Updated on December 10, 2021
This week’s “minorities in cartoons” entry is the 1992 Disney movie “Aladdin.”
The story of Aladdin’s been retold plenty of times (including a 1930s Popeye featurette). However, I thought I’d focus on the Disney version.
The film’s plot is based, of course, on the ancient story of Aladdin. The usual trademark Disney features are thrown into the familiar story. For instance, the evil vizier, Jafar, has a sidekick/hench-parrot, Iago (voiced by Gilbert Gottfried). Aladdin also has his own sidekick, a non-talking pet monkey named Abu. (Ditto Princess Jasmine, with a non-anthropomorphized pet tiger, Rajah.)
Jasmine, of course, is another Disney princess. Her dilemma in the film is wanting to choose who she wants to marry. Meanwhile, her father, the unnamed Sultan, is trying to push her into an arranged marriage, as required by law.
Of course, the Genie (voiced by Robin Williams) was the film’s high point. Williams gave the film some of its funniest moments.
In a departure from most previous Disney animated fare, the film incorporated a more irreverent tone. This includes sight gags and pop culture references more in line with Looney Tunes or “The Simpsons.”
Later sequels and spin-offs
“Aladdin” was successful enough to get a direct-to-DVD sequel, “The Return of Jafar.” This was the first of its kind for Disney, but unfortunately not the last for a good many years. This film saw Iago switch sides to Aladdin and company, fighting against his former “boss”/owner, Jafar.
(A similar scenario appears in the TV series “Cyberchase” years later. Gottfried voiced the series’ bird character, Digit.)
The sequel led directly into a made-for-TV spin-off series, which ran under the “Disney Afternoon” lineup.
A final made-for-DVD sequel, “Aladdin and the King of Thieves,” was produced. This film bookended the series, and gave the characters a final sendoff.
In “Return of Jafar” and the TV series, Dan Castellaneta (Homer on “The Simpsons”) voiced Genie. Williams resumed the role for “King of Thieves.”