Disney's CinemaCon presentation included updates and teasers for many upcoming movies - including a five-minute clip from Aladdin in which our hero enters the Cave of Wonders and meets Will Smith's Genie. Directed by Guy Ritchie and starring Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott as young lovebirds Aladdin and Princess Jasmine, Aladdin is the latest live-action remake of Disney's animated classics, with The Lion King also still to come this year.
The marketing for Aladdin has so far been troubled by controversy and skepticism, and perhaps no aspect of it has attracted more skepticism than the Genie. Smith has the unenviable task of stepping into the curly-toed shoes of the character originally voiced by the late Robin Williams - a role that includes recreating classic songs like the Genie's introductory number, "Friend Like Me." We saw a glimpse of this song in the full-length trailer for Aladdin, but CinemaCon audiences got to see exactly how it has been updated for the 2019 version of the movie.
The CinemaCon footage opened with a shortened version of Aladdin's introduction to, and exploration of, the Cave of Wonders. Jafar (played by Marwan Kenzari) promises to make Aladdin "wealthy beyond [his] wildest imagination" once he retrieves the lamp, but warns him not to touch any of the other treasures. As in the original movie, Aladdin's pet monkey Abu doesn't heed this morning, and lands them both in trouble. That's when Aladdin rubs the magic lamp and the Genie bursts forth - at first putting on a deep and scary voice and addressing Aladdin as "great one who summons me," before assuring Aladdin that he's just kidding and launching into "Friend Like Me."
Though not everyone who was in attendance was won over by the footage (one critic described it on Twitter as "pure nightmare fuel") others praised it for its visual flair and creativity. "Friend Like Me" is more or less the same as in the original, except with a few extra lyrics, rap moments (the Genie even boasts about his rapping skills in the song), and a bit of Smith beatboxing. Like a lot of Disney's "live-action" remakes, this was a very CGI-heavy sequence, but it may be lively enough to win the skeptics over.
Most of Disney's live-action remakes have so far proven to be major hits, but this past weekend Dumbo proved that a movie cannot thrive on nostalgia alone. The Tim Burton-directed update of Disney's 1941 classic scored a relatively meagre $45 million box office in its opening weekend (for comparison's sake, Beauty and the Beast's opening weekend was $174 million). So, while all-out flops from Disney are rare these days, Aladdin is nonetheless one of the studio's biggest box office risks of the year.
In addition to this clip from Aladdin, Disney's CinemaCon presentation also included a brand new clip from the hotly-anticipated sequel Avengers: Endgame, and confirmation of the studio's entire 2019 movie slate. This now includes Fox titles like Dark Phoenix and New Mutants. There are four live-action remakes in total releasing this year - Dumbo, Aladdin, The Lion King, and Maleficent: Mistress of Evil - and many more still on the way.
- Aladdin (2019) release date: May 24, 2019