Aladdin: Diamond Edition Blu-ray Review: Disney Ain’t Never Had a Film Like This Before

Aladdin is the fourth title released during the era known as the Disney Renaissance when the famed animation studio had an artistic and financial resurgence at the close of the Twentieth Century. It stands apart from the other titles on the slate because of star Robin Williams, whose manic performance as the Genie made the character seem better suited for a Looney Tunes cartoon.

Based on the Arab fairy tale One Thousand and One Nights, Aladdin tells the story of the Genie of the Lamp, sought after by the power-hungry Jafar (Jonathan Freeman), Grand Vizier to the Sultan (Douglas Seale) of Agrabah, whom he wishes to overthrow. Following the prophecy, Jafar uses Aladdin (Scott Weinger), an orphan living on the streets of Agrabah with his pet monkey Abu (Frank Welker), to enter the magical Cave of Wonders.

But it’s Aladdin who first rubs the lamp, earning three wishes of the Genie who resides inside. Although for much less sinister purposes, Aladdin is selfish with his first wish, requesting to be made into a prince so he could have a chance at Princess Jasmine’s (Linda Larkin) hands according to Agrabah law. Jafar sees through his ruse and schemes, with his parrot Iago (Gilbert Gottfried), to get his hands on the Lamp and become the Sultan.

Although he doesn’t show up until a third of the way into the film, Williams’ Genie is the star of the show, rattling off rapid-fire jokes and impressions that even animators are barely able to keep up with. And if Williams’ humor isn’t one’s cup of tea, Aladdin offers romance, impressive action scenes for an animated film, and delightful songs by composer Alan Menken and lyricists Howard Ashman and Tim Rice.

Disney gave Aladdin a high-definition upgrade with the Diamond Edition Blu-ray release. The video has been given a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC that is displayed at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Colors appear in rich, vivid hues, and the blacks are deep. The fine, intricate details of the animation are clearly on display, but some the CGI doesn’t blend as well with the hand-drawn material at this resolution.

The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 offers an immersive experience with well-positioned sounds hitting the viewer from all channels. Dialogue is clear and the music and effects swell in the surrounds. The Cave of Wonders is especially raucous, rocking the house and rumbling the subwoofer as it comes to life.

There are new bonus features in HD.

The Genie Outtakes (9 min) offers a nice, albeit short, tribute to Robin Williams, Ron Clements and John Musker, the film’s directors, and Eric Goldberg, the supervising animator for Genie, present Williams’ outtakes with storyboard drawings. Sounds like they had a lot, so it certainly leaves a fan wanting more. Also dedicated to Williams, Genie 101 (4 min) features Scott Weinger explaining who some of the Genie’s impressions are for the young viewers.

Aladdin: Creating Broadway Magic (19 min)Actor Darren Criss hosts this extended promo for the ‘Aladdin’ Broadway show. Unboxing Aladdin (5 min)Goofy kid / actor Joey Bragg, from the Disney Channel’s Liv and Maddie, reveals trivia, cameos, and Easter eggs in an annoying manner. Ron & Jon: You Ain’t Never Had a Friend Like Me (6 min) find the directors reminiscing, going back to their days as students at CalArts.

Classic Bonus Features from previous releases, all in SD.

With introductions, the Deleted Songs (14 min) are: “Proud of Your Boy” and “You Can Count on Me” sung by Aladdin, and “Humiliate the Boy” and “Why Me” sung by Jafar. Two Deleted Scenes (6 min) shown in storyboard form are a different version of “Aladdin and Jasmine’s First Meeting” and “Aladdin in the Lap of Luxury,” which includes his mother before the character was cut.

Under Music Videos (6 min), “Proud of Your Boy” is performed by Clay Aiken, with the Original Story Reel and a Behind the Scenes of the Music Video: “A Whole New World” is performed by Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey with a Behind the Scenes of the Music Video; and “A Whole New World” is performed by Regina Belle and Peabo Bryson, which played during the end credits. Disney Song Selection takes the viewer right to five songs, available in Play All mode and on-screen lyrics within film

There are two Audio Commentaries. Producer Amy Pell joins Musker and Clements on one, while the other features supervising animators for the main characters: Andreas Deja (Jafar), Will Finn (Iago), Eric Goldberg (Genie), and Glean Keane (Aladdin).

A Diamond in the Rough: The Making of Aladdin (111 min) is a five-part making-of that covers different aspects of the production. Oddly, it appears to be taking place backstage at an Aladdin event hosted by Leonard Maltin. The most intriguing detail is learning artist Al Hirschfeld’s work influenced the look of the film.

Alan Menken: Musical Renaissance Man (20 min) focuses on the composer’s career and his partnership with Howard Ashman. The Art of Aladdin: Art Review with Filmmakers; Commentary (9 min) focuses on artwork, such as sketches and color design. There are trailers for the film and sequels, and a couple of goofy extras filled with dated CGI that should be skipped are Inside the Genie’s Lamp: Guided Tour (6 min) and The Genie World Tour (3 min).

Fans that have wanted to see Aladdin in high definition will be happy to learn their wish has finally been granted, and the Blu-ray presentation, in terms of A/V specs and bonus material, make it worth the double-dip.

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Gordon S. Miller

Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of this site. "I'm making this up as I go" - Indiana Jones

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