The time-honored fable of Aladdin and his magic lamp got a 90s makeover for Disney’s 31st animated feature film. Combining comedy and many catchy musical numbers, Aladdin and his magic carpet soared at the box office, propelled by the sheer gabbiness of an over-the-top genie voiced by the irrepressible Robin Williams.

Released in 1992, the film told the story of a penniless but carefree urchin named Aladdin, living on the streets of Agrabah with his monkey Abu. Whatever the duo can’t afford (they can’t afford anything), they steal and that leads to continuous run-ins with the local constabulary. On the other side of town, Princess Jasmine paces the luxurious palace grounds and longs for freedom and adventure. Aladdin and Jasmine meet when the princess ventures incognito into the bustling city to mingle with the unwashed masses. The two hit it off (Aladdin is more than a little smitten with the beautiful, headstrong princess) but their adventure is cut short when Aladdin is arrested and thrown in prison.

Aladdin escapes with the help of a disguised Jafar, Grand Vizier and sorcerer, who needs a “diamond in the rough” to access the underground Cave of Wonders. He promises Aladdin all the riches he can carry out of the cave, if he will only fetch a humble-looking lamp. Aladdin becomes trapped in the cave with Abu and the curious lamp, a magical container that serves as the residence for a genie who can grant three wishes. The hip, fast-talking genie takes a liking to Aladdin, especially since the boy promises to free him if the genie will just help Aladdin win the princess’s hand in marriage.

Through the genie’s fabulous magic, Aladdin poses as a prince to woo Jasmine, who is not at all impressed until she realizes that the ‘prince’ is actually the ‘street rat’ who showed her such a good time on the town. Romance ensues. But lurking in the shadows is Jafar, who gains control of the lamp with the help of his pet parrot Iago (voiced wonderfully by comedian Gilbert Gottfried) and assumes power over the genie, and eventually all of Agrabah. It will require some clever trickery from all involved if Aladdin has any hope of defeating Jafar and living happily ever after with the beautiful Jasmine.

Walt Disney Productions was already on a major upswing when the 90s arrived, having scored a huge hit with The Little Mermaid in 1989 and Beauty and the Beast in 1991. Aladdin rode that tidal wave of popularity, thanks to the manic improvisational skills of funnyman Robin Williams who pulled out all the stops in his role as the genie. Alan Menkin and Howard Ashman, who wrote the music and lyrics for the two preceding Disney films had plenty of musical magic left for Aladdin. Sadly, Ashman passed away during production and was replaced by Tim Rice (who would later pen the lyrics for another Disney blockbuster, The Lion King). For their combined efforts, the musical team was rewarded with two Academy Awards for Best Original Score and Best Original Song (“A Whole New World”).

Aladdin enjoyed an overwhelming success at the box office, becoming the most successful film of 1992 and enjoying the biggest gross ever for an animated film (at least until The Lion King was released two years later). Two direct-to-video sequels and an animated television series followed and, in 2014, a stage adaptation of the film premiered on Broadway, keeping the magic of Aladdin alive for generations to come.

If you count Aladdin as one of your favorite Disney movies from the era, we would love to hear your thoughts and recollections in our comments section below, as we tip our hats to this timeless classic.

One Response to “Aladdin”

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  1. Gina says:

    Iago is my favorite Disney character. Heck, he’s my favorite fictional character. I loved him as a bad guy in the original film, but loved him even more when he went good in “The Return of Jafar”. I collect Iago memorabilia–mostly without Jafar, but I don’t mind Abu sharing space with the bird. I sleep with a well-worn plush of Iago every night. Years down the road, when they came out with “Lilo and Stitch”, and were promoting Stitch as Disney’s bad boy who’s not so bad, I came up with a slogan: Stitch drools, Iago rules!

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