Toon Talk: Aladdni Platinum Edition DVD
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Disney Film & Video Reviews by Kirby C. Holt
Platinum Edition DVD
Magic Carpet Ride
Aladdin, one of the most popular and successful animated films of all time, finally makes its digital debut on this new two-disc DVD special edition, and, once again, it is proved that the wait was well worth it. This modern classic looks and sounds even better then its 1992 theatrical run, with its bold use of bright colors that practically pop off your television screen and a 5.1 enhanced home theater mix that brings every musical note and sound effect to your ears in crystal clarity. You'll see and hear things you never noticed before, from the cleverly caricaturized bit characters in the backgrounds to the squeaky toy-sounding steps of the Sultan.
Based on the legendary "Arabian Nightsâ€? tale, this musical action comedy hybrid was brought to the screen by co-directors/writers/producers Ron Clements and John Musker (fresh off a little film called The Little Mermaid) with a boundless energy and whip-cracking pace, punctuated with an irreverent and often anachronistic sense of humor that still holds up today, even if some then-popular personalities (Arsenio Hall) or catch phrases ("Not!â€?) have since faded from pop-culture consciousness. Heavily influenced by the loony cartoon canon of director Tex Avery and the crisply clean artwork of caricaturist Al Hirschfeld, the film presented a style that was jarringly different from the usual Disney fare of the time, but the success of which went on to inspire such future features as Clement and Musker's own Hercules, as well as The Emperor's New Groove and, most recently, Home on the Range.
But, as those later features prove to some extent, you can have all the comical shenanigans in the world, but it won't matter a lick without characters you believe in and care for, a quality that Aladdin most definitely possesses, from our rashly brave hero to the feistily independent princess to a trio of sidekicks (consisting of a spunky monkey, a living tapestry and a brilliantly blue being in and of all time and space) unparalleled in their endearing loyalty. Factor in a pair of deliciously hissable villains, and you have one of the best sets of characters ever found in an animated film, all perfectly cast, both vocally and artistically. And while the overly-easy resolution falters the film in its final moments, the over-all themes of trusting in yourself and believing in others shines through, without squashing the film's most obvious merit, its hysterical humor.
Of course, you couldn't have a Disney film (at that time, at least) without songs, and the team of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken (fresh off their Academy Award-winning work on Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast) delivered once again, with not one but two showstoppers for the Genie ("Prince Aliâ€? and the Oscar-nominated "Friend Like Meâ€?) and the mood-setting opening number ("Arabian Nightsâ€?). After Ashman's tragically untimely death, theatrical legend Tim Rice (Evita, Jesus Christ Superstar) stepped in to finish the songs, and his pinch-hitting paid off in a grand slam with the film's soaring love ballad "A Whole New Worldâ€?, a song that went on to win a slew of awards, including an Oscar, a Golden Globe and several Grammys (not bad in the year of Whitney Houston's The Bodyguard soundtrack). And Menken's evocative score, drawing on echoes of Hollywood spectacles of the past as well as more contemporary action yarns, brought him another Oscar as well.
You'll get plenty of chances to delve into the world of Aladdin with disc one, which offers four different viewing options of the film: aside from just watching the film, you have two separate audio commentaries, plus an on screen textual trivia option as well.