animation. Maybe it's because Aladdin was released shortly after the second Terminator movie but I've always viewed Aladdin for Disney as akin to the moment when Skynet became aware. The meta stuff in Aladdin (note the two images above when the Genie draws our attention to the fact that we're in the middle of watching a movie called Aladdin) used to really bug me. I didn't like the anachronisms (which is why I'm less of a fan of Robin Williams Genie than most) or all the self-consciousness. I sensed it was a new direction (Hercules and Tarzan and The Emperor's New Groove and a new degree of snark were definitely around the corner) and it felt like a loss of innocence after the totally classic fairytale spell of Beauty and the Beast. This is probably why I prefer Pocahontas to a lot of the more beloved Disney movies that came after Beauty and the Beast because it felt like the most innocent one.

I've since cooled on this train of thought because the visual gags in Aladdin are witty and not all anachronistic meta humor is, so Aladdin is like peak self-awareness rather than lazy gratuitous anachronisms and self-parody.

-What's with all these 'no homo!' style jokes in this movie? The Genie gets a few of them around this point in the movie and the Sultan does, too ,when he suggests he'd like to kiss Aladdin and then gets all flustered with 'I'll leave that to my daughter'.  But there's no time to worry about that because Iago has lifted the lamp. Uh-oh.

On a scale of 1 to 10 you are an 11

-Iago predictively imitating Jafar praising him is good stuff.

- We're in the thick of mounting trouble for our heroes. Aladdin still hasn't fessed up to Jasmine about his true identity and she's just announced the marriage to the entirety of Agrabah. Plus the Genie now serves Jafar. 

- They made a really smart choice to reimagine the Genie visually and tonally for his scenes with a new master. It's such a perfect blend of suddenly muted personality within Robin Williams vocal performance and the animation department's aesthetic presentation. The lighting goes darker and the camera angles tilt up making the Genie scarier and more enormous. They also emphasize his muscles and angles instead of the former round silliness. Those wisps of smoke that make up his bottom half, that were once curlicue cute, are now uncontrollable tornadoes swirling. The point is: it's great, and it really sells the Genie's predicament as not the master of his own destiny despite his power. 

Jafar makes two wishes in quick succession, showing himself to be surprisingly less strategic than Aladdin, despite his intellect: both are to increase his power -- first as Sultan, and then as The Greatest Sorcerer in the World after which he casts Aladdin to the ends of the earth (which apparently means 'a snowy place not all that far from Agrabah where Aladdin can fly back to in a jiffy on his magic carpet'. The only kind thing Jafar does in this whole sequence is to strip Aladdin of all that extra clothing so that he's shirtless again. Thanks Jafar! If only the costume designer on the 2019 remake had followed your example!

I'm sorry Abu. I made a mess of everything.

-More kindness to animals. Aladdin's first thought when he might freeze to death is to protect Abu from the cold. My heart swells.

-I had completely forgotten that Jasmine gets a Princess Leia bikini-in-chains outfit when enslaved by Jafar, who is much taller and skinnier than Jabba the Hut but no less repulsive.  But there's a great moment in this sequence when Aladdin and Genie and Jafar are all thrown for a loop when Jasmine pretends to be in love with Jafar (a wish he made that the Genie would not grant but now Jafar thinks the Genie has done just that). It's ultimately a failed distraction, but it's a great moment nonetheless. In the 1990s Disney was really working to make the Princesses more proactive in the stories, bless them.

A snake am I ? Perhaps you'd like to see how snake like I can be

-Action sequences in animated movies tend to bore me but I love the echo in the shots shared above, Jafar makes two transformations, first into a giant snake then into an all powerful Genie (his last wish to his own Genie). Both are shot the same way, reflecting the one-track arrogance/lust for power.

Tangent: I remember this sorcerer snake level from the Aladdin video game very well. Level one was "One Jump Ahead" a chase through the marketplace (detailed in part 1) and the Cave of Wonders lava escape (part 2) was a more difficult level. Can't remember if Jafar as Snake was a third level but it was the big boss level -- you know how video games do. 

-As villain deaths/defeats go this is my favourite in all the Disney classics. Most big bads die in some sort of fall (Gaston, the Evil Queen, William Clayton, Mother Gothel) or a blow to the chest/impaling (Ursula, Maleficent, Shan Yu) but Jafar doesn't actually die. His lust for power is his undoing and he ends up trapped inside a lamp, to serve others for all eternity... should anyone ever find his lamp that is. It's such poetic justice.

-After Jafar is defeated the Sultan changes the law so that Aladdin and Jasmine can marry. But that only comes after Aladdin frees the Genie in a beautifully animated / "acted" sequence in which the Genie is all set to restore Aladdin to Prince status so he can marry as his last wish. But Aladdin surprises him, sacrificing his own happiness to stay honest and loyal, and frees the Genie instead. So in the end Sharp Wits, Kindness, and Selflessness are the keys to making Aladdin such an enduring and worthy hero.

Aladdin is essentially two love stories in one, Aladdin and Jasmine get the riding off into the sunset / final kiss image but Aladdin and the Genie's love story is the emotional climax. It's so sweet.

We hope you enjoyed our lookback at Aladdin (1992). Remember that if you hate the 2019 version opening this weekend, or choose not to see it you'll always have the animated classic to return to. It seems to currently be off the market to rent or buy but surely it'll return with the launch of Disney+. Please do share your own thoughts on the last act of the movie in the comments! If you enjoyed this check out any of our previous tag-team retrospectives: Rebecca, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf,  Rosemary's Baby, Silence of the LambsThelma & Louise, and A League of Their Own.

 

 

 

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Reader Comments (8)

Thanks for the hard work, you three! Very fun read. What a wonderful movie.

May 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterEricB

I still tear up at Jasmine's "You'll always be a prince to me".

May 23, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJakey

Ouch. only two comments?

Eric -- you're welcome. this was fun to do.

Jakey -- i had definitely not remembered Jasmine correctly. I thought her fandom was based on backward nostalgia projection but she has several good moments.

May 23, 2019 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

This has been a lot of fun.

A note about the villain's departure: I, too, love that Jafar didn't fall to his death in the Disney villain tradition. (A few years later Disney tried to put a spin on this by having Frollo fall to his death when the Notre Dame cathedral came alive and deserted/turned on him, but it was a somewhat wan attempt to put a spin on the cliche.) I think Jafar's fate was poetic justice, but the cynical part of me also thinks it was probably dictated by marketing. Disney was just getting into its horrible phase of direct-to-VHS sequels, and it wouldn't surprise me if Disney honchos dictated that the villain should not die just because of potential sequels.

May 23, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterCash

If I remember correctly, Return of Jafar was supposed to be a 3-part series opener for the Aladdin TV series.

Loved this look back. While Aladdin isn't my favorite Disney, it is definitely top tier.

May 23, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPoliVamp

This is a fun movie. A lot of visual gags. And I love Robin Williams in the role. I think he won a special Golden Globe for this performance?

May 23, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPedro

Yep. Here's the link to the Golden Globes ceremony. The first ever special achievement award: https://youtu.be/O5tAoN8feJ8

May 23, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPedro

I love these retrospectives, this one in particular a lovely opportunity to reconsider and reappraise something that was tied so closely to my childhood. As a kid, Aladdin was my favourite Disney, but the suggestion that it kickstarted a trend towards smart-alecky, self-referential humour in animated features is an interesting one. I take your point about Hercules here, but The Emperor's New Groove is such a singular example in terms of its production that I'm not certain you can draw the line between that and this. Although, boy, did the love of celebrity voice talent really take off post-Robin Williams.

May 24, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterben1283

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