A “magic carpet ride” – that is a good description of what experiencing Disney’s Aladdin for the first few times is like. From the enchanting Middle Eastern theme of bejewelled princesses and thieves, Sultans and genies, to Robin Williams gifting his unparalleled charisma to the protagonist’s blue friend (who actually steals the show), this 1992 title has so much going for it that, in 2016, Business Insider found it to be 13th among the highest grossing animated movies, totalling at $449.9 million, ahead of Toy Story 3 and Monsters Inc.
“”… itty-bitty living space.”” by JD Hancock (CC BY 2.0)
For a long time, merchandising has kept Aladdin alive, even decades after its original release. Items like the Genie Emoji Luggage Tags from the Disney Store has happily satiated the fans so far. Even the online casino industry has been providing its own memorabilia with websites like Good Day Bingo offering Aladdin slot games; the five-reel Aladdin’s Legacy is one of the most well-known. There’s even a 100% deposit promotion on offer currently, meaning it can be played with bonus funds.
Now, the most popular of these animated films are being adapted into live action versions – Beauty and the Beast (2017), The Jungle Book (2016), Cinderella (2015) – and, surprise surprise, Aladdin, may be next in line.
The release date is as much under speculation as the film’s potential, especially since the exciting yet perplexing confirmation that Guy Ritchie will be directing it. The man’s competence is not in question, but how much freedom he will have is, something entirely dependent on rating. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017) was an unexpected blast of fun but it was rated PG-13, whereas the titles mentioned above were both PG. Whatever is decided, we can be certain that the outcome will be worthwhile, at least in terms of grungy, good-paced flair.
The cast is boosted by Will Smith taking up the mantle of Genie, giving a different spin to the prestigious character. Nevertheless, it is both disappointing and understandable that the use of Robin William’s voice and image has been prohibited by his estate for 25 years as per his request. This is also the reason why 2015 talks regarding a prequel relating the origin of Genies and one particular star among them were put on hold. Aladdin is already in the works and cannot wait until 2039 but the spin-off has been given plenty of time to consider its future. Maybe a commemorative masterpiece is in order?
The role of Aladdin, street rat turned heart-throb Prince Ali, has been given to Mena Massoud, a relatively unknown but experienced actor – Jack Ryan (2017), Open Heart (2015) – of Canadian and Egyptian descent. Naomi Scott, best known as Pink Ranger in 2017’s Power Rangers, is to be Jasmine, thanks to her acting and vocal skills. Despite her English-Indian nationality causing a few waves, the producers and most of the fans are pleased with the choice.
Marwan Kenzari – What Happened to Monday (2017), the Mummy (2017) – appears set to play the villain, Grand Vizier Jafar, while the Sultan still awaits his representation. There are still several parts to be filled and plenty of room for the Disney classic to be reinvented without deviating from the original plot.
Singing is guaranteed, no whole new world there, but there is a suspicious silence about the animals, Abu, Iago, and Raja. While Abu the monkey, ranked by Buzzfeed as their second favorite Disney sidekick, does not talk and is, therefore, easier to include in physical or CGI form, Iago, Jafar’s chatty parrot, would be a bit more complicated.
Once again, any concerns should be eased by the fact that the screenplay is in good, tasteful hands. CinemaBlend reports that the movie is namely a collaboration between Ritchie and John August, a frequent associate of Tim Burton credited for the likes of Frankenweenie (2012), Corpse Bride (2005) and Big Fish (2003). As of yet, Aladdin cannot be definitively compared with the existing movies of its kind, but it is turning out to be a very interesting concoction.
“Magic Carpet Ride” by Michael Saechang (CC BY-SA 2.0)
What can be taken from all this is that the project is moving in a predominantly fresh-faced, inventive and witty direction, the months-long deliberation indicating a precise, caring vision, as well as the likelihood that it will still be a while before shooting even begins. With so many other live action Disney movies coming up in the next two years, including but not limited to The Lion King, Dumbo and Mulan, we will be sufficiently dazzled to distraction by gossip and releases. Aladdin can then woosh onto the silver screen to either soar or flop.