Disney released the animated film Aladdin in 1992, solidifying its “Renaissance” era that was preceded by 1989’s The Little Mermaid and 1991’s Beauty and the Beast. Along with it, we were introduced to cherished characters such as the Genie, Princess Jasmine, Jafar, and, most importantly, Aladdin himself.
Since then, Aladdin has become one of the most well-recognized and beloved characters in Disney history, prompting him to be brought back for TV shows, Broadway plays, theme park rides, and even a live-action adaptation. Even with so much of Aladdin out there for audiences to see, there is still a lot about the character that even die-hard fans might not be aware of. These are 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Aladdin.
10 THE ANIMATION BEHIND THE CHARACTER
According to the team of animators behind Aladdin, the film drew inspiration from caricatures by Al Hirschfeld, a celebrated American caricaturist who was best known for drawing musical theatre stars. More specifically, animator Andreas Deja described the design of Aladdin’s body as a composition of “two interlocking triangles formed by his chest and his pants.”
Glen Keane, who oversaw the animation of Aladdin as a character, stated that animators were encouraged to “use simple poses that made clear, positive statements” about the protagonist. At one point, there were 22 animators at Disney working singlehandedly on bringing Aladdin, the character, to life.
9 ALADDIN WAS SUPPOSED TO HAVE A DIFFERENT SOLO MUSICAL NUMBER
The only solo musical number that Aladdin has in the entire 1992 animated movie is One Jump Ahead, which serves less as a breakout moment for the protagonist and more of an opportunity for exposition about who this character is. However, that was not always the case. In fact, a song called Proud of Your Boy was written for the animated movie but ended up being cut from the final script. Much of the song revolves around Aladdin having a moment with his mother, which is a character who is never mentioned or even alluded to in the original film.
Thankfully, the Broadway adaptation of Aladdin decided to include the song in the musical, and we can now enjoy this tender moment from one of our favorite Disney characters.
8 ALADDIN WAS MEANT TO BREAK THE “DISNEY PRINCE” MOLD
It may be hard to believe it now, but in 1992, Aladdin seemed like a huge gamble. Up until that point, most – if not all – of the princes in Disney movies had very limited personalities. Think of the unnamed Prince in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Prince Charming from Cinderella, and even Prince Phillip from Sleeping Beauty. These guys barely had names, and even if they were given one, they were mostly out of the picture.
With Aladdin, Disney wanted to break the mold, introducing to audiences a charismatic prince and an empowered princess who could still fall in love in a fairytale setting. Thankfully, audiences were more than ready to respond positively to these new types of Disney royals!
7 THE INSPIRATION FOR THE STORY OF ALADDIN
The character of Aladdin was adapted by Disney from a tale – known as Aladdin’s Wonderful Lamp or as Aladdin and the Magic Lamp – in the One Thousand and One Nights (The Arabian Nights) book. Unlike other fairytales that needed to be significantly “Disneyfied” in order to become animated movies for kids, the plot of 1992’s Aladdin is actually very similar to the original tale.
In the original text, Aladdin was an impoverished young man who was recruited by a sorcerer who disguised himself as Aladdin’s uncle. The sorcerer gives Aladdin a magical ring and convinces him to enter a cave in order to retrieve a lamp. However, Aladdin gets trapped in the cave. As Aladdin rubs his hands, a Genie appears, who manages to get him out of that cave. While there are definitely certain differences here and there, the general description of the original Aladdin sounds very similar to the Disney version, right?
6 THE REAL-LIFE INSPIRATIONS FOR HOW ALADDIN LOOKS
If you thought that the animated Aladdin looked familiar, well, that’s because he actually does. Initially, the animators behind Aladdin drew inspirations from actor Michael J. Fox to bring the title character to life. It was the late 1980s and early 1990s, after all, and the actor was one of the hottest names in Hollywood, fresh off of 1985’s Back To The Future.
However, as the production moved forward, Disney’s then-studio chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg made the suggestion that the character should look more like an action star, like Tom Cruise. Before the 1992 release of Aladdin, the actor had already released movies such as Top Gun and Rain Man, which made him a household name and a very familiar face.
Michael J. Fox and Tom Cruise? No wonder Aladdin became such a Disney heartthrob!
5 TWO PEOPLE VOICED THE CHARACTER IN THE ORIGINAL FILM
The animated Aladdin we know and love may sound the same throughout the entire run of 1992’s Aladdin. However, there were actually two separate actors who were responsible for bringing the character to life in the film. Scott Weinger, best known for playing Steve on ABC’s Full House and Netflix’s Fuller House reboot, lent his voice for all of the acting scenes involving Aladdin. But the character’s singing voice – meaning the voice that we hear in all of those musical numbers – came from actor Brad Kane instead.
As a matter of fact, Brad Kane lent his singing voice to Aladdin several other times throughout the years, such as in the 1994 direct-to-video sequel The Return of Jafar and in the 2000 video game Aladdin in Nasira’s Revenge.
4 THERE ARE FIVE MAIN VERSIONS OF ALADDIN
When it comes to the world of Disney, there are five main versions of the character of Aladdin. Of course, there is the original one from the 1992 animated movie. Then, there was the first-ever non-animated adaptation of the character in Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular, a live show that ran at the Disney’s California Adventure theme park from 2003 to 2016.
Then, Aladdin came to Broadway! Disney’s Aladdin musical had a soft opening in Seattle as early as 2011, arriving on Broadway three years later. In 2016, a live-action Aladdin finally came to the small screen in the television series Once Upon A Time, which aired on the Disney-owned ABC network. The fifth and most recent version of the character came in 2019, with the live-action adaptation of Aladdin.
3 CASTING A LIVE-ACTION ALADDIN CAME WITH SOME BACKLASH
While Disney got away with casting whomever it wanted in the role of Aladdin for many years, things had changed quite significantly by the time that the Broadway musical came along. Upon announcing that it had cast actor Adam Jacobs – who had previously played Simba on the Broadway version of The Lion King – as the title character in Aladdin, Disney sparked a massive backlash among Americans with Middle Eastern descent.
At the center of the debate was the question: shouldn’t a character who was from the Middle East be played by an actor who shared his heritage? To make matters worse, ABC cast an Australian actor to play the Once Upon A Time version of Aladdin on TV. Thankfully, these cultural considerations were given much more weight when it came to casting the 2019 live-action Aladdin film.
2 MANY ACTORS WERE CONSIDERED TO PLAY ALADDIN IN THE 2019 FILM
When the live-action Aladdin film was announced by Disney, there was a solid certainty that the studio would try to correct its past mistakes and avoid “whitewashing” the character yet again. As reports began to come out about the movie’s casting process, actors such as Riz Ahmed and Dev Patel were seemingly being considered.
Ahmed, who is of Pakistani descent, was already known for his work in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Nightcrawler. Patel, who is of Indian Hindu descent, was famous for his work in Slumdog Millionaire and Lion. Of course, neither Pakistan nor India are in the Middle East, but one could argue that these were better choices indeed.
Alas, Disney found its live-action Aladdin in Mena Massoud, who by many standards was still considered an up-and-coming actor. Massoud was born in Egypt and raised in Canada.
1 THERE IS A REASON WHY THE LIVE-ACTION ALADDIN IS MORE “COVERED UP”
As a general principle, animated movies can get away with a lot of things that live-action films just can’t pull off. For instance, Disney had no problem having a virtually shirtless prince throughout almost the entire run of 1992’s Aladdin, but that would have looked quite different in the live-action film.
For that reason, the live-action Aladdin was more intentionally “covered up.” When interviewed about his aesthetic choices, costume designer Michael Wilkinson said: “We thought having so much skin showing on Aladdin for the whole film would be quite distracting on a human actor as opposed to a cartoon character.”