You ever forget that you know every single word to a movie? I did that. While reviewing Disney’s new Blu-ray of 1992’s Aladdin, I found myself able to recite along with the movie the entirety of the screenplay – everybody’s lines. I remember all the inflections and grunts to a degree I certainly wouldn’t have expected. The movie came out 23 years ago, and I probably haven’t seen it in at least 15 years, if not more. But my brother and I wore the VHS tape of that movie out, listened to the cassette of the soundtrack, played the Super Nintendo video game, and pretty much breathed Aladdin for two years, until The Lion King came out. And while I know every beat line by line, it doesn’t make watching Aladdin any less enjoyable as a 31-year-old.
Lately, Disney has been excellent about releasing their older films in thorough Blu-ray editions which cater to both the young fan and the older (gosh, I’m older now, aren’t I?) film lover, with extras for the whole family. They usually have a few featuring current Disney Channel stars I’ve never heard of, but they also have interviews with the filmmakers (if available) who are, in this case, 23 years older and could, to some younguns, just look like a couple of old dudes talking about weird stuff. Which, of course, they are.
I’ll get to the individual extras in a second, but the main feature here is, of course, the movie, which looks simply gorgeous in HD. This was right at the dawn of digital animation, following 1991’s Beauty and the Beast, and so whole sections feature the hand-drawn characters with CGI backgrounds and obstacles. This melding is very evident to the now-trained eye, which can easily spot the animation scratches of 2D and the rather crude at times early-90s computer graphics. The Cave of Wonders, for example, looked super cool in ’92 and now looks, eh, maybe less so. The Flying Carpet, a favorite character, was actually almost entirely animated in the computer, with only his expressive tassels/hands/feet being drawn by hand. But the escape from the cave with the lava and “A Whole New World” sequence still look great.
There are two aspects to the movie that continue to impress almost more than any Disney movie. The first of these is the music. Composed by Alan Menken and featuring lyrics by Howard Ashman on some songs and Tim Rice on others (Ashman died in between the first batch of the film’s songs and the next), these songs are of a totally different variety from others in the Katzenberg era. Aside from the Arabian-infused melodies, there’s a big band swing feel to almost everything in the movie, aside from that slow song, of course. If you listen to “One Jump Ahead” or “Friend Like Me” and don’t tap your foot, you’re a zombie.
Which brings me to the second unique part of Aladdin: Robin Williams. You simply can’t replicate the boost in humor and imagination the character of the Genie brings to the proceedings, and Williams’ improvisational skills are what made that character as amazing as it is. The animators just let him go and riff and make stuff up and a lot of that ended up in the film which necessitated specific animations. Look at the “Friend Like Me” scene. It’s weird and surreal and frantic and rapid-fire and all of that comes from the marriage of Williams humor and brilliant animation by Eric Goldberg.
A great many of the Blu-ray’s features celebrate Robin Williams. There’s a featurette in which the directors and animator discuss working with Robin Williams and we get to hear some outtakes not used in the film. There’s also a featurette called “Genie 101” in which Aladdin voice actor Scott Weinger talks us through all of the Genie’s various references, impressions, and homages. There’s “Unboxing Aladdin” in which Disney Channel star Joey Bragg (who?!?!) talks us through the film’s other Easter Eggs, and the lengthiest feature details the creation of Aladdin as a Broadway musical which opened last year.
So, yeah, I love this movie. It’s still as good as it was when I was a kid. You probably love it too, and this Blu-ray edition is exactly what you want from a package celebrating such a movie. Darn you, Disney; you’ve done it again.
Kyle Anderson is the Weekend Editor and a film and TV critic for Nerdist.com. Follow him on Twitter!