First Thoughts on the Live Action Aladdin Based on the Trailer
by Divya Bhardwaj
Recently, Disney has been remaking lots of its old 90’s classics. Beauty and the Beast came out last year, and it was not the best, with a large amount of autotune and an unnecessary plague storyline. Mulan comes out in 2020 and I am holding out hope that it will be good, although there have been reports that there will be no singing and major changes to the storyline, including the removal of some beloved characters like Mushu and Li Shang.
However, the remake of Aladdin comes out soon, in May 2019, and based on the first trailer that was just released, it looks like it is going to be really good. The opening shots of the desert and palace are just beautiful, and it made me excited to see how more places will look with Disney’s updated animation technology. The soundtrack also seems like it will be amazing. It sounds enough like the original one to bring back good memories, but with a few changes to make it sound more modern and different, so it’s not boring.
We also got our first glimpse at two characters, Iago and Aladdin. The Beast, Mrs. Potts, Chip, Lumière, and Cogsworth looked awful and super weird when Disney used CGI in Beauty and the Beast, so I was worried about how the non-human characters in Aladdin would turn out. Fortunately, based on what I saw of Iago, the animals in the movie will look realistic and impressive. I’m especially excited to see Rajah, since he’s my favorite character.
As for the cast, I was glad to see that they mainly cast people who are actually Arab or Middle Eastern. I was glad Disney paid attention to this detail, since usually white actors are cast to play people of color, giving people who already have fewer acting opportunities even more of a disadvantage. Mena Massoud, who will play Aladdin, was born in Egypt and his parents are of Coptic (Northern African) descent. Marwan Kenzari was cast as Jafar, and he from Tunisia. Navid Negahban will be the Sultan, and he is Iranian.
The only choice I was disappointed in was the one for Jasmine. The actress who will play her, Naomi Scott, is half English and half Indian. I was really hoping they would cast a Middle Eastern or Arab actress to play her, since Jasmine is the only Middle Eastern Disney princess, and it would have been empowering for people of that minority to see a princess who looks like them, especially since their culture is so often shown in a negative light. It’s disappointing that there are many qualified actresses from where Jasmine would have lived, but they picked one who is not remotely connected to that culture or region. I hope there was a good reason they cast her over someone who is Arab or Middle Eastern, and they didn’t deliberately pick someone who was part white, since that happens often. Again, though, they avoided doing this with the rest of the cast, so it’s a step in the right direction, but I just wish it had extended to Jasmine.
Other than that, I am super excited to see Aladdin this May. It looks like it will be the perfect blend of an old classic and a new twist on it.