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Monday, November 07, 2011

Monday Matinee - Aladdin

For today's blog entry, I thought that I would take this opportunity to ask all of you a question. You don't have to feel obligated to record your answers in the comment box down below, although if you'd like to, you're more than welcome to.

Today's question is...if you had been given the ability to have three wishes, what three things would you wish for?

(Keeping in mind that the only restrictions for the three wishes are that you cannot use the wishes to wish death on anyone, bring someone back from the dead, or make someone fall in love with someone else.)

That may seem quite easy for some people to come up with three things they desire most out of life, but for other people, having only three wishes may not seem like enough.

There's really a lot of ways that people could go when it comes to being granted three wishes. I imagine some people would have wishes that were purely materialistic. They would want a new house, a new car, lots of money, expensive jewelry, an advance copy of the new Call Of Duty video know, things like that.

Sometimes people would choose to wish for more practical things, such as wanting to find a decent place to live, or wishing for a good job, or money to go back to school.

And sometimes, people would want to wish for something miraculous, such as world peace, or curing the illness of a loved one.

There's really no shortage of choice out there for people. If you were granted three wishes, how would you use them up?

I thought about this for quite some time and as I was doing some research on this blog entry, I managed to come up with three wishes of my own that I would use for myself (and no, I did not use the cop-out of having one of my wishes be for more wishes...that would be cheating, and dodging my question).

What are those three wishes? Well, the first one that I have is that I would love to be able to find a way to explore more of the world. Not with the hectic pace that some of the contestants on The Amazing Race see the world, mind you, but a more relaxing pace. I've really only seen just a small part of this big, beautiful planet that you and I call home, and to me, that's never really been enough. Of course, in order for one to see the world, one would have to find a way to be able to afford to pay for it, and well, I haven't managed to win the lottery yet. So, yeah, that would be my first wish. My first wish would be to see the world. Who knows, maybe my first wish will allow me to look at the world through different eyes. A whole new world, if you will.

What an appropriate song to post for this blog entry! The song, recorded by Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle hit the top of the Billboard charts in March 1993, and happens to be the main theme song for the Disney movie that is featured in today's blog.

The song 'A Whole New World' comes from the soundtrack to the movie Aladdin, which was released in theaters on November 25, 1992.

(And just on a side note, Aladdin happens to be one of my all-time favourite Disney movies, so I was really looking forward to doing a piece on this film anyways!)

The movie itself was unique in that the two lead characters were voiced by people who very well could have been newbies to the voice acting scene. The voice of Aladdin, for instance, was played by actor Scott Weinger. If that name sounds somewhat familiar to some of you, you may remember him from his role as Steve Hale on the television sitcom Full House during the sixth and seventh seasons of the show's eight year run. Prior to Aladdin though, he had only made appearances on Life Goes On and a failed television sitcom. As for Princess Jasmine, she was played by Linda Larkin, another relative newcomer to show business, having only had guest appearances in Murder, She Wrote, and Doogie Howser M.D to her credit.

And yet, watching the movie, it's hard to picture anyone else in the roles, isn't it? Both Scott and Linda did a fantastic job in the movie.

Of course, you had your big named heavyweights too. Both Frank Welker and Jim Cummings made appearances in the movie, and both of them have had humongous success in the world of voice acting, as had Jonathan Freeman who played the evil Jafar. Gilbert Gottfried's voice is easily recognized as Jafar's sidekick, Iago.

Of course, the really big heavyweight was the casting of Robin Williams as the Genie, which Williams agreed to do to show his gratitude in response to the success he enjoyed starring in the Disney/Touchstone produced Good Morning, Vietnam. He did have a couple of conditions though. He agreed to do it provided that his name or image wasn't used to promote the film, and that the character he played would not take up more than 25% of the space used in the promotional materials for the film, including movie posters, toys, and even the cover of the VHS tapes when the film was released on video.

Here's one of the promotional posters for Aladdin. Can you see where they completely ignored Robin's demands right off the bat here?

I'd say that's a bit more than 25% of the poster, don't you?

Apparently Williams wasn't too pleased by this, and in the weeks after Aladdin was released, he and Disney had a falling out that reeked in bitterness. In some of the future Aladdin projects, Dan Castellaneta (who you may know best as Homer Simpson), took over the voice of the Genie, but when Jeffrey Katzenberg was fired from Disney and replaced by Joe Roth, Disney issued a formal public apology to Williams, who accepted.

The soundtrack for the film was absolutely incredible as well. I mean, you already heard one song up above, but there were twenty other original songs and compositions that appeared on the soundtrack and in the film, which showcased the work of composer Alan Menken, and songwriters Tim Rice and Howard Ashman, both of whom had worked on Disney feature films before. In fact, it was Ashman who actually came up with the idea to make Aladdin into a movie. Sadly, Howard Ashman passed away in March of 1991 due to complications from AIDS, so he wasn't able to see his work pan out on the big screen. Ashman's death was the reason behind why Tim Rice was brought onto the finish the work that Ashman had started.

The end result was a film that had a lot of heart and a powerful message.

The movie is about a young street kid named Aladdin who along with his sidekick, a monkey named Abu, has to resort to stealing things from the marketplace in the kingdom of Agrabah. One day, he happens to bump into Princess Jasmine, who had arrived in the marketplace after being frustrated with her privileged, yet suffocating lifestyle at the palace of Agrabah. Though both of their backgrounds are as different as night and day, the two find themselves having quite a lot in common, and Aladdin manages to save Jasmine from losing her hand from a merchant after taking an apple without paying for it to feed a hungry young boy.

Alas, the newfound friendship between Aladdin and Jasmine is short-lived when Aladdin is arrested for thievery. Despite Jasmine's pleas for Aladdin's release from custody, but Jafar, the Grand Vizier to the Sultan of Agrabah (the Sultan being the father of Jasmine), tells the princess a rather cruel lie, saying that he had been executed for his crimes.

In reality, Jafar had planned to use Aladdin in his quest to get the magic lamp inside of the mystical Cave of Wonders. It was rumoured that the magic lamp contained a genie who had the power to grant its holder any three wishes they desired. Jafar wanted to get access to the lamp so that he could use the powers to take over control of Agrabah. But any attempt to get a thief inside the cave lead to disaster, as anyone who tried to get inside was promptly killed. Only a 'diamond in the rough' could enter the cave to retrieve the lamp.

And Aladdin was that diamond.

In the disguise of an old man, Jafar releases Aladdin and Abu from the prison, and takes them to the Cave of Wonders. After getting a warning from the tiger head at the front of the cave, telling Aladdin and Abu not to touch anything except for the magic lamp, the two head into the depths of the cave, a salivating Jafar standing close by. With help from a magic carpet, who Aladdin and Abu found on their way through the cave, Aladdin manages to get his hands on the lamp. But when Abu carelessly grabs a ruby from the cave, the cave starts to collapse on itself. The carpet manages to be a huge ally in helping Aladdin and Abu escape to the entrance, but their escape is short lived as Jafar tries to kill Aladdin in order to get the lamp. Cleverly, Abu manages to bite Jafar, which distracts him long enough for Abu to steal the lamp from Jafar, but the end result has Aladdin, Abu, and the magic carpet remaining trapped inside the now collapsed Cave of Wonders.

Feeling trapped, and maybe even a little bit claustrophobic, and with his only friends being a monkey and a carpet, Aladdin decides that maybe the best thing he could do is rub the lamp to see what happens.

What happens is this.

Now, I don't know about you, but if some larger than life blue guy happened to pop out of a magic lamp and was as in your face as this guy was, I may want to run and hide. But, you know, the guy had pizzazz and charisma. How could you not love him?

And, Aladdin (after tricking the genie into letting them out of the cave without using one of his three wishes) decided to use his very first wish to transform himself from street kid to rich prince, so that he could have a better shot at love with Princess Jasmine.

You see, there was a rule that had been crafted into the book of laws for the kingdom of Agrabah, which stated that the princess could only marry someone who was already a prince, or who was descended from royal blood. The problem was that unbeknownst to Aladdin, Jasmine was sick and tired of being set up with the spoiled, jerky princes by her father. Aladdin was different, but Jasmine believed Jafar's lie that he was dead. And yet Aladdin mistakenly presumed that Jasmine was only interested in guys who were rich and royal.

Hey, there's a life lesson...never change who you are to attract someone else's affections. It never works.

Aladdin also hears what one of the genie's wishes was, which was to be freed from the confines of his magic lamp. Remember this for later.

And of course, when Aladdin strolls into the palace as Prince Ali Ababwa, Jasmine is immediately turned off, thinking him to be no better than the suitors she kicked to the curb.

And to think that if it wasn't for the idea of social customs, and silly rules designed to keep people from growing, and learning about themselves, Aladdin and Jasmine would not have nearly the struggles they faced.

You know what? This inspires my second wish. My second wish is for everyone to have the courage to be true to themselves and follow their hearts no matter what. I honestly believe that a lot of us don't pursue our dreams is because we had restrictions placed on us, or because we were told by others that it wouldn't be possible for us to achieve those dreams.

So, my wish is for people to find that inner strength and their resilience to pursue their dreams.

Okay, so this is two wishes down. One to go. But first, we need to see how Aladdin...oh, I mean, Prince Ali woos Jasmine with help from his magic carpet.

Of course, Jasmine starts to see through the Prince Ali disguise, and somehow figures out that Ali and Aladdin are one in the same, but Aladdin lies to Jasmine, and says that he sometimes dresses up as a commoner to escape the pressures of palace life, which Jasmine can definitely relate to.

But, Jafar ends up capturing Aladdin immediately after his outing with Jasmine, and he tries to kill him by drowning him in the ocean. But thanks to Aladdin using his second wish, the Genie saves his life. Aladdin soon discovers the evil plot that Jafar has planned, and runs to the palace in the hopes of exposing Jafar's true colours. However, when Iago manages to steal the lamp away from Aladdin, bringing it to Jafar, the genie is forced to become Jafar's master, reluctantly being forced to grant his first two wishes, which were to become Sultan of Agrabah, and to become a powerful sorcerer. He then uses his powers to enslave the former Sultan and Jasmine, and to expose Aladdin and banish him out of the kingdom.

Of course, this doesn't seem to stop Aladdin. For Aladdin also had Abu and the magic carpet with him. He flies the carpet back to Agrabah in an effort to rescue Jasmine from Jafar's clutches and to get control of the magic lamp back again. Jasmine tries to distract Jafar with a sultry dance long enough for Aladdin to hopefully seize control of the lamp again. Unfortunately, the plan didn't work out and Jafar transforms himself into a giant cobra, determined to squeeze the life out of Aladdin. Jafar thinks he has won, and he boasts about being powerful. Aladdin comes up with a spur-of-the-moment plan to tell Jafar that he thought the genie was more powerful than Jafar, so Jafar uses his third and final wish to transform himself into a genie.

And, it is this final wish that ends up being the end of Jafar...well, at least until the next sequel. Let's just say that genies aren't nearly people think.

So now Aladdin has one final wish left to go...there really was nothing stopping him from using his last wish as a way to finally become a real prince in order to marry Jasmine. But his decision to use his final wish in a selfless manner by...

...ah, well, rent the movie and see it yourself. :D

But you know, that's probably how I would use my third wish too. I know there's a lot of things that I do want in my life, but honestly if I had used up two of my three wishes, I would like to think that I would use my last wish to grant someone else's wish, whatever it may be. I think that would be a great way to use a last wish.

And if my last wish ended up helping so many other people in the process, then it would be worth it.

I guess that's the reason why I wanted to choose Aladdin as the subject for today, aside from the fact that it is one of my favourite Disney movies. It's really a movie that has a great message. It shows people that they don't have to lie about themselves to make a good impression on others. It shows people that they don't need material things in order to feel great. And probably most important, it shows people the true meaning of friendship and sacrifice...and it shows people that escape is possible in any bad or dire situation if you have the courage inside yourself to make it happen.

Hmmmm...maybe that's a lesson that I need to imprint in my subconscious.

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