The Disney live-action remakes are starting to get bolder with their changes from the original animated source material. This year’s Dumbo saw the biggest changes yet, with the movie focusing much more on Colin Farrell’s character than everyone’s favorite flying elephant while two years ago, The Jungle Book was much more about the visuals, keeping the story basically the same.
Guy Ritchie’s Aladdin sits nicely in between the two with the key plot and character points staying largely the same while other changes throughout creating a more balanced and up to date film.
With that in mind, here are ten of the biggest changes Disney made for the live action Aladdin.
10 Jasmine as a modern role model
Princess Jasmine is the person that’s benefitted the most from Guy Ritchie’s remake. In the animated version, her character is fairly flat and simply wants to choose her suitor rather than marry one she’s presented. But here her motivations are clear and from the start it's obvious her intelligence is what's going to help her succeed. She knows she can do a good job of ruling Agrabah and as such is much stronger-minded and passionate than her 2D counterpart.
This makes the new Princess Jasmine a great role model for little girls and young women as she shows that there’s much more to achieve than looking good and falling in love.
9 Iago’s role
A lot of the sidekicks have been a bit watered down in the live-action remake but none more so than Iago. Gilbert Gottfried’s wise-cracking parrot is one of the better characters in the animated movie where he acts as the exposition between the audience and Jafar.
Here however, Alan Tudyk only really gets to repeat a few lines as a real life parrot would but nothing else. He acts as a spy and you get the feeling Jafar understands what he’s reporting back but the audience don’t get much more of the character.
8 A new character in Dalia
There aren’t many new characters added to the story in this live-action remake but one that does appear is Jasmine’s handmaiden Dalia. She provides support to the Princess and is someone to talk to, something that was done by a silent tiger (Rajah) in the animated movie.
At the same time, Nasim Pedrad’s comedic background is very much on show, including in a moment where she talks about giving her cat a bath when Aladdin thinks she’s the princess and a great scene with Genie as he asks her out on a date.
7 Jafar is nefarious, not sneaky
In the 1992 Disney Animated Classic, you get the feeling that while Jafar is certainly unlikeable, he’s at least smart about it. Here, he’s unabashedly an advocate for war from the get-go and makes no attempt to cover up his villainy.
A key thing missing is Jafar disguising himself as an old beggar and convincing Aladdin to help him. Instead, Marwan Kenzari’s Jafar’s search for the 'diamond in the rough'' sees him going through several options before finding Aladdin. Here, he's much more straightforward in his demands. This does have more of an impact at the end however as it makes his demise all the much sweeter.
6 Dialed up comedy
Disney’s animated movies don’t typically go just for the laughs but as a nice antidote to the serious nature of this year’s Dumbo and The Lion King (by the looks of it), Aladdin has a really nice dose of comedy.
And compared to the animated version in which Robin Williams is the main comic relief, it’s surprising that it’s not only Will Smith that gets the laughs. Jasmine has great wit about her, Aladdin has more than one scene where he bumbles around his Princess and Dalia the handmaiden gets a lot of great lines. The additional laughs are certainly one of the selling points of this movie.
5 High-speed lamp chase
While he might not get any good lines, Iago does get his time to shine in the film's third act. There's a sequence added into the live-action remake that sees Jasmine steal and escape with the lamp on the magic carpet.
By this point, Jafar is a powerful sorcerer so turns Iago into a monstrous bird to chase after them and retrieve the lamp. This high-speed chase through Agrabah is a great addition, dialing up the final act's tension without needing to rely as much on Jafar's somewhat underwhelming genie. It is, however, not a sequence you'll want your kids watching - monster Iago is pretty scary.
4 The cave of wonders
One of the big changes is the power that's felt by the cave of wonders. The tiger-faced cave from the animated classic is now a permanent fixture in the desert instead of something that rises from the sand thanks to a metal beetle artifact. It also now resembles a lion instead and unfortunately doesn't feel as wondrous.
The changes here aren't limited to its accessibility - it's also a bit less impressive on the inside. But perhaps it's not supposed to be. It could be argued that it's implied the power of the cave or some form of magic that sets the challenge of retrieving the lamp. Maybe only the true diamond in the rough won't be tempted - Abu is, after all a lot more taken by the jewels than Aladdin.
3 Secondary character backstories
Many more characters get screen time in the film than the animated movie - something needs to be responsible for the additional 39 minutes of run time, I supposed.
But it's not just Jasmine and Aladdin who have their backstories fleshed out, characters like Hakim, the Sultan's chief guard, have their own nice moments. Jasmine stops him from siding with Jafar by speaking about his childhood, reminding him of everything her family has done for his. This is just one of the moments that give much more context to some of the characters that would have otherwise been left alone.
2 Genie’s story arc
As well as Dalia acting as the Princess’ support system, she’s also a part of the Genie’s new story arc. What starts as a glance across the room at a party, ends with a wife and children setting sail across the world. And this is just one part of Genie’s overhaul as the character is given a lot more to do this time around.
His friendship with Aladdin is less transactional than the animated movie - there’s genuine affection between them, which makes the ending much more emotionally impactful. And while his songs aren’t quite up to the standard of Robin Williams’, having a richer story arc is where Will Smith shines as the genie. It provides him with the ability to really deliver moments of comedy, drama and some emotion.
1 Jasmine’s ending
Queue the spoiler klaxon because we need to talk about Jasmine’s ending. Just as her character had significant changes, so has her story arc. Jasmine’s ambition to become Sultan of Agrabah is rewarded at the end of the movie, removing the need to marry someone who will rule in her place.
This pay-off is an extension of the great changes made to Jasmine and ties in with her transformation into a much more complete role model. Guy Ritchie’s Aladdin is a story about getting what you deserve and Jasmine proves quickly in this movie that she’d be a great leader for Agrabah and is certainly deserving of the role.