To think that Aladdin is turning 30 certainly makes us all feel much older.
It maybe seasoned is the best word, but also somehow grateful to have had the privilege as a child or teenager, to be able to enjoy one of the most fun, hilarious, dynamic and in a sense even revolutionary that they remember.
The result of the joint mastery of Ron Clements, John Musker, Howard Ashman, Alan Menkel, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio , Aladdin remains one of the most iconic titles of the so-called Disney Renaissance, it was also the most commercially successful film in that 1992, sweeping away a competition gives nothing.
But for us, for those who grew up singing his songs and adoring the Genius, that film certainly also marks one of the moments of greatest popularity and gratitude towards Robin Williams , and for us Italians towards the great Gigi Proietti .
A film resulting from a new creative course
Aladdin was the result of a complicated, very long process, as was the case with many Disney films of that decade, in which Mickey Mouse’s house returned to dominate unchallenged, but which to see them today, in many respects often seemed an incredible gamble.
Computer graphics began to take over in an overbearing way, the need to renew themselves from an aesthetic point of view but also from a narrative point of view, trying to involve more cultures and create more differentiated characters, made Disney’s fortune after the horrendous 80s.
Based on the story “Aladdin and the wonderful lamp” contained in the collection of oriental short stories “the Thousand and One Nights”, Aladdin was conceptually born as a musical above all, thanks to the brilliant intuition of the composer Howard Ashman , who four years earlier had involved Jeffrey Katzenberg , one of the greatest producers in the history of animation.
Katzenberg immediately sensed the potential, but asked for substantial changes, in order to make the story more in line with the tastes of the adolescent audience, but without making it too childish or obvious.
In particular, he tried to push irony and a female character who was much less passive and compliant than originally conceived and offered in those years.
Aladdin was initially thought to be a teenager, eventually made into an 18-year-old, acting as an acrobat and expert thief, acting histrionic but without making him arrogant or a bad example.
From a narrative and also an aesthetic point of view, the Disney film was clearly inspired by a whole flood of adventure films and exotic Hollywood productions that probably had their peak in the very famous The Thief of Baghdad by Ludwig Berger of 1940. And in fact the Disney’s Jafar was clearly inspired by that of the great Conrad Veidt , one of the greatest actors of that period, who was also the prototype for Batman ‘s Joker .
Three characters that are anything but superficial
The first thing that caught your eye was the fact that Aladdin was trying to move in an opposite direction from that of narrative classicism, which since the dawn of time had been permeated by a profound classism and a desire to make a story of love also the story of a social advancement.
Which may seem paradoxical today, if you think that after all Aladdin only by finding the lamp with the legendary Genie inside, manages to get a chance to approach Princess Jasmine.
But the reality is that the whole plot was aimed at refuting the idea that material goods mattered essentially, the appearance, the image that one gave oneself outside, since they are our actions, the way in which we compare ourselves with others and decisions in the most critical moments tell who we really are.
Aladdin moves within a universe that is crossed by deep poverty, together with the faithful monkey Abu survives thanks to petty thefts and thefts, without having a real life perspective.
The mother was also supposed to be present in the original screenplay, but it was decided to eliminate her to give even more the idea of the protagonist’s total isolation from the reference society and so-called normality.
Jasmine turned out to be similar to him also from this point of view, since she was completely isolated, although she obviously lived as a totally privileged person, but in reality completely enslaved to the dynastic rules which want her to marry a suitor by virtue of a mere political purpose and above all reproductive (although this element remains indirect).
Rebellious, undisciplined, dreamer and above all determined to be independent and free, she represented another decisive step by Disney towards a different and more modern female representation, as we had already seen the first year in the beautiful Beauty and the Beast .
Aladdin therefore from the beginning stood as a story of youthful rebellion against the outside world, against its values and principles, based exclusively on money and power, the same ones that Jaffar constantly craved , probably one of the most slimy, selfish, treacherous but for this absolutely realistic in its psychological dimension that Disney has given us.
But the real protagonist was the Genius
But let’s face it, if we all still love this visually magnificent film today, with fantastic music and songs of which we all remember every single word, the merit is above all of him, of the Genius.
American critics literally peeled their hands for the total perfection with which Robin Williams had been able to render what in theory was simply a supporting character, the true, absolute protagonist of a Disney film that marked an absolute turning point in the relationship with irony.
Williams, who had many contractual problems with Disney, made this magical creature, both wise and naive, into an incredible concentrate of gags, homages, parodies, connecting himself to a flood of colleagues (Schwarzenegger and Nicholson above all), films , TV series, television and sports personalities, by virtue of a vocal expressiveness that was already simply legendary at the time.
The great Gigi Proietti took care of it for usto bear on his shoulders the burden of such a heavy task: to be the height of Williams. No one else would have been able to do it, dealing with the musical part and the more serious one at the same time. In fact, 30 years later, we must objectively admit that although Aladdin and Jasmine were characters who brought with them the message of a detachment from the greed and consumerism they had learned in the 80s, it was above all the Genius who represented the element of greatest semantic attraction: he was very powerful and at the same time he was a slave, he was in great company and yet hopelessly alone. In all of this, the theme of manly friendship and altruism was also introduced. The Genius also became the hero because he was incredibly selfless,
In the end, the confrontation is resolved in the different willingness to confront the concept of power, as well as empathy, given that Aladdin will understand how all this is a double-edged sword and how it is right to have the fate of the Genius at heart. Also for this reason, 30 years later, it’s not just the big laughs that make us remember this film, but how much they hid incredibly deep and current themes.