Wednesday, November 11, 1992
Most of the Disney Renaissance films hold up surprisingly well in retrospect. Aladdin is not one of them. Aladdin is by no means a bad film; it's very good. Certain shortcomings, however, keep it from achieving "masterpiece" status.
Aladdin continues Beauty and the Beast's tradition of diving deep into the culture of the tale. The Islamic culture of the Middle-East is represented here, complete with multiple mentions of "Allah" and direct references to the oft-harsh laws of the Middle-East. It doesn't feel quite natural, though, especially since the heroes all speak in an American accent and use American mannerisms, while most of the other characters (including the "evil" ones) have Arab accents and mannerisms. While Disney's intentions were undoubtedly honest and good, they ended up getting themselves into trouble.
One highly noticeable change from the previous film is that the fictional world represented by Aladdin is slightly anachronistic. Characters make many references to modern pop culture, allowing for numerous jokes at the expense of the film's artistic integrity.
Indeed, Aladdin seems to be focused on being a "thrillride" more than anything else. Adventure--and the pursuit thereof--seems to be at the heart of the film's message. While this is certainly a universal human theme, it may not necessarily be a good one. Whereas The Little Mermaid centered on the pursuit of dreams, and Beauty and the Beast depicted "the most beautiful love story ever told," Aladdin seems to focus on the alleviation of boredom. As with nearly all Disney films of this type, there are strong themes of romance and dream-chasing, but the "adventure" theme is at Aladdin's forefront. This, unfortunately, makes the entire film seem somewhat shallow.
The animation is slightly more simplified here than in previous films. While Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid had a more detailed approach, Aladdin has a much more fluid style. Additionally, the brief CG elements that were seen in past films have now been applied much more heavily. While it allows for more movement-based "camera angles," it doesn't look all that great. Certain elements look just fine--like the tiger-head of the Cave of Wonders--but others look obvious and out-of-place.
It seems that while Disney was attempting to make their previous two films into high art, their approach for Aladdin was to have a compelling joyride. That doesn't mean that Aladdin isn't good, or that it doesn't fit in with the pantheon of Disney animated films; it just means that it's not amazing.