Warning: SPOILERS for Aladdin (2019)
Fans are getting a return trip into the world of Aladdin thanks to Disney's live-action film, following the tradition of Cinderella, Beauty and The Beast, and The Jungle Book. And just like those re-imagined classics, a new version means even more chances to include Easter Eggs, franchise callbacks, and references for only the most devoted Disney fan to spot.
The world's love of Disney's Renaissance has only grown since it began with the tale of Aladdin, and his adventure as the handsome Prince Ali Ababwa. So even if fans are lining up to witness the music and songs of the film re-imagined--taking the audience into "A Whole New World" along with Jasmine--there will be more nods of fan service than most will expect. Even if some are harder to find than others. Thankfully, they're easier than ever to spot in the moment, since Robin Williams' version of Genie was talking at a mile a minute. And this time around, Will Smith's take on Genie is something different. Plus, we're on hand to break down each and every Easter Egg and reference Aladdin fans won't want to miss.
Even though the original movie is almost thirty years old, we'll offer one final SPOILER warning, let's get started. Here is our dive into Aladdin: Every Easter Egg & Secret Disney Reference.
13. The Tiger Cave... Is a Lion Now?
Older fans might take one look at the Cave of Wonders--more specifically, the entrance to it--and feel as though they are watching the original film brought to life flawlessly. And given the awe inspiring nature of the massive, feline mouth through which Aladdin must pass, it's easy to link this to the wonder of the original. Except for one small, but interesting detail: while the original Cave entrance was unmistakably shaped in the form of a tiger, the live action version is just as identifiable as a lion, complete with its mane feathering out into the sand and stone around it.
The change might seem trivial, but it's a bit of a problem, since it raises questions about exactly where Agrabah is located (generally speaking, it wouldn't make much sense to craft a cave in the shape of a lion living in the African savannah, as opposed to the more familiar tigers of southern and western Asia (once having spread as far as the edges of Iran). Rather than analyzing the odds, we suspect it's a nod to the coming adaptation of The Lion King, which followed Aladdin in launching Disney's renaissance of animated features.
12. A Touch of Tangled
A cameo from the star of Tangled in Disney's hit Frozen broke fan theories wide open, speculating that Rapunzel, Anna, and Elsa may actually be related. And while Aladdin may also include a nod or two towards Arendelle and its Scandinavian/Nordic setting (we'll get to those soon enough), its callback to Tangled isn't in the form of a character at all--but a re-enactment of one of the movie's most stunning sequences... albeit on a much, much, much smaller scale.
As audiences are first introduced to the world of the film, and the sands, streets, and grand structures that make up Agrabah, small glimpses of those living in the city can be caught if fans are paying attention. Audiences can see one couple releasing paper lanterns to rise high into the air over Agrabah. No Tangled fan can forget the first time they saw the massive launching of hundreds, thousands of such lanterns on Rapunzel's birthday.
11. The Frozen-esque Foreigner
We promised a nod to Disney's Frozen, and the movie lays on the Nordic/Scandinavian influences thick. It's actually embodied in a single character named Prince Anders (played by Billy Magnussen). He's a new addition to the story of Aladdin and Jasmine (obviously) as a potential suitor welcomed to Agrabah to witness the marital potential of Princess Jasmine. But before fans start to wonder if a character actually from the world of Frozen has made the leap to live action, there's no direct link... just a whole lot of humor and costuming.
Proclaiming himself to hail from "Scanland/Skanland"--a nice nod to the region of the world, every bit as ambiguous as Frozen's town of Arendelle--Prince Anders would fit right in alongside the more charismatically dressed members of Arendelle's town square. The furs are a bit more old-fashioned than the approximate historical setting of Frozen, but the accent is every bit as over-the-top as the proprietor of Wandering Oaken's Traveling Post. A new ancestor, perhaps?
10. Cinderella's Castle Cameo
One incredible Disney castle recognizes another, whether it's the Beast's, the Sultan's, Cinderella's, or King Candy's. And technically, it was The Beauty and The Beast that paid homage to its upcoming live action adaptation first, including a scale model of the Sultan's towered castle during the "Be Our Guest" musical number. So it's only right that Aladdin should pass on the reference once given its own shot. To spot the castle, fans won't need to look too hard, but keep a watchful eye on how Aladdin's beloved magic carpet spends its time as Genie and Aladdin engage in their famous verbal spats. At one point Carpet constructs a glorious castle out of the sand, which can be seen as a replica of Disney's iconic logo. We haven't spotted any hidden Mickeys just yet, so this will have to do for now.
9. Iago Becomes a Giant Myth
One of the most visually impressive creations of the movie is the enormous and downright legendary transformation of Iago, from a shoulder-sized bird to a prehistoric bird of prey in search of a snack in a vest and cap. It's a great new role for Iago, but it's actually drawn from the same Arabian Nights legends as Aladdin. The massive mythical bird known as "the roc" is a recurring figure in Middle Eastern mythology, appearing in more than one of the original Arabian Nights tales. Iago plays too small a role to dive into the larger origins, philosophical meaning, or literary roles played by the roc in similar fairy tales, but you can't deny that he makes an impression all the same.
8. Genie's Original Movie Drawings
When Robin Williams made his debut as the original Genie in Aladdin (1992), he wasted no time in showing how easily the rules of reality could be obliterated with his magic, dropping the young boy (and his monkey) into a rapidly changing cartoon. The live action version takes that idea and blows it out even further, with massive dance numbers that turn even Aladdin into a puppet. But the new film still finds a clever way to pay tribute to the original incarnation.
Once Genie begins to explain the power, rules, and limitations to his wish-granting abilities, he gives Aladdin a visual aid to help him process this new vision of what is possible and impossible. The scroll he conjures contains descriptive drawings, but fans should take a close look, since the drawings capture the original style and likeness of Genie in the animated Aladdin. A sweet callback for fans who make sure to spot it.
7. Genie's 'Human' Clothes
Many fans wondered how it would even be possible to bring the blue, mercurial form of Genie to life in live action (without making him a completely digital creation). When audiences got their first look at Will Smith emerging in full, flowing, blue-tinged form, the response was... lukewarm. Thankfully, fans had likely forgotten how much of the movie Genie spends in human form, including shifting his skin tone to a more natural shade (not hard to get less shocking than bright blue).
The movie's version of the brawny, blue Genie is an obvious recreation of the original with some filigree flare, it Genie's 'human' form isn't random or totally original. Smith's blue wardrobe is cut in the same style as the Broadway version of Aladdin., down to his blue garments covered in bright gold detail.
6. Alan Tudyk's Disney Streak
Even if Aladdin's story is based in magic, mysticism, and fantasy, the shift to live action and a version of the world even slightly resembling our own meant sacrifices needed to be made. The villainous parrot Iago is one such casualty, who still gets some breathtaking moments in the film... but is a far cry from the version voiced by Gilbert Gottfried. Instead, he is voiced by Alan Tudyk, one of Disney's most absurdly reliable vocal performers.
Aladdin is actually Alan Tudyk's seventh Disney movie, after playing King Candy in Wreck-It Ralph (2012), the Duke of Weselton in Frozen (2013), Alistair Krei in Big Hero 6 (2014), Duke Weaselton in Zootopia (2016), Hei Hei the chicken in Moana (2016), and KnowsMore in Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018). Clearly his villain credentials speak for themselves--even in bird form.
5. Disney Parks are Real Locations?
We mentioned before that narrowing down the geography of Agrabah is a fruitless endeavor, since it's ambiguous for a reason. However, the movie itself comments on that fact when Jasmine inquires as to exactly where Prince Ali Ababwa hails from... with an incriminating map in hand. Thanks to the magic of Genie, Aladdin is able to point to the imaginary location on the map, and Prince Ali's ruse can continue. But fans scanning the rest of Jasmine's map will notice that Ababwa isn't the only make believe destination.
The map also includes at least Adventureland and Fantasyland, which are actual areas of Disney Parks. We couldn't confirm any other parts of Disney Magic Kingdoms on the map in our first viewing, but we're sure there will be more once fans know to look for them. No matter the final count, Genie obviously knows how to pick his fictional kingdoms.
4. Frank Welker's Famous Voices
For Disney fans who witnessed the renaissance hits during their childhood, the voices of the heroes and villains are as unforgettable as the locations and songs (both the voices of those playing the part, and their musical substitutes). For obvious reasons, new actors have needed to be found for Aladdin, as indelible as Robin Williams' performance as Genie may be. But there is one returning member of the voice cast who reprises both of his, some would argue, just as iconic parts.
It's hard to think of a character or franchise that veteran voice actor Frank Welker hasn't lent his talents to, in either human or animal dialogue. The live action Aladdin may swap an animated Abu for a real monkey, but it's still Welker providing his signature chatter. And he's also the voice of the disembodied, mystical Cave of Wonders. A smaller part in screen time, perhaps, but for those who still remember the massive mouth warning to "seek thee out the diamond in the rough..." seeing Welker deliver it all over again can't be matched.
3. The Genie Does His Best 'Rambo'
One of the most defining characteristics of Robin Williams' performance as Genie was how quickly and often he would seamlessly drop into a celebrity impression--and how rapidly he would shift from one to the next. From Peter Lorre, to Robert DeNiro, Jack Nicholson, and other Hollywood icons guaranteed to fly completely over the heads of the movie's young viewers. But given Williams' background in improv and stand up comedy, it was all effortless.
Obviously that was never going to be a core part of Will Smith's incarnation, but he does offer at least one celebrity impression in the movie's final act. Outfitting himself with a knife and bow and arrow, and giving his best example of a Sylvester Stallone smirk, Genie channels John Rambo as directly as he did in the original. Technically Williams didn't impersonate Stallone as Rambo until the third Aladdin movie, but we'll let it slide.
2. The Genie/Merchant Theory Confirmed
Once young viewers got older, many began to notice a strange detail about the original Aladdin: that the voice of the movie's narrator--also a merchant selling wares on the streets of Agrabah--is clearly that of Robin Williams, albeit in a single, obscured style of delivery. Given how easy and rewarding it is to spin Disney movie theories, many presumed that Aladdin's old merchant was secretly Genie in disguise, telling his own story in a wild bit of fourth wall-breaking, meta comedy.
The directors of Aladdin confirmed the theory, explaining that they had created a final scene where the narrator is revealed to have been Genie all along, but it ended up being cut out of the final version of the movie. This time around, the reveal remains, confirming the theory in both the live action and animated versions of the movie.
1. Genie is a MST3K Fan?
We're not going to dive too deeply into the questions surrounding Aladdin's actual wishes, or the theories highlighting the fact that he really only gets one honored by Genie (the one to set him free--what are the odds?). Instead, we'll stick with a surprising visual joke that comes when Aladdin points out to Genie that, just like in the original movie, he didn't actually wish his way out of the collapsing Cave of Wonders. He merely goaded (read: tricked) Genie into saving all of them. At which point Genie pauses the movie, and rewinds it to rewatch the scene to verify it for himself. Observing the movie in silhouette, confirming Genie is a fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000, which made the image so iconic.
Those are all the Easter Eggs, Disney references, inside jokes, and secret details that we could find in the new live action Aladdin, but there are sure to be more as the days, weeks, and months ahead reveal more and more. If we've missed any, be sure to let us know in the comments!
- Aladdin (2019) release date: May 24, 2019
- The Lion King (2019) release date: Jul 19, 2019