Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

Aladdin - Special Edition

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
9 out of 10
Extras Rating:
9 out of 10
Movie Details:
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Buy this DVD at Amazon.com

Rating: G

Starring:
Scott Weinger as Aladdin 'Al'/Prince Ali Ababwa (voice)
Robin Williams as The Blue Genie of the Lamp/Merchant (voice)
Linda Larkin as Princess Jasmine (voice)
Jonathan Freeman as Grand Vizier Jafar (voice)
Frank Welker as Abu the Monkey (voice)
Gilbert Gottfried as Iago the Parrot (voice)
Douglas Seale as Sultan of Agrabah (voice)
Bruce Adler as Narrator (voice)
Brad Kane as Aladdin 'Al'/Prince Ali Ababwa (singing voice)
Lea Salonga as Princess Jasmine (singing voice)

Special Features:
Commentary by the filmmakers

Commentary by the animators

Restored and enhanced digital transfer with an all-new 5.1 Disney Enhanced Home Theater Mix

"A Diamond In The Rough: The Making of Aladdin" -- new documentary

Deleted Song "Proud of Your Boy" by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken

Clay Aiken Performs "Proud of Your Boy"

Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey perform "A Whole New World"

Alan Menken: Musical Renaissance Man

Deleted Scenes & Songs

Disney's Virtual DVD Ride: ALADDIN's Magic Carpet Adventure

The Art of ALADDIN

3 Wishes Game

Inside The Genie's Lamp -- Never-Before Seen 3-D Tour

The Genie World Tour

Pop-Up Fun Facts -- Watch the film in this special "trivia mode" feature to experience and share fun and interesting secrets about the film

Disney Sing-Along Song Selection

Other Info:
Widescreen (1.66:1) – Enhanced for 16x9 Televisions
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
THX Certified
French and Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 96 Minutes

Synopsis:
This film was originally released in 1992. The following is from the DVD cover:

"Soar away on a magic carpet ride of nonstop laughs and thrills in one of the most spectacular adventures of all time! Now meticulously restored and enhanced – experience the wonders of Aladdin like never before, from the Academy Award winning music to the unforgettable moments of sidesplitting comedy and soaring adventure.

In the heart of an enchanted city, a commoner named Aladdin and his mischievous monkey Abu battle to save the free-spirited Princess Jasmine from the schemes of the evil sorcerer Jafar. Aladdin's whole life changes with one rub of a magic lamp as a fun-loving, shape-shifting Genie appears and grants him three wishes, setting him on an incredible journey of discovery.

Enter a 'whole new world' of entertainment in this astounding, fun-filled 2-disc Special Edition, featuring the deleted song "Proud of Your Boy", games, movie secrets and so much more – it's everything you could ever wish for!"

Aladdin is rated G.

The Movie:
Unless you've been living under a rock, you probably have seen Aladdin. It's easily one of the best Disney animated features. It had a rare mixture of humor, romance, and beautiful music that made it entertaining for both kids and adults.

A big part of this winning formula is the combination of Robin Williams and the Disney Animators. The Genie is one of the most fun animated characters ever put on screen. And since Robin Williams seems like a live action cartoon character anyway, he was a perfect choice for the role. You can tell when he improvises and it brings a whole new level of humor to the scenes. However, he also brings sincerity to the role that even makes the "serious" scenes touching.

The other big key to the success of this film is the music by Alan Menken, Tim Rice, and Howard Ashman. "A Whole New World" still holds up as a classic, rousing piece of music and the amusing songs "Friend Like Me" and "Price Ali" feature hilarious vocals by Robin Williams along with catchy tunes that stick in your head.

The animation isn't particularly amazing now, but back then it featured some pioneering use of computer animation. The CG tiger head at the beginning was quite impressive on the big screen and it still looks good today. The restoration process has also made the colors in the scene brighter and more vibrant than ever. The magic carpet was also a unique blend of 2-D hand drawn animation and CG coloring and details. It helped show that CG animated characters could have some spirit and personality of their own.

All in all, if you've seen Aladdin, you probably know it and love it. It's fun to revisit it on DVD and share it with a new generation of fans who are experiencing it for the first time.

The Extras:
This DVD is full of extras that are excellent, but the glaring absence of Robin Williams forces me to bump their rating from a 10 to a 9. Here are the highlights of the bonus features, though:

Commentary by the filmmakers – Producers / Directors John Musker and Ron Clements provide this commentary along with co-producer Amy Pell. The three provide an excellent and informative commentary. They address the story, music, animation, and more. They will probably cover most aspects of the film which you are interested in. Throw in all sorts of interesting trivia and you'll definitely want to check it out.

Commentary by the animators – Andreas Dejas, Will Finn, Eric Goldberg, and Glen Keane provide the commentary here. They animated Jafar, Iago, Genie, and Aladdin. As you might expect, the discussion is centered almost exclusively on the animation and art. If you're into animation, this will be right up your alley, otherwise the previous commentary is a more well-rounded.

"A Diamond In The Rough: The Making of Aladdin" – This documentary, which is over 2 hours long, is hosted by Leonard Maltin. In front of a studio audience, he interviews the directors, the producers, Howard Ashman, Gilbert Goddfried, Scott Weinger, and others. After a short Q&A, it switches over to documentaries and vintage footage that supplements whatever subject they were discussing. This includes the story development, the music, the animation, the voice talent, and more. You'll learn about how the story was dramatically reworked late in the game to delete Aladdin's mother, the development of the other characters, and other stuff. This is also about the only place you'll see Robin Williams on the DVD. He's otherwise glaringly absent from the bonus features of the DVD. Also included are rough shots of some of the animation, footage of the recording sessions for the songs, and amusing "green room" interviews between Gottfried and the cast and crew waiting to go out on stage with Leonard Maltin. It's an excellent documentary (with the exception of the lack of Robin Willimas) and it gives great insight into the making of the film.

Deleted Song "Proud of Your Boy" by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken – This documentary goes into great detail about how this song was developed and how it meant a lot of to the late Howard Ashman and Alan Menken. You get to see the original rough footage of the scene (and Aladdin's mother) and a rough track of the song with Menken singing. It's a good song, but it doesn't compare to those left in the film. Still, it's interesting because of the emotional attachment the creators seemed to have with it.

Clay Aiken Performs "Proud of Your Boy" – American Idol runner up Clay Aiken sings this version of the deleted song. His voice is perfect for the tune and in the behind the scenes footage with the video, Menken seems very pleased with the final result. Along with a music video showing Aiken singing in front of an orchestra, you also get a short "making of" feature along with it.

Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey perform "A Whole New World" – Barbie and Ken…I mean…Jessica and Nick sing their version of "A Whole New World". They do a decent enough job, but I'm so used to the previous versions that they have a hard time comparing. The music video is just a tad awkward as Jessica seems either uncomfortable or deeply concentrating on the lyrics. Nick seems to be having a little more fun. Like the Clay Aiken video, this one is accompanied by a "making of" feature.

Alan Menken: Musical Renaissance Man – This is a short biography on Menken. It's quite in-depth and shows him from childhood till his work on Home On The Range. I didn't realize that he wrote Little Shop of Horrors with Ashman, so this was interesting for me. Anyway, he's a great talent and it was fun to learn more about his life and work.

Deleted Scenes & Songs – There were a few deleted scenes. One shows Jafar humiliating Aladdin in front of Jasmine, her father, and the crowd. He sings a deleted song while doing this. A second deleted scene shows an alternate version of this which is closer to the final product. Another deleted scene shows more of Aladdin and his mother. None of the scenes are great, but they give more insight into the development process.

Disney's Virtual DVD Ride: Aladdin's Magic Carpet Adventure – In this game you fly around the world looking for clues how to save Jasmine from Jafar. The Lion King's Timon guest stars in this and there are cameos by other Disney character like Stitch. The game doesn't take skill and it is roughly animated, but kids will enjoy it.

The Art of Aladdin – This video includes a review of some of the artwork from the film by some of the animators. There's also a still frame gallery.

3 Wishes Game – In this game you make a coin go in a mechanical Jafar's mouth then make a wish. There's not much of a game to it.

Inside The Genie's Lamp -- Never-Before Seen 3-D Tour – Robin Leach (or a good imitator) takes Iago on a tour through the Genie's lamp. You see the kitchen, bathroom, living room, and more. Needless to say, Iago doesn't make it through unscathed.

The Genie World Tour – This short video shows postcards from Genie's trip around the world sent to Jafar trapped in the lamp. It's funny, but brief.

The Bottom Line:
If you have any animated Disney DVDs in your collection, this will be a required addition to it. Aladdin is fun for both children and adults.

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