Disney Press is launching a brand new series that takes classic Disney stories and shakes them up by changing one key moment. It’s an exciting premise with seemingly endless options to retell our favorite stories and reveal new layers previously unthought of. The first entry is based on Aladdin, which conveniently debuts on Blu-Ray next month as a brand-new Diamond Edition release. The premise in this first A Twisted Tale is “What if Jafar got the lamp?”
A Whole New World begins the same way as the film, with Aladdin constantly in trouble for stealing to survive and Jasmine longing for the world beyond her palace walls. The two meet cute in the same way and Aladdin soon finds himself locked in the palace dungeon shortly after. When the creepy old man leads him to the cave of wonders, he returns to the lion’s mouth with the lamp. Only this time when the crooked geezer tricks the street rat, Abu hasn’t secretly stolen back the lamp.
In this parallel universe, Aladdin spends days digging his way out of the cave and returns to find that a new sultan named Jafar has taken over. For Jasmine, life inside the palace has become unbearable and in Jafar’s quest for unlimited power, he seeks to force her to marry him. After a daring rescue, Aladdin and Jasmine hide in secret throughout Agrabah, starting an uprising against the new tyrannical ruler who still has one wish left to make.
One thing I greatly appreciate in Liz Braswell’s book is that she has remained true to the characters from the film. While the story takes a significant departure from the one you know and love, they still feel like the same characters. The stakes are higher and it certainly takes on more adult themes, including death. But even though Jafar is more powerful here than he is allowed to be in the film, he still feels like Jafar. And even when Jasmine is pushed to her breaking point, nothing seems outrageously out of character. The only character who isn’t quite their movie-self is Genie, who is a little gloomier under Jafar’s servitude (and who could ever replicate the ad-lib mind of Robin Williams?).
While I really enjoyed this twist on the story, it doesn’t quite hold up to the film version. That being said, reading it has made me think more deeply about the film and revealed some of the more nuanced themes. Perhaps it’s because we’re often exposed to films like Aladdin as children that we forever see them through a child’s eyes, but Liz Braswell expands the world of Agrabah into a place that feels real. And while it may be unintentional, it’s very relevant to the modern struggles of the Middle East.
As a story, A Whole New World – A Twisted Tale plays like a cross between Aladdin and Mockingjay, with a little bit of Harry Potter thrown in. Aladdin and Jasmine become the faces of an uprising similar to Katniss and Peta while Jafar’s tactics bear some resemblance to “He Who Must Not Be Named.” But these similarities are brief and server to further the plot towards a very original ending that shocks, but still leaves readers satisfied.
Overall I really enjoyed this book and look forward to seeing what the next entry in the series will bring. A Whole New World is available on September 1st and is suggested for ages 12 through 18, but is easily accessible by any adult Disney fan interested in seeing how the story of Aladdin could have gone very, very differently. Braswell’s richer version of Agrabah and twisty tale is sure to delight every reader, “Every turn a surprise.”
Alex has been blogging about Disney films since 2009 after a lifetime of fandom. He joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and covers films across all of Disney’s brands, including Star Wars, Marvel, and Fox, in addition to books, music, toys, consumer products, and food. You can hear his voice as a member of the Laughing Place Podcast and his face can be seen on Laughing Place’s YouTube channel where he unboxes stuff.