Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Disney’s “Aladdin” – Animation Scoop

Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Disney’s “Aladdin”

“Ten thousand yeeeeears will give you such a crick in the neck!” So said the Genie in the character’s now iconic first appearance on screen in Disney’s animated blockbuster “Aladdin.”

With that character’s appearance, animated films changed forever- all of them from all studios wanted to copy “Aladdin’s” knowing, whiz-bang, pop-culture humor and sensibility.

Few, if any, have been able to replicate the energy and the surprise of Disney’s take on the classic tale of the titular “street rat” who stumbles upon a magic lamp, defeats the villainous Jafar and lives happily every after in a “Whole New World” with Princess Jasmine.

Ten thousand years haven’t passed since “Aladdin” debuted in theaters, but it has been twenty five years and such a milestone is cause for a celebration worthy of Prince Ali’s parade.

To commemorate this occasion, here are 25 fun facts about Disney’s “Aladdin”…

1) The story of “Aladdin” can actually be traced back to “One Thousand and One Nights,” a collection of Middle Eastern folk tales that dates back to the 8th century.

2) The idea for the film “Aladdin,” was originally pitched not by directors Ron Clements and Jon Musker, but by the late, brilliant lyricist Howard Ashman.

3) As “Aladdin” went through development, the story went through a number of changes. In one early version of the story, Aladdin wasn’t on his own, his mom was a character in the film.

4) In another early version of the film, Aladdin had three best friends – Babkak, Omar and Kissim.

5) Also, in the early versions of the story, Princess Jasmine was a much different character than the strong, independent princess she is in the film. Originally, Jasmine was crafted as a spoiled-rotten princess.

6) Howard Ashman had written several songs for these early versions of “Aladdin,” including the touching ballad, “Proud of Your Boy,” which Aladdin sings about his mom.

7) Sadly, Howard Ashman would pass away while “Aladdin” was in production. Lyricist Tim Rice, who would go on to collaborate with Elton John on “The Lion King,” stepped in to work with Alan Menken on “Aladdin.”

8) The overall style for the film came from an unexpected place: artist Al Hirschfeld, whose sweeping-line caricatures of celebrities have appeared in such publications as “The New York Times,” and are legendary.

9) Eric Goldberg, Supervising Animator for the Genie, was the first animator who was brought on to the production. He is a life-long fan of Hirschfeld and brought that style to the character, which then went on to influence the entire film.

10) Glen Keane, Supervising Animator for Aladdin, found inspiration for the title character’s body design while observing and sketching volleyball players at the beach, while Keane and his family were on vacation.

11) For Andreas Deja, Supervising Animator for Jafar, that character would be the second of a consecutive trio of villains that Deja would animate. Deja had just completed work on Gaston in “Beauty and the Beast” and, after Jafar, would animate Scar in “The Lion King.”

12) To get the correct look for the squeaking parrot Iago, Supervising Animator Will Finn, started by caricaturing the character’s voice, comedian Gilbert Gottfried…then added feathers.

13) Robin Williams did so much improvising in his recording sessions that he actually did 52 different voices and impressions for the Genie. Among them: Jack Nicholson, Rodney Dangerfield and Peter Lorre.

14) Directors Ron Clements and Jon Musker have “cameos” in the film. They are caricatured in the crowd watching as Jasmine’s first suitor makes his way to the palace. The two characters even have dialogue.

15) “Aladdin” debuted on November 25, 1992 (Thanksgiving weekend) It was beaten at the box office that first week by “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.” However, word of mouth spread like wildfire and eight weeks later, the film found itself in the number one spot at the box office.

16) As this was the ‘90’s, there were multiple marketing tie-ins to promote “Aladdin,” including one at Burger King, which included “Aladdin” cups which changed images when cold drinks were poured into them.

17) At the Disney theme parks, “Aladdin” was given his own parade “Aladdin’s Royal Caravan,” which ran at Disneyland and the then, Disney-MGM Studios at Walt Disney World.

18) Robin Williams received a special Golden Globe for his work with the Genie, but he did not receive a deserved Supporting Actor Oscar, which many had been expecting.

19) In 1994, Disney released “Return of Jafar,” which was a first, a direct-to-video sequel and ushered in an age of these types of sequels at the Studio.

20) Due to a dispute at the time with the Studio, Robin Williams didn’t return for the sequel. Instead, Dan Castellaneta, most famous as the voice of Homer Simpson, provided the voice of the Genie.

21) The success of “Return of Jafar,” gave way to an animated “Aladdin” TV series, which debuted the same year.

22) There was a third, direct-to-video sequel, “Aladdin and the King of Thieves” (1996), for which Robin Williams returned.

23) Following in the footsteps of “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Lion King,” “Aladdin” also made its way to Broadway. The stage musical bowed in 2011.

24) The characters of Aladdin’s three best friends, not used in the film, were revived for the Broadway musical, as was the song, “Proud of Your Boy.”

25) The passing of Robin Williams in 2014 sent waves of sadness throughout the entertainment industry and beyond. Disney released a touching tribute, which demonstrated not only Williams’ enduring legacy, but also his close connection to the free-spirited Genie. The tribute featured art work created by Eric Goldberg of a smiling Genie, crafted from the nighttime stars, looking down on the magic Lamp. Disney CEO Bob Iger’s words accompanied the image, among them, “We’re deeply saddened by the loss of Robin Williams, a wonderfully talented man who touched our hearts and never failed to make us laugh.”

Michael Lyons

Michael Lyons

Michael Lyons is a freelance writer covering the animation industry.
Michael Lyons
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  • Nic Kramer

    I know that a year before the “Return of Jafar” was released on video, they was a two part comic book series that was released by Disney Comics. This was one of their final releases before Disney ended their American comic studio and went back to sublicense their characters in the states to the newly reopened Gladstone and (ironically) Marvel. The comic was bit different than the video with the Genie not making appearance in issue two and wearing no bracelets, (continuity issues aside, you’d think it would’ve been easier for the oversea animators to draw him without bracelets). Floyd Norman worked on this two-parter.