Disney's blockbuster animated hit Aladdin tells the story of wiry, thieving, arrest-avoiding, starving orphan "street rat" Aladdin (voiced by Larry Hagman; choreographed by Douglas Fairbanks) and his equally morally degenerate anthropomorphic pet monkey Abu (voiced by Bill Dailey).
As the cartoon opens, Aladdin is conned by evil magician Jafar (voiced by Hayden Rorke) into visiting the desert "island of wonders" where he will supposedly find great riches. Jafar is convinced that Aladdin will fulfill the prophecy that speaks of great treasures on the island being revealed to a boy who is a "diamond in the rough" (Jafar is convinced that Aladdin is such a boy because he first saw him on a golf course).
Unfortunately, Aladdin's ship crash-lands on the island. When he opens the door to get out, he knocks over a beautiful bottle, accidentally uncorking it. Pink smoke rises from the bottle and solidifies into the form of the barely clothed, bellybuttonless genie, Jeannie (voiced by and modeled after Robin Williams). Jeannie is immediately taken with Aladdin and begins calling him "master".
Aladdin and Jeannie move to Florahdah, an oasis in the Middle East. Once there, Aladdin has a series of wacky adventures as he and Abu try to keep Jeannie's existence secret from his boss, Jafar.
The film sports one of animation's greatest performances: Robin Williams as Jeannie. Most talked about were his hilarious adlibs and the cute fold-your-arms-and-blink move he performed whenever making something magical happen.
Aladdin's songs also proved quite popular, including the tearful ballad sung by Jeannie to Aladdin when he's trying to convince him that they belong together because neither of them has any real friends ("You'll never have a friend, like me.") The film's soundtrack, Aladdin Sane by David Bowie, went platinum only days after its release.
Though financially quite successful, Aladdin was dogged by a number of controversies.
First, Robin Williams agreed to voice Jeannie for free on the condition that Jeannie not be the focus of advertising, his name wouldn't appear anywhere associated with the film, his voice wouldn't be used in the making of merchandise, and the bottle in which Jeannie lived be decorated with copious throw pillows. Disney initially agreed, but shortly after the film's release the company licensed the production of a Jeannie doll that spoke a variety of Williams' lines from the movie (e.g., "I would not be going out with your best friend if I were married to his best friend" and "Master, is football more important to you than I am?") This threw Williams into a horrible violent rage, culminating in his making the film Toys.
Second, there is a line in the film in which Aladdin supposedly instructs "all good teenagers, take off your clothes." This caused a great number of press releases and angry letters from concerned parents who were apparently unaware that teenagers do this kind of thing anyway.
And finally, the lyrics of the song "Arabian Knights" had to be changed after a massive outpouring of protest from anti-discrimination groups. In retrospect, the new lyrics ("Where it's flat and immense and good folks live in tents") aren't all that great, but they're far superior to the original ("Where we'll blow ourselves up if we don't like your face") which were extremely disturbing and offensive.
Trivia: Aladdin ties with Alice in Wonderland for the title of "Disney animated feature with the most references to decapitation."
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