By Cait Collins
Having worked for Disney part time for five years, I developed a deep respect for the animation teams that created the magic we saw on the screen. I can truthfully say the hours I spent on stage in the new Disney Store in Amarillo were some of the most fulfilling work hours I ever experienced.
Walt Disney believed in the magic of movies. I recall his black and white television show from the fifties. The weekly forays into Adventure Land, Fantasy Land and Tomorrow Land were anticipated. We were living in St. John’s, Newfoundland. My Dad and some of the other fathers would load kids into cars and take us to the base theater on Saturdays for the matinees. The innovation and skills of the animation and live action teams entertained my friends and me.
Disney has always been a leader in technology and storytelling. While I loved the animated movies, I relished his live-action movies. The recent release of Aladdin is further evidence of the studio’s commitment to innovation and storytelling. Guy Ritchie led the cast and crew to the Middle East and into the lives of a young man struggling to survive and a princess who wanted freedom. Theirs is a love story told against the backdrop of the ancient city of Agrabah skillfully created by scene and set designers. The viewer is there in the streets of an old city, in the Arabian desserts, in the Cave of Wonders, and the waters of the bays right along with Aladdin, Jasmine and the Genie. We are a part of the story and not merely an audience.
The music is pure magic, incorporating the Howard Ashman/Alan Menken lyrics and score from the animated movie Aladdin with new music from La La Land songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Pasek and Paul gave Jasmine her voice with a new song. Her song.
The staging and costumes are magnificent. The cast skillfully selected from actors and actresses of ethnic cultures that cemented the look of an ancient kingdom. Mena Massoud’s portrayal of Aladdin as a charming street rat longing to escape his world is perfect. Naomi Scott brings Jasmine from a voiceless woman to a leader. Marwan Kenzari’s Jafar is deliciously evil. Dalia, Jasmine’s handmaiden, played by Nasim Pedrad, has just the right spunk. She’s loyal, wanting only the best for Jasmine.
Will Smith’s portrayal of the Genie is magic. He brings just the right combination of mystic, wish granting, and humanity to the character. Genie is a teacher, leader, confidant, and father figure. His performance is deserving of an Oscar.
Aladdin is not just a kid’s movie. The story can take us back to the times in our lives where we were unsure, lonely, and searching for who we really are. It reminds us that dreams are the seeds of finding ourselves. It doesn’t matter if you’re five or fifty, Aladdin will take you on a journey from a dream to fulfillment. It’s one movie you don’t want to miss.