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ALADDIN: DVD

SYNOPSIS:
Aladdin (voiced by Scott Weinger) is an urchin making his way on the desert streets of Agrobah as a thief and a general trouble-maker. When visiting the town's market-place one morning, Aladdin rescues a young woman from the clutches of the palace guards, only to discover that she is the Sultan's daughter and soon-to-be-married princess Jasmine (voiced by Linda Larkin). Under the orders of the Sultan's Grand Vizier Jafar (voiced by Jonathan Freeman) Aladdin is thrown in jail and soon becomes embroiled in Jafar's devilish plan to uncover the whereabouts of a magical lamp that will grant him power over the Sultan and his kingdom. But Aladdin's own desires see him draw on the lamp for his own benefit, using the power of its eccentric genie (voiced by Robin Williams) to make him a prince so he can win the fair Jasmine's heart and stop the evil Jafar.

Review by Craig Miller:
While it has been responsible for a lion's share of sickly sentimental pap in the motion picture industry over the years, sometimes The Wonderful World of Disney is exactly that, wonderful, and in 1992 their musical masterpiece Aladdin rejuvenated the animated musical, becoming one of the studio's greatest triumphs.

Following on from the successful Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast (which had both done well for Disney but, for me, didn't capture anything truly special), Aladdin took the feeling, emotion and strongly themed sentiment that was present in these films and turned it into musical magic.

Based on one of the stories from a collection of Arabic tales, 1001 Arabian Nights, Aladdin is, basically, a deliciously simple tale but with all the complexities of the human condition. Its focus, two star-crossed lovers fighting the establishment and their social confines so they can be together, is the fundamental theme of many a great love story, but the rich desert setting, real emotion and the superb music and songs it uses makes it one of the best. And what songs they are. Without Alan Menken, Tim Rice and the late Howard Ashmen, and their contributions to the film's powerful soundtrack, including the beautiful songs (which earned the film Oscars for Best Song and Best Original Score), Aladdin would not have shone nearly as brightly as it does. They are truly inspiring.

Along with the music, the comedy of crazed funny man Robin Williams is just as essential. The fun-filled tone of Aladdin allows Williams to dominate the comic landscape of the film and here he is at his G-rated best. The animation format is perfect for Williams, as anything that can be done with his Genie character is done, and this freedom delivers a truly unique, unforgettable screen character.

The transfer to DVD is picture perfect. The animation looks wonderful, the colours are rich and vivid and the difference in quality between this newly released DVD version and the VHS format is just about as far apart as you can get. If you are still having trouble convincing people on the benefits of DVD, then Aladdin makes the perfect show piece on the splendors of the digital disc delight. Just as importantly, the film's audio quality is equally impressive. With the score and musical interludes playing such a massive role in Aladdin, it is wonderful to see a soundtrack mix live up to the quality of the film's own superb music.

Much like the magical film and transfer (even the packaging), the DVD extras on this double disc are something else too.

As well as the feature, the first disc contains a couple of commentaries and a pop-up trivia track that reveals all manner of juicy bits about the film including details on the designer's use of colour and shapes for emphasising feelings, good and bad, the use of early CGI, and Robin Williams' Herculean effort in the recording studio as, over four sessions, he recorded more than 20 hours of material for the film. A lot of the information on this track can be found throughout many of the other featurettes on the DVD, but as a companion piece to the commentaries, it fits the bill nicely.

Of the two commentaries, the filmmaker's track is the best. Co-writers/directors/producers Ron Clements and John Musker and co-producer Amy Pell delve into an incredibly informative chat about the film's production and, even though the second track with four of Aladdin's animators makes for interesting listening in a technical sense, this first natter-fest is thoroughly absorbing, with their enthusiasm for this project and their work in general, making for valuable DVD content.

The deleted scenes and songs, while interesting from the film's history point-of-view, offer little in the context of the finished film, with most of the material that is 'deleted' being more conceptual. Earlier versions of the film had Aladdin living with his mother and different circumstances surrounding Aladdin and Jasmine's first meeting, and it's the songs and early sketches of these scenes which make up the bulk of this collection.

The feature length making-of series, A Diamond in the Rough, won't disappoint either, with it's 'Play all' and 'Your Wish is our Command' viewing alternatives. This 70-minute doco series starts with film guru Leonard Maltin hosting an informal chat with Clements, Musker and Pell in front of a class of animation students, and continues on with segments relating to animation, storyboards, script development, production..., oh, pretty much everything.

Like all good Disney DVD packages, there's also plenty for the little'ns to get excited about with a tour through the Genie's lamp, a wishing game and a brilliant virtual tour through the Aladdin universe. This interactive feature allows you to explore The Cave of Wonders, the streets of Agrobah and other Aladdin hotspots gathering clues to help rescue Princess Jasmine who has once again been imprisoned in an hourglass by that scoundrel Jafar. The guessing game itself is a little frustrating in places, but zipping through the desert landscapes on the back of a flying carpet is enough reward on its own!

With advancements in animation moving at such a blistering rate, it's wonderful to be able to go back and see what was done all those years ago with the old pen and paper. Aladdin, while slightly showing its age due to that 'primitive' cartoon animation is, without question, a truly marvelous film experience that transcends the cartoon genre to something worthy of being defined as a classic.

Published December 16, 2004

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ALADDIN: DVD (G)
(US, 1992)

CAST: Voices of: Robin Williams, Scott Weinger, Linda Larkin, Jonathan Freeman, Douglas Seale, Gilbert Gottfried

DIRECTOR: Ron Clements & John Musker

SCRIPT: Ron Clements, John Musker, Ted Elliot & Terry Rossio

RUNNING TIME: 87 minutes

PRESENTATION: Widescreen 1.66:1, Dolby Digital 5.1

SPECIAL FEATURES: Disc 1: Filmmaker's commentary, Animators commentary, Pop-up fact track, Deleted songs and deleted scenes, Music videos & 'making of' music videos, Disney song selection featurette. Disc 2: A Diamond in the Rough: The Making of Aladdin, Art of Aladdin, Alan Menken: Musical Renaissance Man featurette, Trailers, Aladdin's Magic Carpet Adventure: A Disney virtual DVD ride, Inside the Genie's Lamp tour, The Genie World Tour featurette, 3 Wishes game, Publicity material.

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Buena Vista Home Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: October 13, 2004







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