When we last left off with my Disney Catch-Up, we were just delving into the wonderful era that I grew up with, the Disney Renaissance. We continue with one of my personal favourites, 'Aladdin'. Now, before I delve into things, let me just mention that I'm not about to get into any racial whatnot, as when I viewed this as a kid, it was all about the lovable characters and story.
Back when I first saw this at the age of 10, I was happy to see what looked like it was going to be a real adventure story, rather than a lovey-dovey story. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but after 'Beauty and the Beast' and 'Little Mermaid', I was ready for another 'Rescuers Down Under'. Now, for as much as I love 'Down Under', it was 'Aladdin' that definitely became my go-to Disney adventure story. And the funny thing? They snuck in a whole new lovey-dovey story anyway!
The film opens with a merchant who tells us our story, taking place in the city of Agrabah; City of mystery, enchantment, and the finest merchandise this side of the river Jordan! Royal Vizier, Jafar (Jonathan Freeman), along with his sidekick parrot, Iago (Gilbert Gottfried) seeks a magical lamp that dwells in the secret Cave of Wonders. However, the only one who can enter the cave is the "diamond in the rough", Aladdin (Scott Weinger); a homeless thief (only really stealing to eat) with mad parkour skills.
In the meantime, Princess Jasmine (Linda Larkin) is upset about having an arranged marriage to a prince, rather than the idea of marrying for love. Her father, the Sultan (Douglas Seale) has to reluctantly pressure her as well, as she "must" do it by her next birthday. This makes her escape the palace to get out into the world (at least for a while) where she bumps into an instantly smitten Aladdin, and his sidekick monkey Abu (Frank Welker). Long story short, there's a misunderstanding, and Aladdin is thrown in jail where he unknowingly meets Jafar.
Jafar makes a deal with Aladdin - he'll secure his freedom if Aladdin goes lamp spelunking for him. Aladdin agrees, but during the mission gets betrayed by Jafar, who thinks he manages to get the lamp. Abu manages to grab it last minute, but now, Aladdin and Abu are stuck in the cave with a magic carpet, and of course, the Genie (Robin Williams) who emerges from the lamp, and promises Aladdin three wishes, but with three simple rules - no killing, no bringing anyone back from the dead, and no making people fall in love. Aladdin's one true wish is to be with Jasmine, however, so he's gonna have to figure something out.
So, while much of the story is all about Aladdin trying to get with Jasmine, that's not what I'd say highlights the movie in any way. For me, you have three big deals going on here. One, the Genie is one of the best Disney sidekicks ever, and has one of the catchiest songs ever. Two, Jafar is one of these villains who's out for pure power, and it leads to some pretty badass animation during the film's climax; also, probably my all-time fave Disney villain. And three, I fully appreciate that this is a pretty wild adventure and a love story all at once, proving Disney can make a movie for everyone (well, almost everyone). To this day, one of my personal favourites of the Disney library.