If there was ever a testament to the magic of Robin Williams, it’s in his portrayal of Genie from “Aladdin.” The friendly Genie has been something of a pop culture facet for decades before “Aladdin,” and what could have been a stock character is transformed in to one of the most inadvertent heroes of all time. That’s mainly because Williams instills a humanity and charm in the magical being that’s impossible to recapture. Even a brilliant voice actor like Dan Castellaneta never reached that pitch that Williams did with his turn as the Genie. Though Aladdin is often depicted as the hero of the “Aladdin,” it’s the genie that’s mainly the hero, because he doesn’t just help Aladdin, but he also keeps him on the straight and narrow, devising ways to prevent the magic of the lamp from corrupting the character.
Williams take on the genie is rapid fire and raucous, as he plays the lonely and enigmatic genie of the lamp who takes a shine to Aladdin when he becomes his servant. Williams is just so apt for the role, and sets a standard for animated sidekicks that future animated films would try hard to duplicate and rarely copy. 1992’s “Aladdin” is one of the many Disney animated masterpieces that hasn’t aged a bit since its theatrical debut, and remains a fine stamp on cinema from the late great Williams. Movie lovers tend to brand Disney films as utterly timeless, and “Aladdin” is definitely one of the golden age from Disney that fits the bill. Even with the genie spouting various pop culture references from the decade, there’s just something about “Aladdin” that’s magical, and alluring, and absolutely incredible. I was fortunate enough to see the film when it originally came to theaters and had a blast with it.
It’s no wonder modern audiences continue discovering its ability to excite, thrill, and awe. “Aladdin” borrows from classic tales like “Thief of Baghdad” to convey its own version of the tale that has actually managed to outlive the original stories it stems from. While “Beauty and the Beast” is normally the Disney film to get the critical love all around (I saw it in theaters, too!), I much prefer “Aladdin” primarily for its underdog story, more comical tone, and catchier tunes. From “One Jump Ahead” to “Friend Like Me,” the 1992 animated masterpieces garners so much substance and entertainment that speaks to all audiences, despite being touted to children. “Aladdin” is a wonderful film filled with replay value (not to mention a fascinating production story), and if you haven’t seen it yet, it deserves to be seen as it exemplifies the idea of Disney’s “golden age of animation” well.
Featured on the stunning Blu-Ray from Disney is a wealth of bells and whistles. There are two feature length commentaries. One features producers and directors John Musker, and Ron Clements, as well as co-producer Amy Pell. The second features supervising animators Andreas Deja, Will Finn, Eric Goldberg and Glen Keane. There’s a nine minute reel of Genie Outtakes, with introductions by the animators. There’s a fun selection of very family friendly improve and outtakes with Robin Williams who plays the Genie. The segment is ended with a wonderful tribute to Robin Williams. “Aladdin: Creating Broadway Magic” is a nineteen minute featurette hosted by Darren Criss who takes viewers on a trip through the production of the stage musical version of Aladdin.
“Unboxing Aladdin” is a five minute Disney Channel prom with Disney star Joey Bragg who explores the hidden easter eggs in the film that kids might find surprising and exciting. “Genie 101” is a four minute interview with voice actor Scott Weinger (voice of Aladdin) who explores the genie’s references pointed out in the movie to kids. “Ron & Jon: You Ain’t Never Had a Friend Like Me” discover the partnership between the two gentlemen and their work in Disney during the nineties. Finally, there’s a myriad bonus features for fans from previous editions, including “A Diamond in the Rough: The Making of Aladdin,” “Alan Menken: Musical Renaissance Man,” “The Art of Aladdin: Art Review with Filmmakers’ Commentary,” a series of deleted songs from the original movie’s scripts, deleted and alternated scenes, a few music videos, a look at the genie’s lamp and oh so much more. This is the edition you’ll want decorating your Disney library.