What will be different in the live-action "Aladdin"?
Writer: Casey Lee
What will be changed in the live-action version of "Aladdin"?
While we don't expect any major plot changes from what was told in the animated "Aladdin", this live-action treatment offers new opportunities (and limitations) on what they can do or update on some finer points from the animation.
So, if you are about ready to get on your magic flying carpet to explore the whole new world of the live-action "Aladdin", here are some changes made that you might want to be aware of before rubbing the magic lamp.
An opportunity presented by doing a live-action adaptation is by having a larger wardrobe for the characters that would be difficult to maintain and draw consistently for animated characters. Although Princess Jasmine would be wearing something to remind us of her blue mid-drift dress from the animation, she would have a total of 9 signature outfits designed by Oscar-nominated costume designer Michael Wilkinson. Like all good cinematic costumes, these bright and strong coloured costumes will have a story element that expresses Princess Jasmine's personality and her arc of breaking free as a sheltered princess. There would even be a wedding dress, but it might not be for the happy occasion it is meant for.
Disney will be adding some diversity to the cast of this "Aladdin", not only in the ethnicity of the actors playing the lead roles, but also adding some new characters who could introduce some new dynamics between the characters.
Firstly, to not make Princess Jasmine feel like she's the only woman in the entire palace, she will be attended to by Daila, her handmaiden and confidante to her secrets. Daila will be played by Nasim Pedrad, who is better known for her comedic work in "Saturday Night Live", and will sort of be the quick and witty counterpart as Genie is to Aladdin.
Next is Hakim, who is an amalgamation of some of the guards in the animated version (one of the them actually named Hakim) who becomes the right-hand man of Jafar. Played by Numan Acar, he won't just be a muscle-bound and muscle-brain captain of the guards, but could even be a co-conspirator of Jafar's devious deeds.
Lastly, a visitor from the northern (and cooler) lands of Skanland, Prince Anders arrives to Agrabah for its harvest festival, draped in furs. He is played by Billy Magnussen and would possibly be a love rival to win the princess' heart if Aladdin had nothing to do about it.
Much like for "Beauty and the Beast", the soundtrack of "Aladdin" will be going through an update, not just for its iconic songs, but even with a few added ones. Alan Menken, who composed for the animation in 1992, returns to rearrange and rewrite the opening song "Arabian Nights", which will now be twice as long and played with more Middle Eastern instruments. Will Smith will also be putting his own spin to "A Friend Like Me" with some beatboxing and ad-libbing.
As for the new songs, Princess Jasmine will be getting her 'I Want' song (because she's a Disney princess!) titled "Speechless", written by "The Greatest Showman" and "La La Land" songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, and composed by Menken. Lastly, there is a new duet song that joins together with "A Whole New World", which is about love instead of living free.
To make "Aladdin" livelier, some details of the setting would be revised to be a bit more realistic than a kingdom surrounded by the desert. Inspired by real-world locations in Jordan and Burma, Agrabah will now be a fictional bustling port city on the Silk Road, which makes it a perfect melting pot of cultures and people from places like the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia, India, and China. So expect to see the Asian representation ramp up literally on the streets. There will also be a sequence set in the tundra, where Aladdin and Abu are sent to by Jafar.
One change that we are waiting to see if it will pay off is by changing some of the backstories to make some of the characters less cartoon-y. First, Navid Negahban as the Sultan will be losing some of his goofiness for some grit; becoming a leader made weary by war, but also someone who deeply loves and is loved by his people, which might make him less suited to be a father. Although never fully explored in the feature animation, Marwan Kenzari will be able to explore more of Jafar's backstory as a child who grew up on the streets of Agrabah, before rising in power as the devious vizier that he his. Aside from his venomous snake motif, Jafar would also have fought in the same wars with his Sultan, and would not be a man that could easily be bested without some magic.
Cinema Online, 13 May 2019