Sadly, Robin Williams died this week, but this movie is one of the best and happiest legacies he left behind.
You may not believe this, but I solemnly declare that nobody on this Disney-saturated earth loved Aladdin more than I did. I owned this movie and both sequels on VHS, I watched the TV spin-off religiously, I had the soundtrack on cassette tape, and when occasion permitted, I was allowed to rent the Aladdin game on Sega Genesis. So I’m sorry, all of Generation Y, but your love for this movie will always be inferior to mine.
Aladdin was a highly successful movie at the time, becoming the first animated film to gross more than $200 million (though I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before more recent animated classics I find on Netflix like Pokemon the Movie: White: Victini and Zekrom inevitably eclipse such “success.”)
The Arab community was understandably offended by several aspects of this film, not the least of which was that controversial lyric that originally said, “Where they cut off your ear if they don’t like your face.” Then there’s the fact that, to Muslims, Jasmine is dressed like a prostitute. But remember, this version of Aladdin comes from Disney, shot through a 1990s American lens. (And you know it was the early ‘90s because Aladdin’s wardrobe includes a stylish vest.)
Disney created the genie with Robin Williams in mind the whole time. He was a busy man back then and apparently recorded most of his scenes between filming breaks on Hook. Williams ad-libbed so much of the movie that the script was supposedly tossed out of the running for a Best Adapted Screenplay Academy Award nomination.
Williams wasn’t the only star in this film, though. Scott Weinger, the voice of Aladdin, was DJ’s boyfriend in Full House and the voice of the sultan was Santa in Ernest Saves Christmas. Need I say more?
OH, SOMETHING YOU SHOULD KNOW: If a creepy guy with a parrot ever asks you to explore a talking sand-cave shaped like a severed Tiger’s head with glowing eyeballs, there’s a chance something about that situation may be amiss.
The merchant we meet at the beginning of the movie (who is also voiced by Robin Williams) sets the stage for the rest of the story by trying to sell us an old lamp. Do you remember his sales pitch?
“Like so many things, it is not what is outside, but what is inside that counts.”
The merchant continues, “This is no ordinary lamp! It once changed the course of a young man’s life — a young man who, like this lamp, was more than what he seemed: a diamond in the rough.”
Because diamonds have varying degrees of perfection, first glances can be deceiving. To see the true value of a diamond requires a closer, deeper look of what is inside.
This might be why the genie counseled Aladdin to “beeeeee” himself — not the self who stole and lied to people in the marketplace, but the self who gave away his only loaf of bread to starving children.
If we street rats are to be ourselves, then we ought to be our best selves, or our exceptional value will always be overshadowed by our imperfections.
Remember: Instant wealth comes from genies. Infinite worth comes from choices.
“And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.” — Matthew 25:8