Off the Shelf…’Aladdin’

Aladdin_HeaderIt is no surprise that 20 years later, Aladdin, quite possibly the most amazing and crowd-pleasing film in the Disney Renaissance, still holds up. While the film is ever more than the sum of its parts, two decades of having songs and characters ingrained in our brains and pop culture have shown just how transcendent the film was, and continues to be.

A colorful mix of great voice talent, witty writing, dazzling visual splendor, and of course the songs that nearly everyone knows the words to contribute in making this animated effort an outstanding cinematic achievement. There are plenty of other places to find gushing and glowing reviews of this timeless classic, so while we’d really like to pour on the praise at near effusive levels (trust us, we are capable of doing so), what really is most remarkable about this Blu-ray release is that it sport not just a pristine visual and audio transfer, but a wealth of new and vintage bonus features.

Disney is known to repackage their previous content and, honestly, the so-called classic supplements truly outshine the new material. Regardless, what makes each of these releases worth owning is the look into the production. That peek behind the camera shows film fans the impressive talent (animators, actors and musicians) who worked on the Aladdin. Not just their efforts to make a hit, but all the trial and error (a lot surprisingly) that goes into making any film, let alone a classic such as this.

Perhaps the most memorable element of the film, and the biggest loss to the Disney family beyond Robin Williams, who passed away in 2014, was the loss of Howard Ashman. His Oscar-winning collaboration with Alan Menken is renowned as the duo single-handedly helped renew interest in theater and musicals on a grand scale. Their work on The Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast helped make Aladdin a near hat trick were it not for his passing during the production of Beast (most of the words you know so well in Aladdin are the contributions of Tim Rice). But like cinema, well, more appropriately theater, the show must go on.

Co-directors Ron Clements and John Musker wrangled immense talent (seriously, how great is Gilbert Gottfried as Iago?), worked with the first ever all CGI character (Carpet), and tried a lot of storylines/song choices before honing in on the version of Aladdin we know so well. It’s really interesting to see what might have been, but like always, and especially with a film as acclaimed and well-received as this, it’s impossible to think of Aladdin any other way.

It’s fun getting back to this story of mystery, enchantment and true worth lying within these 23 years later and finding new elements to enjoy. Aladdin is most appropriately a “diamond in the rough”, although you’d have a hard time not expecting something from the Mouse House (based on their animation legacy) to not be this much fun.

G-S-T RULING:

The new supplements are a little bit of a letdown as the feature length from the previous DVD edition really did capture it all. One good thing, as brief as it is, the outtakes from Robin Williams are kind of enjoyable. The rest are barely worth one pass. The visuals are astoundingly crisp and so it’s rather fitting Disney added this to their Diamond Edition as every frame sparkles like the facets of a gem.

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