Aladdin (1992)
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Cast: Robin Williams
Extras: Deleted Songs, Deleted Scenes, Audio Commentary, Games & Much, Much More!

Back in the early 90’s Disney was on a roll with its animated features. With the massive hit "Beauty & The Beast" behind them, Disney’s next project had a lot of expectations to live up to. Led by the directing-writing-producing team of John Musker and Ron Clements, 600 animators, artists and technicians joined creative forces to bring "The Arabian Nights" tale of a boy and his magical lamp to life and the screen in one of the most popular versions. Released on November 11, 1992 "Aladdin" became Disney’s most successful animated feature and top grossing film at the box office up until "The Lion King" was released 2 years later.

To say "Aladdin" is a great film is an understatement. The film truly succeeds on so many levels. Along with the fantastic crew, the collaboration of voice talent is what brought "Aladdin" that large step further. Featuring the voices of Robin Williams, Gilbert Gottfried, Scott Weiniger, Linda Larkin, Johnathan Freeman, Frank Welker and Douglas Seale, and the singing talent of Brad Kane and Lea Salonga, "Aladdin" became a magical journey of a young man’s desire to become someone he wasn’t. And only through the helpful guidance of a magical Genie does Aladdin truly realize that it’s not what’s on the outside that counts but what’s on the inside that truly matters.

I remember I was in high school when I saw this film released in the theaters. Up until that point I was never a big fan of Disney’s form of storytelling. Besides the rare exception like "The Great Mouse Detective" and "The Little Mermaid" I could never get into their films. It wasn’t until "Aladdin" came out that I completely changed my ways. The incredible characterization in the film not just from Aladdin and Genie, but also from the supporting members really brought me into the story. Iago (voiced by Gilbert Gottfried) and Jafar (voiced by Johnathan Freeman) were the best villains I’d ever seen in the animation genre. Next to other great animators/creators during that era like Don Bluth, John Musker and Ron Clements brought a wide smile to my face with what they’d brought to life on screen. The written relationship not just between Aladdin and Jasmine, but between her and her father, The Sultan of Agrabah, were genuine and felt real. "Aladdin" is by far my favorite Disney animated film. "The Lion King" was very good, especially from a production perspective – but not until Disney released "Lilo & Stitch" in 2002 did I feel that Disney magic once again.

And now 12 years later "Aladdin" is finally brought to DVD in a glorious 2 disc special edition that will knock you right off your magic carpet. It doesn’t take the rub of a magic lamp to realize that Disney knows that this is one of their classics, so they’ve given "Aladdin" the royal treatment.

For the first time ever "Aladdin" is finally available in 1.66:1 <$16x9,anamorphic> <$PS,widescreen>. The state-of-the-art digital mastering reveals incredible detail and colors. Similar to the past Platinum Editions such as "The Lion King", "Beauty and the Beast" or "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs", "Aladdin" has been reformatted and digitally cleaned up one frame at a time to give the viewer a greater sense of immersion into the magical Arabian kingdom. Edge enhancement is non-existent and line structure is solid. To give the film a greater sense of detail, nearly 100 scenes were enhanced. Under the direction of the original animators, some scenes were redrawn, adding more facial details to match the higher resolution of a digital format. Colors have been enhanced in the backgrounds to bring greater color and detail to the image. The color in the cave of wonders is stunning. The intense blue Genie looks that much better, even compared to my older CAV Laserdisc edition of the film. Blacks are solid and never exhibit any sort of compression artifacts. This is another reference disc from Disney.

To one up the spectacular visual presentation, Disney has given "Aladdin" an all new 5.1 Disney Enhanced Home Theater Mix, created by Academy Award nominee Terry Porter, "Aladdin’s" original sound mixer. Not quite as dynamic as "The Lion King" this audio remix is incredible. For the new sound mix, Porter took the original film’s three <$5.1,5.1 channel> mixes and processed and rebalanced them, creating a more plausible sound mix that suits the acoustic environment of a home theater as opposed to a theatrical mix. Dialog is crystal clear. Williams numerous vocal talents come alive throughout the room as we are first introduced to him in The Cave of Wonders. Sound effects, especially in the scene where Aladdin is trying to escape becoming a permanent resident in the cave are loud without sounding distorted or compressed. The various musical numbers are not to missed as well, since this is the first time most people will experience them in <$DD,Dolby Digital> surround. In no time you’ll be verbally reproducing lines of dialog word for word as the scenes take place. Or maybe that’s just me. I’m guilty of watching the film over 40 times.

You might want to refill you coffee mug before continuing. This IS a Disney special edition and there are a lot of bonus features to go through and enjoy. Let’s begin with Disc 1. Besides the feature presentation, the first disc does feature some bonus features. The first is a "Deleted Songs" section. These are songs that never made it into the final cut of the film. Most use storyboards to follow along with the songs. Next are two "Deleted Scenes" which, similar to the songs, never made it into the film. They were cut even before the animation process began so they are in depth looks, using storyboards, of different takes on events in the film. The first meeting between Jasmine and Aladdin was completely different and I’m quite happy they did change it. The original wasn’t that good compared to the final choice.

After you’ve checked out the deleted section, you’ll head over to the "Music & More" section. This is where the many music videos and Disney song selections are located. The widely advertised Clay Aiken "Proud Of Your Boy" and Jessica Simpson/Nick Lachey cover of "A Whole New World" are presented here. Both are available in either 2.0 stereo or the 5.1 remix. The original video for "A Whole New World" is included also. The song selection section allows you to immediately jump to every song/scene in the film. You’re also given the choice of on screen lyrics to sing along with. Now all we’re missing is a bouncing ball.

And rounding out disc one is "Backstage Disney," which features a commentary with the filmmakers and an additional commentary with the animators. Those I’ll have to leave till later. Once you’re done listening to the commentaries, activate the Pop Up Fun Facts. Throughout the film interesting facts are brought up on screen that are worth a look.

Disc two is even more feature loaded. "Games & Activities" is where we begin.

First is "Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Adventure," which is a virtual DVD ride. You play as Aladdin as you ride carpet through the city of Agrabah to rescue Jasmine from the clutches of Jafar. A guest appearance by a certain miercat adds a comical twist to the adventure. Along the way you need to make choices on where you’re going to go next. One in while you have to solve puzzles to advance further. The 5.1 digital sound is great. Because you’re riding a carpet from Al’s perspective you get the full effect from all your speakers.

"Inside The Genie’s Lamp" is a guided tour through the interior of the genie’s lamp. It’s another neat feature. Iago, voiced by Gilbert again (Thank you) is taken through the lamp and narrated by a Robin Leech impersonator. Your choice is a guided tour or a manual one. If you take the manual one you won’t have the hysterics of Iago to listen to though. The Leech dialog is different though so it’s no harm to listen to both.

"3 Wishes Game" is another funny game that also features Iago and Jafar. You’re goal is to get a gold piece into the mouth of Jafar. Doing so grants you a wish but unfortunately nothing really happens when you do. No extra video or anything. It’s similar to those old amusement park wishing machines we see as kids. The same kind as in the Tom Hank’s film "Big".

"The Genie World Tour" is a little animated feature that has Jafar and Iago reading an animated card from the Genie as he travels across the world with his new found freedom. This was one of the extra’s you might want to avoid. Great for kids but this was something I didn’t really enjoy.

After leaving the games section of the disc we get into the meat of the disc that adults will enjoy a lot more – "Backstage Disney."

The first is the fantastic making of Aladdin called "A Diamond In The Rough." Leonard Malton is the host of this section and you get almost 2 hours of the making of Aladdin. It’s really well laid out so even if you don’t watch it all at once you can easily navigate to any spot of the documentary. Make sure not to miss this one. Highly recommended.

"Alan Menken: Musical Renaissance Man" is a 20-minute feature on the man who composed the music and songs for some of Disney’s biggest films. It’s a nice little bonus that has interviews with Alan, his parents and various other people talking about his work. If you’re a fan of Disney’s musical numbers you’ll want to watch this.

"The Art of Aladdin" is a still frame gallery featuring numerous areas such as visual development, story development, backgrounds and color keys and character development. You can also listen to the filmmaker’s commentary about the artistic style of the film.

And last of all is the "Publicity" section featuring Theatrical Trailers for "Aladdin" and the direct to video sequels "Aladdin and The King of Thieves" & "The Return of Jafar". For those that didn’t know, Robin Williams didn’t return for these films. Instead Dan Castellaneta, the voice of Homer Simpson, portrayed Genie.

I’m sure anybody with children is going to be purchasing this film, but for those of you who feel that you’re to old for "cartoons" you are missing out. "Aladdin" is one of the best films released in the 90’s and still to this day holds up extremely well. It’s extremely funny and has plenty of adventure properly placed between the romantic sections of the picture. I couldn’t ask for a better version than this DVD. Disney knows how to treat their prize pictures with the respect they deserve, unlike some studios cough, cough, Paramount, cough. And for those who really want a bargain, pick up the Collector’s DVD Gift Set instead of just the film. For an extra $10 you get not only the 2 discs film, but also a beautiful hard cover book detailing the entire DVD creation process and film making history. It’s the same layout that came with the stunning "Lion King" box set. You also get 8 character portrait drawings and a limited edition Senitype animation cell from the actual 35mm film frame. And last is a beautiful hard cardboard box to store everything in. Plus the artwork on the box is really nice. This is value at its best.