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The update's out of the bottle

ON DVD

October 03, 2004|Susan King

Aladdin -- Special Edition

Featuring the voices of Robin Williams and Gilbert Gottfried

Disney, $30

Disney's rollicking, irreverent 1992 animated hit, which captures the wild spirit and humor of the work of such legendary Looney Tunes animators as Frank Tashlin, Tex Avery and Chuck Jones, finally makes its DVD bow in a new two-disc set.

Williams steals the show with his heavily improvised vocal performance as the big, blue, shape-shifting genie who pops out of the magic lamp and grants the rapscallion Aladdin three wishes. This loose adaptation of the legendary story also features a free-spirited princess, a mischievous monkey named Abu, a villain named Jafar and his cohort in crime, a parrot named Iago who has the personality of a whiny Borscht Belt comedian.

"Aladdin" marks the final collaboration of composers Howard Ashman, who died during production, and Alan Menken. With the hit "Little Shop of Horrors" under their belts, the pair went on to win Oscars for their songs "Under the Sea" (from "The Little Mermaid") and "Beauty and the Beast." The two wrote the zippy "Aladdin" tunes "Friend Like Me" and "Prince Ali," and Menken teamed with Tim Rice to complete the score, winning the Academy Award for "A Whole New World."

Tales of "Aladdin": "Aladdin" was an international blockbuster but production was bumpy. Animators refer to the day when the preliminary story reel with dialogue was shown to Disney execs as "Black Friday." Higher-ups were so unhappy the animators feared the entire project would be scrapped. Directors John Musker and Ron Clements and the animation team regrouped, and writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio were brought in to work on the script. Among their changes -- the elimination of Aladdin's mother.

Aladdin himself changed in appearance and demeanor. Aladdin animator Glen Keane initially saw him as a Michael J. Fox type, but when no one could see Princess Jasmine falling in love with him, Keane decided to use Tom Cruise as the model.

Extras: "Aladdin" has been remastered and restored, each image cleaned and more than 100 scenes digitally enhanced. In some instances, characters were redrawn, adding more facial detail for the DVD -- with changes in the original film supervised by Disney animators and members of the "Aladdin" creative team.

Along with deleted scenes and a trivia track, poster and art galleries, the disc features fact-filled audio commentaries with the directors and animators -- "A Diamond in the Rough: The Making of Aladdin" -- that chronicles a recent reunion of the creative team and several voice actors and numerous mini-documentaries on the making of the film. Also included are several interactive games, but the animation is more spectacular than the games themselves.

The low point is the music video of "A Whole New World" with Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey, which has a cutesy "making of" mini-documentary.

The high point, though, is "Proud of Your Boy," a beautiful, haunting tune Aladdin sings to his mother. It was deleted when the film's focus changed.

The DVD features storyboard drawings of the song with Menken singing and a music video with Clay Aiken performing.

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