DISNEY’S POT OF GOLD
ALADDIN IS THE LATEST IN A STRING OF CRITICALLY ACCLAIMED REMAKES
Disney is on to a good thing with its run of live-action remakes. Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book and Tim Burton’s Dumbo have both been praised by critics, while Bill Condon’s Oscar-nominated Beauty and the Beast was the second-highest grossing film of 2017.
But Aladdin could be Disney’s most ambitious remake yet.
Filmed in Jordan’s Wadi Rum Desert and England’s Longcross Studios, the musical fantasy puts a new spin on the beloved trio of titular street urchin Aladdin, his love interest Princess Jasmine and his wish-granting mentor the Genie.
Loosely based on a Middle Eastern folk tale from One Thousand and One Arabian Nights, the original 1992 animated film was a box office smash for Disney, grossing more than half a billion dollars globally and winning the Oscars for best original song and best original score.
“I saw this as a sort of clash between two worlds. It’s a story about a street kid dealing with his insecurities in a Disney environment,” says director Guy Ritchie, best known for his action-packed adaptation of Sherlock Holmes and the gritty British crime comedy Snatch.
“The Disney environment gave me a new space in which to discover and experience a world familiar to me that I already feel confident in. I like embarking on new, creative challenges, and this certainly was
“I was interested in doing a musical. I’ve got five kids, so that does influence the decisions that you make, and my house was all about Disney at the time.”
Actor Will Smith has big shoes to fill as the Genie, following on from the late Robin Williams’ acclaimed vocal performance in the animated film. His live-action incarnation of the magical Genie, who is depicted as both blue and Smith’s natural skin colour in the new film, has received mixed reactions from fans and critics.
“Robin Williams did an absolutely brilliant job on the film, and it’s such a memorable performance, and for me, when I’m looking at a role – especially one that has nostalgic value to it – I ask myself ‘Is there any meat left on the bone? What is it that I could add to the role?’,” Smith says.
“One of the major aspects was going from animation to live action and the idea of being able to pay homage to the original character and to honour Robin, while at the same time giving a new voice to modernise the Genie ... there was the potential to create something that did both of those things.
“This was the first project since The Fresh Prince of Bel-air that has used so many of the things that I like to do. In this film I get to sing and dance and rap and perform and do comedy and drama, so it was a great opportunity to use myself fully as an artist.”
Composer Alan Menken’s award-winning songs have also been given an update.
Arabian Nights is now a complete musical number that serves as an introduction to the story, and the lyrics for Prince Ali, the film’s biggest song-and-dance production number, were tailored to better fit Smith’s persona.
“Guy really wanted to take chances with the music but at the same time he was deeply respectful of the original songs,” says Smith.
“He knew how he wanted it to sound and how he wanted it to feel but gave me the freedom to use my hip-hop background and bring a fresh vibe to it.”
Naomi Scott, as Princess Jasmine, also sings the new song Speechless, written by Menken and The Greatest Showman songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Aladdin opens in cinemas on Thursday.