Sunday, February 17, 2019

Wish Fulfillment

Directors: Ron Clements and John Musker
Voice Talent: Scott Weinger, Robin Williams, Linda Larkin, Jonathan Freeman, Gilbert Gottfried
Released: November 25, 1992
Viewed in theaters: December ??, 1992

Oscar nominations:
Best Sound Effects Editing (lost to Dracula)
Best Score - Alan Menken (won)
Best Song - "A Friend Like Me" by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman
Best Song - "A Whole New World" by Alan Menken and Tim Rice (won)

This is one of the Disney Renaissance movies (the animated Disney movies from 1989-99) that came out during my youth, so of course I saw it in the theaters and have seen it several times on video. Now it's actually been a while since I last saw it, so while there were a few plot points I didn't remember (while I remembered Aladdin's first and third wishes, I forgot what his second wish was, but we'll get to that later), I remembered the storyline and was able to hum along with the songs. ("Come on down, stop on by, hop a carpet and fly to another Arabian Night." "A whole new world! A new fantastic point of view! No one to tell us no! Or where to go! Or say we're only dreaming!" "Riff rat! Street rat! Scoundrel! Take that! "Can you friends do this? Can your friends do that? Can you friends pull this out their little hat? "Prince Ali! Fabulous he, Ali Ababwa.") Okay, I'll stop. But with these Disney movies sometimes it's impossible not to sing! But seriously, the songs are so catchy in this movie. And it's no wonder since Alan Menken and Howard Ashman composed the music and they also did the music for Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid which also have amazing soundtracks. Tim Rice, who did the score for The Lion King (another amazing soundtrack), also worked on the score after Ashman died.

I just thought of something that has never occurred to me, strangely. When "A Whole New World" won the Oscar for Best Song, was it for the version in the movie that Brad Kane and Lea Salonga sing as Aladdin or Jasmine? Or is it for the pop version that was on the radio that Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle sing? I suppose they still have the same lyrics and the award is for that, but that thought just occurred to me. Now I'm going to wonder the same thing for "Beauty and the Beast", "Can You Feel the Love Tonight", and "Colors of the Wind" which also have pop companions to their film version. (But the Eton John version of "CYFTLT" and the version sung in the movie have different lyrics!) The pop version of "A Whole New World" is probably my favorite pop Disney song (and I say this as someone who loves Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson's pop version of "Beauty and the Beast" and Vanessa William's version of "Colors of the Wind"). I even remember where I was when I first heard it on the radio. I was in my sixth grade art class (which I hated because I am not artistic!) and our teacher let us listen to the radio as we worked on whatever we were creating that week. It was the first class of the day and this was probably in late November or early December so I have no doubt I was half asleep and probably freezing, but then this song came on and it just captivated me. I just love it so much and I'm pretty sure I've sung it at karaoke with a friend!

I just thought of something else. While I was looking up the Oscar nominations for this movie, I noticed two songs from The Bodyguard (which also came out the same year) were also nominated ("Run to You" and "I Have Nothing", which are fine, but I can take or leave). Oh my God, can you imagine if "I Will Always Love You" was eligible for a nomination? I'm 99.9% sure it would have won and while I do really like that song, it would have broken my heart if "A Whole New World" hadn't won!

is probably best known for Robin Williams voicing the Genie. I don't know the ratio, but I'm guessing 92% of the movie is ad-libbed while the rest is from the script! I read that he did so much dialogue  that there's an extra sixteen hours of audio of him as the Genie! Can you imagine being an animator for the Genie? Everytime he did an impression (and there are quite a few), he would shape-shift into Jack Nicholson or Arnold Schwarzenegger or Arsenio Hall or Rodney Dangerfield and those are only the ones I can name off my head right now! Obviously the Genie is a time-traveler. How else would he know who those people are? Not to mention the fact that he talks into a microphone when he pretends to be hosting a game show with Aladdin as a contestant and he treats the magic carpet like an airplane when they fly out of the Cave of Wonders. How else would he know about those modern items? One of the funniest scenes with the Genie that made me laugh is when he's singing "Prince Ali" during the parade scene and pretends to be a female host like it's the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and says, "Fabulous, Harry, I love the feathers" after the parade-goers sing about Prince Ali's peacocks. I don't know why, but that just made me laugh. I also thought it was funny when he asks Aladdin if he can call him "Al" or "Din" or my personal favorite, "Laddi".

Speaking of humorous voice work, Gilbert Gottfried is really funny as Iago the macaw who is Jafar's minion. Can you imagine having a parrot with that grating voice? Oh, God, I would set it free! But in this movie, it works. I like that when he and Jafar are around other people, he acts like he doesn't know more than a few words, but in reality he can have a conversation. He's actually a pretty smart bird because he can change his voice to impersonate other people and that comes in handy with their dastardly deeds. One of my favorite Iago moments is when they're packing to leave the palace and he finds a photo of him on Jafar's shoulder and says, "And how about this picture? I don't know; I think I'm making a weird face in it."

I read that Jafar was modeled after Maleficent and looking at him, it makes a lot of sense. They both have the same physique being tall and thin, they both carry a staff, and they both have a sidekick bird that sits on their shoulders. Jafar is so obviously evil (c'mon, anyone with a twisted beard is gonna be, well, twisted!), but yet he's the sultan's (Jasmine's father) "most trusted advisor". Jafar wants to obtain the genie lamp hidden in the Cave of Wonders but is told the only one that can enter is the Diamond in the Rough who he soon learns is the street rat Aladdin. He disguises himself as an old man, telling Aladdin that if he fetches him the lamp, he will be rewarded handsomely. At first I thought that Jafar had magically disguised himself, but no, it's just a costume. It's an amazing costume as he looks totally different with the long white beard and bald head and jacked-up teeth. He even uses Iago under his shirt to make it appear he's hunchbacked.

I need to stop for one second to point out something that's been bugging me about the new live-action Aladdin trailer (aside from the Genie, yeah, that doesn't look quite right.) When you see Jafar say, "Fetch me the lamp" to Aladdin, he's not disguised as the old man! What the eff? Maybe it will be explained in the movie.

The old man tells Aladdin to touch nothing but the lamp, however, when he and his "esteemed effendi", the capuchin monkey, Abu, are in the cave, Abu steps on the magic carpet and nothing happens. Wouldn't that be considered part of the treasures? Maybe because it was an accident and Abu wasn't intentionally touching the carpet to take it, the Cave of Wonders Gods swept it under the rug (yeah that was an intentionally lame pun!) Can I just say how much I love Abu. He is the cutest thing ever. He just may be the best Disney animal sidekick ever. (Although I really love Sebastian). Abu isn't perfect though, because he sees a huge red jewel he wants (seriously, wtf is a monkey going to do with that?) and grabs it right before Aladdin grabs the lamp and the cave starts to crumble and tells them, "You have touched the forbidden treasure. You will never again see the light of day." The magic carpet is able to save them and we get what is possibly the most exciting scene (or one of the most exciting) of a Disney animated movie where the carpet flies them out of the cave while they are dodging falling rocks and lava. It's a very fun scene and thrilling scene. The carpet gets caught under a rock and Aladdin and Abu are flung toward the entrance where Aladdin is hanging onto the precipice of the cliff. He asks the old man to help, but he tells him to give him the lamp first which really should have set off Aladdin's warning bells, but he gives the man the lamp and when he's about to strike Aladdin's hand with a sword, Abu bites Jafar's hand and both he and Aladdin are flung off the cliff. Luckily the carpet manages to free itself and save them before they hit the rocky ground.

Of course this is when we meet the all-knowing, time-traveling, wise-cracking, shape-shifting, jovial Genie (because Abu managed to swipe the lamp from Jafar) and he tells Aladdin the rules for wish-making, the first one being no wishing for more wishes. (Have you ever noticed that's always a given whenever a genie is in a movie or a TV episode? I've never seen Kazaam, but I bet that's the first thing Shaq tells the kid.) The other rules are he can't bring anyone back to life, he can't take a life and he can't make anyone fall in love. I mean, these are pretty solid rules. It makes you wonder what you would wish for if you came across a genie lamp. This is something I would have to take into serious consideration because you don't want to waste your wishes (like Jafar does later on, but we'll get to that later).

Aladdin tricks the Genie into escaping from the cave without using one of his wishes. When he tells Aladdin he used a wish, Aladdin tells him, "I never actually wished to get out of the cave." When Aladdin asks the Genie what HE would wish for, he tells him his his freedom, but someone has to wish it for him. Aladdin promises after he uses his first two wishes, he will grant the Genie's freedom for his last wish. While I remember this moment at the end of the film, I forgot it was brought up earlier. I guess I thought since Aladdin had become so close to the Genie, he set him free.

Before all this goes down, Aladdin comes across the beautiful Princess Jasmine who he meets in the marketplace. Jasmine has never been outside the palace walls (really?) and doesn't like any of the princes who are asking for her hand in marriage and tells her father she wants to marry for love. Sounds like she needs to find a lookalike and do a Princess Switch! Jasmine has a pet tiger named Raja which I thought was super cool when I was 12 and I love that she talks to him the same way I talk to my cat: "Raja was just playing with that over-dressed, self-absorbed Prince, weren't you Raja?" while cooing and rubbing his face. Hehe, and by "playing", Raja had bit him in the bum and torn off his pants so his boxer shorts were showing.

I find Jasmine interesting in that she's the only Disney princess where her movie isn't her story; she's the secondary character (and even then, the Genie may surpass her). She doesn't even get her own song; she shares it with Aladdin. I would say she's the Disney princess with the least amount of screentime, but there's no way she has less screentime than Aurora in Sleeping Beauty!

Jasmine decides she's going to sneak out to the marketplace and "disguises" herself by throwing a brown cloak around her. Girl, please, you're not fooling anyone. With her heavily made-up eyes and HUGE gold earrings, it's clear she's not a commoner. While at the marketplace ("Sugar dates? Sugar date and pistachios!"), she gives an apple to a kid while not paying for it and the merchant is about to cut her hand off (it's barbaric, but it's home!) before Aladdin intervenes. They escape and Aladdin learns she's the Princess and he realizes there's no way he could ever be with her.

Fast-forward back to his first wish with the Genie, and, since he can't make Jasmine fall in love with him, he wishes to be a prince so he at least has a chance, and, voila! Prince Ali Abwaba is born. And poor Abu is turned into an elephant. Meanwhile, Jafar is plotting to become the next Sultan and Iago tells him that he should marry Jasmine, then, when he gets rid of her and her father, he will be the new Sultan. Jafar hypnotizes the Sultan with his scary snake staff (this is how he gets him to do things) to make him agree that Jafar should marry his daughter. (Eww, Jafar is easily twice as old as Jasmine, if not older).

Prince Ali comes to town with his shiny parade and catchy song. (I loved how even Iago is bouncing up and down to the beat). Jasmine is having none of it and sees Prince Ali as just another moronic suitor. When her father, Jafar, and Aladdin are arguing over who should marry her, she tells them all, "I am not a prize to be won!" You go, girl! I did laugh every time Jafar referred to Aladdin as "Prince Abubu."

Aladdin as Prince Ali apologizes to Jasmine and she recognizes him as the boy she met in the marketplace, but he denies that's him when she asks him. She thinks he has a sweet ride with his flying carpet and this is when we get the "A Whole New World" ("Unbelievable sights! Indescribable feeling!") scene and they go soaring, tumbling, freewheeling through an endless diamond sky. At one point they carpet does a 360 and they don't even fall off! I don't know how that's even physically possible. However, the carpet will do it again and this time they fall off and the carpet catches them. I laughed when they fly through a flock of birds and one of them looks at them in surprise. ("Every turn a surprise!") This magic carpet was really booking it as they visited Greece, Egypt, and China. (Hope they said hello to Mulan as she and Jasmine share a singing voice in Lea Salonga!)

Jasmine catches Aladdin in a lie when she brings up Abu and he pretty much admits he was the boy she met in the marketplace. He continues to lie to her by telling her that he "dresses up as a commoner so he can escape the pressures of palace life." He dismisses the Genie's advice earlier when he told Aladdin that he should tell her the truth. He really should have taken that advice because it's probably not smart to lie to a girl who has a TIGER for a pet! After they return to the palace and smooch (is this the first time the romantic couple in a Disney movie kiss in the middle of the movie instead of the end?), Aladdin is captured by Jafar and thrown in the sea and becomes unconscious. He is saved by the Genie, using his second wish even though he couldn't speak. Does it still count even though he never said "I wish?" We already saw earlier the Genie is able to save his master without wishes being used. Though he did tell Aladdin he would get no more freebies, so I guess he was cashing in one wish for the price of two. This means that Aladdin is down to one wish, the one he's supposed to use to set the Genie free. However, being the chump he is, Aladdin tells the Genie he can't wish him free because he needs him to help keep up the charade of being a prince and is too much of a putz to tell Jasmine the truth.

I laughed so hard when Jasmine twirls around and tells her father, "I just had the most wonderful time!" It reminded me of the scene in Elf when Buddy comes into his dad's office after his date with Jovie and he says, "I'm in love and I don't care who knows it!" 

Iago tricks Aladdin by pretending he's Jasmine calling for him and when he leaves, Iago steals the lamp and Jafar summons the Genie, making him the new master, much to the Genie's dismay. I guess the Genie just hangs out in his lamp when he's not doing anything. Jafar is terrible at making wishes. He first wishes to become Sultan, and not more than five minutes later, he wishes to become a powerful sorcerer.  ("If you won't bow before a sultan, then you will cower before a sorcerer!") Way to waste your first wish, Jafar! He exiles Aladdin and Abu to the cold, snowy mountains where poor Abu is shivering, and yet, Aladdin, only wearing pants and a vest, doesn't seem to be cold. They are able to return to Agrabah with the help of the flying carpet where Jafar is treating Jasmine and her father cruelly. He wants his third wish to be for Jasmine to fall in love with him, but lucky for her, the Genie can't abide that rule. When Jafar is aware that Aladdin has snuck back and is trying to get back the lamp, his pun game is on point as he uses his new found powers of sorcery. Here are all the puns he uses:

"Your time is up!" - when he traps Jasmine in a large hourglass.
"Don't toy with me!" - when he turns Abu into a toy monkey.
"Things are unraveling fast now!" - when he destroys the magic carpet.
"Get the point?" - when swords fall before Aladdin.
"I'm just getting warmed up!" - when he starts a fire.

Oh, Jafar. You and your puns! He continues to make terrible wishes when Aladdin convinces him he's still not as powerful at the Genie and the only way to make him the most powerful being on earth is to become a genie. Jafar, you f**king idiot. Smart move on Aladdin's part, though. So Jafar wishes to become a genie and he's all giddy and high on a power trip. I laughed when Aladdin grabs the lamp and says, "Not so fast, Jafar, aren't you forgetting something?" and Jafar replies, "Huh?" before realizing what's about to happen. The way he says "Huh?" is so funny. I did feel a little bad for Iago who tries to fly away, but is grabbed by Genie Jafar before being trapped in the lamp, then thrown into the mountains. Being trapped alive in a lamp (or anywhere, really) has to be worse than death and I almost feel bad for him. I never saw The Return of Jafar, but I'm assuming he returns and I heard (spoiler alert!) that he dies, so at least he doesn't have to be kept alive for all of eternity. Look at the Genie: he was in there for 10,000 years! My God! How he was so jubilant is anyone's guess. I guess I'd be happy too if I were freed from someplace I'd been spending the last 10,000 years!

The Sultan changes the rules so his daughter doesn't have to marry a prince (oh, yeah, Aladdin finally tells her the truth) so she and Aladdin can marry. As promised, Aladdin uses his last wish to set the Genie free and it's a very sweet scene. "Genie, you're free."

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