Sandwiched between two of Disney's biggest, most beloved hits, is 'Aladdin.' It could easily have gotten lost in the crowd coming out after 'Beauty and the Beast' and before 'The Lion King.' Similar to the way 'Mulan' seemed to get forgotten because it was surrounded by a host of mediocre Disney films, but 'Aladdin' stands on its own as a bona fide Disney classic despite the threat of being overshadowed.
Everything seemed to go right for 'Aladdin,' (even though the movie was initially seen as a failure after it's first full screening; it was promptly reworked). The soundtrack was as memorable as any other Disney movie, the animation was lush and vibrant, its villain is still one of the best in Disney's illustrious vault, and the world wasn't sick of Robin Williams' shtick yet. The stars aligned and it ended up becoming an instant classic. It was slated for Blu-ray release in the U.S. earlier this year, but got bumped to make room for the anniversary edition of 'Peter Pan.' So, it's a good thing we can import this from Holland if we want (as well asfrom the UK on April 15th).
Aladdin (voiced by Scott Weinger) is a street rat of no consequence. "Gotta eat to live, gotta steal to eat," he sings as he dodges palace guards while snatching some bread. Like all paupers, however, Aladdin dreams of something bigger. Something that will make his life mean something. And that something includes being filthy rich.
Only, life inside the palace walls isn't as peachy as Aladdin dreams it is, which is usually the case with palaces. Jasmine (voiced by Linda Larkin) is deeply depressed by her situation. Sure she's surrounded by wealth, but she dreams of seeing the world, or at the very least, of venturing out beyond the palace walls to see what the real world is like. She's also angry that the law of the land is very adamant that the princess marry a prince, and she's coming of age. Jasmine isn't impressed by the pomp and circumstance. She wants a real man, preferably one with an American accent living in Agrabah.
'Aladdin' isn't without its faults though. As much fun as it is watching Williams bring the Genie to life with the kind of madcap flare that only he can provide, and as great as Jafar is as the chief baddie, its treatment of ethnicity is bizarre. It's pretty obvious that Disney didn't think the audience would feel sympathetic toward characters that didn't look and sound like them. So, while the population of Agrabah speaks in thick Arabian accents and appear as Middle Eastern caricatures, Jasmine and Aladdin look and sound like Americans. It's interesting to note that after 'Aladdin,' Disney movies that featured foreign-born main characters such as 'Mulan,' 'Brother Bear,' and 'Pocahontas' don't go down the same route.
The movie doesn't bear the same weight as 'Beauty and the Beast' or 'The Lion King.' 'Aladdin,' however, is an intoxicatingly fun ride with unforgettable songs and some of the best animation that Disney had to offer in the '90s. It will remain a Disney classic for as long as The Vault is around.
Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is an import from Holland (sent to us by faithful reader Julian). It was apparently released in the country without much publicity at all. It's a single-disc release that comes in a standard keepcase and no slipcover. The Diamond Edition that Disney is going to release in the U.S. at some point will undoubtedly have a slipcover so if you love them then you'll have to wait for that release. None of 'Aladdin's sequels are included here either. This is a region free disc.
I've always loved the look of 'Aladdin.' It was so vibrant and colorful. Even when I watched it over and over on VHS I remember being blown away by its stellar animation. I'm glad to report that this transfer (it remains to be seen if this is the transfer that will be used on the U.S. release) depicts 'Aladdin' in all its glory, and stays true to the Disney perfectionism that we've become accustomed to.
I don't ever remember seeing 'Aladdin' look this clear. Colors have a bit more life than they did on DVD. Color fills never waver in transparency. Lines are crisp, and the artwork really shines. Black areas are sufficiently dark. There is no noise to report. It's all as clean as you'd expect it to be.
There was one minor hiccup that keeps it from reaching that lofty 5-star mark. There is some banding that is visible during the Genie's opening number, and again when Genie and Aladdin are hanging out in the desert oasis. The moments of banding are fleeting and confined to the gradients in the sky, but they're there. They don't last long though and before you know it they're gone.
Those that can't wait for the U.S. release will find that this is a decent option. This is an exceptional transfer for a beloved film.
'Aladdin' gets a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix here. This might be where fans will want to hold out for the U.S. version. Chances are pretty good that Disney will include a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix on the Diamond Edition release. The last Diamond Edition, which was 'Peter Pan,' was accompanied by a full 7.1 lossless remix.
As it stands, the 5.1 mix here is ample by any stretch. There is a ton to love here. The rear channels are alive with activity. When Aladdin comes marching into the streets of Agrabah with his parade the ambient sound is perfectly placed. Musical numbers are belted out with force and clarity. Low-end sound is wonderfully presented. When the Cave of Wonders bellows its dire welcome to its visitors, the sub shakes with rumbling bass. The fight with Jafar at the end is a perfect example of the deft directionality on display here. When he turns into a giant snake he can be heard slithering in and out of one channel after another. Pans are tremendously effective.
Dialogue is always clear. Williams' voice throws itself all over the place as he appears here and there with different voices and accents. Nothing ever gets muddled. Alan Menken's beautiful score fills the soundscape and provides a wonderfully memorable experience.
Will an inevitable 7.1 mix add a bit more dimensionality? I presume it will. However, if you can't wait for the U.S. release, and feel that 5.1 is enough for you, then this isn't a bad way to go.
There are no new features added to this release either. Something that could change on the U.S. release. These are the same special features that were present on the Special Edition DVD released in 2004.
'Aladdin' is one of my favorite Disney movies. Having it before the U.S. release comes out is a big plus in my book. Although, a few hesitations on importing this still remain. If you're willing to accept a 5.1 mix (rather than a 7.1 mix, which will likely be on the Diamond Edition) then this import will work well for you. There's also the question of whether any special features will be added for the U.S. release. That's anybody's guess really. This is a recommended import, but it's understandable if people want to wait.