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Thursday Treasures

September 19, 2013

A Whole New World of Entertainment

By Kelvin Cedeño

The life of a Disney animated classic on home video is an interesting one. Back in Walt's time (and for a few decades afterwards), a Disney film would be re-released to theaters every seven years or so, ensuring every generation would get to experience these treasures for themselves. It's a bit of a horrifying notion, though, to think that you could only watch your favorite Disney film every seven years. Thus came the invention of home video. Disney was cautious about this format and merely dipped its toe in the water with middle and lower tier titles. When it looked like home video was here to stay, that's when they went all out and brought their biggest films to the format. Interestingly, for the bigger titles at least, Disney's home video strategy mimics those early years in that they re-release a feature to video every so many years to help keep it relevant in the public's eye. In honor of Albert Week, we'll be taking a look at the home video history of one his all-time favorite classics: Aladdin.

In an era where theatrical films arrive on home video three-to-four months after their debut, it's strange to look back and see that in the early 90s, a Disney animated feature would be available to own nearly two years after its theatrical release. Aladdin was no exception. Released to cinemas November 25, 1992, it became the highest grossing picture of the year. Audiences were flocking to see it again and again in what Disney fans refer to as the 'Disney Renaissance' ' a period of time starting with The Little Mermaid in which feature animation projects would achieve tremendous success both financially and critically, winning awards and inspiring merchandising galore (though fans are torn as to when exactly this period ended). After such a success, Aladdin made its way to videocassette and laserdisc September 21, 1994.

It's worth noting that at this point, a controversial lyric from the opening song 'Arabian Nights' was altered for home audiences. The line, 'Where they cut off your ear if they don't like your face,' was altered to, 'Where it's flat and immense, and the heat is intense.' While Bruce Adler sings the opening song, it's unclear who came in to record the new lyric, though Tim Rice thankfully was brought on board to write it.

The VHS release opened with a special sneak preview of The Lion King along with a trailer for Pinocchio's home video release. Aladdin would be the last new-release title to be a part of the 'Walt Disney Classics' lineup (also known to fans as the 'Black Diamond Classics' due to the design of the logo). The Lion King would be the first new release in the 'Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection.'

Aladdin VHS

Concurrently, there was also a Deluxe Collector's Edition. This special gift set included the VHS, another tape which held the Disney Channel special 'The Making of Aladdin: A Whole New World' hosted by John Rhys-Davies, the book Disney's Aladdin: The Making of An Animated Film by John Culhane, the film's soundtrack on CD, and an exclusive lithograph of Aladdin and Genie.

Aladdin VHS

Two laserdisc releases coincided with the VHS: a CLV disc in pan-and-scan and a CAV disc in letterbox widescreen (CLV refers to constant linear velocity and has the disc spin at a faster rate for the inner data and slower for the outer data. CAV refers to constant angular velocity and has the disc spin at a constant speed. Because of the change in speeds, CLV could hold an hour's worth of content per side whereas CAV could only hold half an hour each. On the flip side, CAV was known to have better quality because of this and had the ability to freeze frame and use slow motion).

Aladdin Laserdisc

The CLV and CAV discs both began with the same previews as the VHS release, and the CAV included Aladdin's theatrical trailer as a supplement. One would think that since the CLV version replicated the standard VHS artwork and the CAV replicated the Deluxe Collector's Edition artwork, the latter would feature the same content as that gift set. It doesn't. While laserdisc boxed sets would be the norm for the films that came after Aladdin, it never received one'in the U.S., that is. In Japan, a set was released with a bonus disc featuring the Disney Channel special, a multi-language clip for the 'Friend Like Me' musical sequence, the 'Whole New World' music video performed by Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle, and trailers for both Aladdin and The Return of Jafar. It also came with the John Culhane book, though not the soundtrack or lithograph.

Aladdin Plantinum DVD

Flash forward to 2004. By this time, DVD had become the popular home video format, and Disney was approaching its collections a bit differently. They chose to highlight their 13 best-selling titles with the 'Platinum Collection,' a series featuring meticulous digital restorations and extensive bonus material. Because of its enormous success on VHS and LD, Aladdin was chosen as the fourth entry in this prestigious lineup. Released on October 5, 2004, the two-disc set would be the first time the film was transferred directly from the original CAPS files (previous releases were sourced from a film print).

Like its initial home video release, Aladdin would find itself with more alterations. Disney had intended to release it to IMAX theaters January that year like they had with Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King previous years, but the low profits from those releases dissuaded Disney. Their decision not to go forward with a re-release came late, though, as they had already done touch-ups to the film to make it more suitable for such a big screen format (adding details to character faces in wide shots, adding more background effects like twinkling stars, etc.). The version of Aladdin as found on the Platinum Edition (which had a concurrent VHS release) is sourced from this enhanced IMAX version.

Another, more controversial alteration would arise, as well. An urban legend spread like wildfire that during the scene where Aladdin tries to shoo off Rajah while on Jasmine's balcony, he says, 'Good teenagers, take off your clothes.' The line was, in fact, 'Good kitty, take off and go.' The confusion stemmed from this line being in the background amidst Rajah's growls while the camera was focused on Jasmine's reaction. That didn't stop the legend from spreading like wildfire, however. To avoid any further controversy, the line was completely removed (like the priest's knee in The Little Mermaid and the dust clouds in The Lion King). Many fans have felt that by removing these sources of urban legends, Disney is essentially admitting guilt when they've got nothing to hide.

The Platinum Edition DVD featured a vast array of supplements, more so than the Deluxe VHS or Japanese boxed set. Below is a listing of what this set has to offer:

Aladdin DVD Menu

Disc One:

* Deleted Songs (14 minutes, 4 seconds)
- Proud of Your Boy (4:00)
-- Introduction: Ed Gombert, Alan Menken, John Musker, Ron Clements (1:44)
-- Alan Menken Demo Recording (2:16)
- You Can Count On Me (2:24)
-- Introduction: Ron Clements (0:26)
-- Alan Menken Demo Recording (1:58)
- Humiliate The Boy (3:56)
-- Introduction: John Musker (0:30)
-- Master Mix (3:26)
- Why Me? (3:45)
-- Introduction: John Musker (0:27)
-- Master Mix (3:18 )

* Deleted Scenes (5 minutes, 47 seconds)
- Aladdin & Jasmine's First Meeting (2:53)
-- Introduction: Ron Clements, John Musker (0:43)
-- Aladdin & Jasmine's First Meeting (2:10)
- Aladdin in the Lap of Luxury (2:54)
-- Introduction: Ron Clements (0:25)
-- Aladdin in the Lap of Luxury (2:29)

* Music & More
- Music Videos (20 minutes, 18 seconds)
-- "Proud of Your Boy" performed by Clay Aiken (2:21)
-- "Proud of Your Boy" Behind the Scenes (3:20)
-- "A Whole New World" performed by Jessica Simpson & Nick Lachey (4:14)
-- "A Whole New World" Behind the Scenes (3:48)
-- "A Whole New World" performed by Regina Bell & Peabo Bryson (4:13)

* Backstage Disney

- Audio Commentary with John Musker, Ron Clements and Amy Pell
- Audio Commentary with Andreas Deja, Will Finn, Eric Goldberg and Glen Keane

- Pop-Up Fact Track

* Sneak Peeks: (11 minutes, 35 seconds)
- Bambi: Special Edition (0:48)
- Pooh's Heffalump Movie (1:24)
- The Aladdin Trilogy (1:27)
- Mulan: Special Edition (2:04)
- Mary Poppins: 40th Anniversary Edition (1:49)
- Mulan II (1:56)
- Jetix (0:33)
- Make A Wish (0:34)
- Disneyland Resort (1:02)

* Disc 2 Preview: (1 minute, 3 seconds)

Aladdin DVD Menu

Disc Two:

* Backstage Disney
- A Diamond in the Rough: The Making of Aladdin (1:51:06)
-- Introduction: Leonard Maltin (1:14)
-- Introduction: An Evening with The Creators of Aladdin & The Producers (11:56)
--- From Arabian Nights to the Silver Screen (2:44)
--- Reflections on Black Friday (3:24)
--- Keane's Team: Redesigning the Lead Character (4:30)
--- Rough Stuff #1: Progression Reel (1:56)
--- Rough Stuff #2: An Animator Checks His Work (1:12)
--- Green Room/Take 1 (1:33)
-- The Music (6:54)
--- A Whole New World: The Recording Sessions (4:27)
--- Rough Stuff #3: Prince Ali - Work in Progress (1:07)
--- Green Room/Take 2 (1:08)
-- The Animation (13:29)
--- Pencil + Computer: Creating the Magic Carpet (3:11)
--- Master of the Line: The Art of Al Hirschfeld (4:32)
--- Designing Jasmine (2:41)
--- Designing Jafar (2:10)
--- Unsung Heroes of the Clean-Up Department (2:25)
--- Jafar Goes to the Birds (3:12)
--- Rough Stuff #4: When Live-Action Meets Animation (2:42)
--- Green Room/Take 3 (2:09)
-- The Voice Talent (6:28)
--- You Talkin' To Me?: The Voices of Aladdin (10:10)
--- Gilbert Gottfried: Up Close and Aggravated (2:26)
--- Behind The Microphone (1:49)
--- Extended Interview: Scott Weinger (1:24)
--- Extended Interview: Linda Larkin (1:43)
--- Extended Interview: Douglas Seale (1:37)
--- Extended Interview: Jonathan Freeman (1:59)
--- Green Room/Take 4 (1:09)
-- Made You Look! (3:45)

- Alan Menken: Musical Renaissance Man (19:59)

- The Art of Aladdin
-- Aladdin Art Review (8:46)
-- Art Galleries (246 Stills Total)
--- Visual Development (38 Stills)
--- Story Development (17 Stills)
--- Backgrounds & Color Keys (15 Stills)
--- Characters Development (186 Stills)
---- Aladdin (15 Stills)
---- Jasmine (18 Stills)
---- Genie (29 Stills)
---- Jafar (23 Stills)
---- Iago (5 Stills)
---- Abu (9 Stills)
---- Sultan (9 Stills)
---- Rajah (8 Stills)
---- The Lamp (5 Stills)
---- Narrator (12 Stills)
---- Carpet (5 Stills)
---- Guards & Thieves (9 Stills)
---- Marketplace (15 Stills)
---- Aladdin's Parents (9 Stills)
---- Executioner (6 Stills)
---- Model Sheets (9 Stills)

- Publicity (4 minutes, 56 seconds)
-- Original Theatrical Trailer - 1992 (2:52)
-- The Return of Jafar Trailer - 1994 (0:33)
-- Aladdin and the King of Thieves Trailer - 1996 (1:31)
-- Publicity Gallery (35 stills total)
--- Theatrical Posters (3 Stills)
--- Unused Concepts (10 Stills)
--- Theme Parks (22 Stills)
---- Disneyland (3 Stills)
---- Disneyworld (4 Stills)
---- Walt Disney World (3 Stills)
---- Disneyland Paris (3 Stills)
---- Tokyo DisneySea (9 Stills)

* Games & Activities:
- Aladdin's Magic Carpet Adventure: A Disney Virtual DVD Ride
- Inside the Genie's Lamp
-- Guided Tour (6:10)
-- Self-Guided Tour
--- Garden
--- Bedroom
--- Spa
--- Kitchen
--- Dining Room
- 3 Wishes Game
- The Genie World Tour (3:10)

Aladdin Giftset

This DVD set, as one can see, was not only Aladdin's best home video release, but one of the best home video releases for any Disney film. Even with all that, Disney decided to release a Collector's DVD Giftset. This featured the Platinum Edition DVD, seven exclusive character portraits, a DVD companion book, and a film frame.

Despite being selling a great many units on VHS and LD, the DVD didn't sell as well as Disney had hoped. There are many theories as to why that is, but the most likely scenario seems to be that outside of Jasmine's placement in the ever-present Disney Princess franchise, Disney hasn't done very much to keep Aladdin in the public's eye. Because of this, while other Platinum Editions would go out of print one or two years after their release, Aladdin remained in print till January 2008 ' over three years after its release. Even then, it was still quite easy to find the title on store shelves for months afterward.

Flash forward to now. Blu-ray has become Disney's home video focus, and with it, they've replaced the 'Platinum Collection' with the 'Diamond Collection.' When this series was first announced back in 2009, Disney fans were shocked to find that Aladdin had been seemingly replaced by Fantasia and Fantasia 2000. Then things got muddled. Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 were dropped from the Diamond Edition lineup, making people wonder if Aladdin was back. A pamphlet inside of Lady and the Tramp's release indicated that Aladdin had, indeed, been restored to the roster and would be coming Spring of 2013. Then a pamphlet inside of Cinderella showed that Peter Pan would instead be the Spring 2013 Diamond release. In the midst of all this, Aladdin has been released on BD in several countries, though not as part of any collection.

So what will Aladdin high-definition fate be in the states? Some presume that the delay is so Disney can do a 3D conversion on it like they have with The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King. Even if that's the case, will it still be part of the Diamond Collection? In the long run, it doesn't really matter. Disney's marketing has been spotty at best with some Diamond titles being rather underwhelming (The Lion King) while non-Diamond titles have been quite impressive (Alice in Wonderland). Considering how thorough Aladdin's Platinum release was, there's little room for improvement (though, ideally, a release that adds the Disney Channel special and all of the song demos from 'The Music Behind the Magic' CD set would be most welcome). No matter what collection it's under or what format it's being presented on, this will always remain the same: Aladdin is a shining jewel amongst Disney's vast array of animated classics, and fans will continue to embrace it for generations to come.


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