Aladdin is firmly intended as a crowd-pleaser the downside unfortunately is that that is it. It is well made and enjoyable but ultimately an exercise in calculation. The plot feels like a constructor set compilation of just about every plot device from every Arabian Nights fantasy from The Thief of Baghdad and the Sinbad films to Ali Baba marshalling such stock themes as the evil vizier who manipulates the good-hearted but weak and overweight sultan; the thief who poses as a prince; the thiefs winning the princesss heart despite his lack of station; she being desired by the vizier; the genie; the monkey companion; the quest for a magic object (that the thief is tricked into by the vizier) and must make in order to win the princess. Even the characters names seem generic Princess Jasmine, Vizier Jaffar. (Much of what is in Aladdin has been copied from Richard Williams far superior but far more problem ridden The Thief and the Cobbler (1994), with some personnel having worked on both films). The only character that is not a cliche in all this is the princess who, in the new Disney mold, is considerably more liberated and in charge of her own destiny than most of the wall-decoration types that had served as womens roles in Disney films up until this point.
Disney conducted a casting coup in managing to obtain Robin Williams in the role of the genie indeed, Aladdin began the process of animated films casting star names in voice roles. However, the presence of Robin Williams is also something that seriously bends Aladdin out of shape. He bursts in with a manic barrage of one-liners, something the animators vainly try to keep up with and give literal image to. There is an irritably hip modernness to it Call me Al, Aladdin states gratingly at one point. Williams conducting anachronistic impersonations of everything from Jack Nicholson to Arsenio Hall, transforming into microphones, air hostesses and submarines, even in-references to Pinocchio (1940). It is amusing enough and certainly Robin Williams gives the film and its cliches a big boost of energy but one wishes we had had an Arabian Nights tale that was more genuine in feeling and one less obviously and relentlessly attuned towards a modern audience.
Another problem with Aladdin is the more stretched form of representation in the animation, a la Sleeping Beauty (1959), something that seems far less appealing and less human in shape. The pace is dizzying although this seems too calculated as well. Aladdin is at its best during its quieter moments such as the romance between Aladdin and Jasmine, although that has its curious lack of plausibility too the business about she not buying who he is going on far too long.
Aladdin was followed by two animated made-for-video sequels The Return of Jafar (1994) and Aladdin and the King of Thieves (1996), as well as a popular animated tv series, Aladdin (1993-6). The live-action Disney Channel film Descendants (2015), featuring the children of Disney villains, had the character of Jafars son.
The directing team of Ron Clements and John Musker had previously worked on the splendid The Great Mouse Detective (1986) and then went solo for The Little Mermaid. Into the 1990s, they have become one of the most successful of Disneys directing teams with the likes of Hercules (1997), Treasure Planet (2002), The Princess and the Frog (2009) and Moana (2016). However, all of their works bar the last betray the same irritatingly hip, modernist attitude towards the source material.