10 Things You Didn’t Know About Disney’s ‘Aladdin’
Ah, 'Aladdin.' The Disney film that broke box office records, kept the comeback of Disney animation going and featured more pop culture references than you could shake a magic lamp at. Here are some little known facts about the making of this classic Disney movie.
Lots of Disney movies have characters who don't make it into the final film, but 'Aladdin' has more than usual. There was Aladdin's long suffering mother, who tried to keep her son on the straight and narrow. Aladdin had three buddies - Babkak Omar and Kassim - who loafed around and sang barbershop songs with him. And there was the genie of the ring, a less powerful genie who stayed with Aladdin after he lost the genie of the lamp to Jafar. All of them were dumped in the name of story simplification.
Lost characters mean lost songs, so 'Aladdin' has plenty of those as well. The bittersweet 'Proud Of Your Boy' was nixed when Aladdin's mother didn't make the cut. Aladdin's three buddies had three songs ('Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim,' 'How Quick They Forget' and 'High Adventure'). 'Count On Me,' a low-key "I want" song for Aladdin, was dropped in favor of 'One Jump Ahead' and its reprise. At least three attempts were made to give Jafar a full song before he ended up with a quick reprise of 'Prince Ali.' And then there's the wretched 'Call Me A Princess,' a song for a spoiled early version of Jasmine that was tossed almost as soon as it was written.
Given how successful 'Aladdin' became, it's strange to think that the film was once on the brink of total disaster. About four months of work had already been completed on 'Aladdin' before "Black Friday," the day when then-Disney CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg told the team to scrap just about everything and start over, without any extra time to rework the convoluted and troubled story.
'Aladdin' was neither the first nor last film to have this kind of false start. Many other animated films have had first drafts that were scrapped and reworked early in production, including 'Toy Story' and 'Beauty and the Beast.'
Robin Williams had a falling out with Disney over 'Aladdin.' He worked for scale on the film, partly out of gratitude for the studio making him a film star in 'Good Morning, Vietnam,' and partly in exchange for the studio downplaying his role in the film during promotion so that Williams could promote his upcoming movie 'Toys.' Disney complied on some fronts, but ignored the deal on others. (For instance, Williams was heavily featured in the film's promotion.)
Williams declined to voice the Genie in many subsequent projects and was replaced by Dan Castellaneta, best known as the voice of Homer Simpson. Disney and Williams eventually reconciled and Williams has since been named a Disney Legend.
Like most of the Disney Renaissance films, 'Aladdin' featured groundbreaking computer animation, most notably on the magic carpet. Computer animation was still in its infancy, so the carpet is actually a hybrid of hand-drawn and computer animation.
Randy Cartwright did the hand-drawn animation of the carpet and the computer-rendered rectangle was posed to match his drawings. The result was a character that moved like the rest of the film's cast and featured an intricate design that would've been impossible to draw one frame at a time.
Aladdin's original design was younger, more cartoony, and loosely based on actor Michael J. Fox. But Jeffrey Katzenberg wanted the design changed, fearing that Aladdin wasn't a suitable leading man for the beautiful Jasmine. So Aladdin's design was reworked to be less Michael J. Fox and more Tom Cruise. However, animation on the movie had already started, so you can see traces of the old Aladdin design during 'Friend Like Me.'
'Aladdin' is obviously based on the story from 'The Arabian Nights,' but it also drew inspiration from the 1940 film 'The Thief of Bagdad.' (The spelling difference is in the title.) Genies and magic carpets are standard for the genre, but the movie also features a naive sultan who is fascinated with toys and gadgets, a young thief named Abu and an evil vizier named Jaffar.
Jasmine's design draws inspiration from a number of sources, as do the designs for many Disney characters. She is partly based on animator Mark Henn's sister Beth, particularly her facial features.
Another inspiration for Jasmine is destined to remain anonymous. Mark Henn used to work at the Florida Disney studio, which had large windows overhead so that Disney World guests could watch the animators working. One day he look up and saw a young guest with very long black hair. Whether she knows it or not, this young lady inspired Princess Jasmine's long black tresses.
There's a reason why Robin Williams voiced both the Genie and the merchant who introduces the story, and it's not because Disney didn't want to hire another actor. The original ending had the merchant singing a reprise of 'Arabian Nights' and revealing that he was actually the Genie. It was cut in favor of the quick "made ya look" joke that took less time away from Aladdin and Jasmine and their happy ending. The lost reprise was eventually used for the ending of the direct-to-video sequel 'Aladdin and the King of Thieves.'
This was the last Disney film that lyricist Howard Ashman worked on. Ashman was passionate about doing 'Aladdin' and initially refused to work on 'Beauty and the Beast' so that he could begin writing songs for his pet project. What no one else knew at the time was that Ashman was suffering from AIDS and was running out of time. He passed away before he could finish 'Aladdin.' The remaining lyrics for the film's songs were written by Tim Rice.