In the latest episode of our ongoing series, Screen Rant's Ryan George reveals what (probably) happened in the pitch meeting for Disney's 1992 animated classic, Aladdin. Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker and featuring unforgettable songs by Disney legend Alan Menken, Aladdin is the tale of a street rat, his pet monkey, a magic lamp, and a creepy old guy who wants to marry a 15 year-old girl.
While it's dated in the ways you'd expect a movie from almost three decades ago to be dated (complaints from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in led to Disney changing the song lyrics "Where they cut off your ear/If they don’t like your face"), Aladdin is still considered to be one of the all-time greats from the Disney Renaissance... which naturally means it's now getting a remake. The movie was originally based on a classic Middle Eastern folk tale, and one of the best-known tales from the One Thousand and One Nights collection.
Related: Frozen Pitch Meeting
Of course, Disney wanted to update the story a little bit for modern audiences, so Robin Williams was cast in the role of Genie and incorporated a quick-fire litany of impressions to keep the adults entertained - including Jack Nicholson, William F. Buckley, Jr., Rodney Dangerfield, and Groucho Marx. It remains to be seen whether Will Smith's Genie will do similar impressions of modern celebrities (possibly Vine or YouTube stars) that will feel similarly dated in 30 years' time.
As you might expect of an adaptation of an older movie packed with stereotypes of the Middle East, Guy Ritchie's Aladdin remake has been plagued with controversies - from putting white extras in brownface, to replacing the snooty Prince Achmed with a white Prince played by Billy Magnussen, to casting British-Indian actress Naomi Scott as an Arab princess. Then there were the decidedly mixed responses to the first look at Will Smith as the Genie in his full, blue, CGI glory.
Still, if history has taught us anything, it's that betting against a Disney movie (especially one of Disney's live-action remakes) making lots and lots of money is a bad idea. With Tim Burton's Dumbo projected to blow up the box office this weekend, it seems that nostalgia is still a powerful tool for drawing both adults and kids into theaters. And with Aladdin promising to include not only songs from the original movie, but also brand new songs written for the remake, we can probably expect to be enchanted all over again.
- Aladdin (2019) release date: May 24, 2019