Making the Grades
Aladdin made its theatrical début in 1992, and took the audience by storm. Part of the new focus on Disney's animation department (which began in 1989 with The Little Mermaid), this magical carpet ride was branded a "classic" before it ever flickered across the silver screen. And much to the delight of the marketing team, the film lived up to-and surpassed-their most ambitious projections.
Loosely based on the ancient tales found in the Arabian Nights, the movie follows the plight of an impoverished "street rat" forced to steal food for survival. After a chance meeting with a run-away princess, Aladdin (voice of Scott Weinger) falls in love with the unattainable Jasmine (Linda Larkin). Then fate intervenes.
The wicked Grand Vizier Jafar (Jonathan Freeman) chooses the urchin to fetch a special treasure from a mysterious Cave of Wonders. Although things don't work out as planned for either of them, Aladdin ends up in possession of the much-sought-after lamp. When he discovers it contains a wish-granting genie, the young boy is sure he can have his heart's desire. But even with the powers of enchantment on his side, it's going to take some hard work to polish up this "diamond in the rough."
Venturing into a whole new world, this Mouse House production serves up a script intended to entertain grown-ups, not just the youngsters. Most of the fodder for adult consumption comes courtesy of Robin Williams. Cast as the excitable genie, the comedian lends his famous, improvisational genius (in a cleaned up version) to the role. Thanks to the limitlessness of the art form, his character can shape-shift into anything or anyone, in any quantity. As he transforms from Ed Sullivan to Groucho Marx, the elastic nature of his part gives Williams prime opportunity to deliver some very funny lines and impersonations, most of them appealing to older audiences.
Still, children will find plenty of reasons to embrace the story too, such as memorable music, crazy sidekicks, and a beautiful, self-assured leading lady. Parents may be mildly concerned about the brief costumes on many of the female figures, an obnoxious parrot who nearly swears, and some perilous moments. However, Aladdin's casual attitude towards serious crimes, his lack of consequences for thievery, and his dependence on lies, may present bigger worries.
While families may hope their little ones will not emulate these personality flaw, they will appreciate what the young hero learns as he wrestles with keeping up appearances or revealing his real origin. With a message touting truth as one's greatest strength, this version of Aladdin may indeed become a timeless classic.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Aladdin.
In the beginning of the movie Aladdin steals from food vendors, and with a Robin Hood like attitude, even shares his bread with some starving children. Yet when he suddenly has the power to whatever he wants, he never thinks to repay those he stole from or to improve the situation in his country. Why? If you could have anything you desired, what would you wish for?
Translations of the Arabian Nights, on which this story is based, can be found in your local library.