Aladdin (and its sequels) are pretty amazing, and I’ve wanted to meta about them for quite some time, so I decided to boil down the reasons why these movies are awesome sauce. (Note: I mainly focused on Aladdin, but did talk a bit about Return of Jafar and King of Thieves as well, so if you haven’t seen those, spoilers ahead!)
1. Aladdin is the Disney Prince of my heart.
Aladdin is my favorite Disney Prince. Okay, so he’s not really a prince, but to be fair, he ends up becoming one, so I’d like to say he counts. Aladdin is just awesome. He’s selfless, kind, funny, adventurous, and gives me lots of feelings.
He’s probably our most developed male lead, and it really pays off with him, because he’s just a really fun main character to follow around. He’s a thief with a heart of gold, and while his first scene involves him running from guards, his character establishing scene is when he gives the bread to those two adorable kids on the street.
After that, how can you not love him? It’s just… ❤
His loyalty is one of his best traits. When he promises something, he doesn’t go back on it. Example: his promise to free Genie. Even when he risks out on losing a chance to be with Jasmine, he frees Genie anyway, because that was what he promised, and because he knows how important freedom is to Genie.
He also owns up to his mistakes when he makes them, even if sometimes it takes him a bit of time to stop fretting and do so. When he upsets Jasmine by being a jerk and talking about her future behind her back, he realizes that he’s made an idiot of himself and tells her that she’s right, and she should be free to make her own choice.
He also attempts to tell Jasmine the truth about how he really is before Jafar exposes him, and later apologizes for deceiving her, after the whole mess with Jafar is over with. It’s part of his wonderful character arc, involving his identity and how people view him vs. how he sees himself. One of Aladdin’s biggest woes in the movie is him being sick of the classism he deals with. He wishes people would stop just viewing him as a poor boy and a street rat, and that they’d look beyond the label and see him for who he really is. Thus, we get that whole plot where he thinks he needs to be something he’s not to win over Jasmine when really, all he ever needed to be was his adorable charming self.
2. Jasmine is incredibly underrated and amazing.
Jasmine is so underrated, and I don’t even understand why, because she’s amazing. She’s witty, loyal, compassionate, determined, confident…
She’s someone who thinks on her feet and uses her wit and cunning to get out of tough situations. Two great examples: 1) when she pretends to be in love with Jafar to distract him, and 2) when she jumped right into Aladdin’s improv in the marketplace when a guard tried to cut off her hand.
Jasmine is also incredibly confident in herself and her self-worth. She has high standards and doesn’t want to just settle for whatever rich guy shows up at her doorstep. She side-eyes her suitors, who let’s be real, are probably just trying to marry her to get money. She also does not stand for people telling her what to do. When she overhears her father, Jafar and ‘Prince Ali’ talking about who should marry Jasmine, she gets furious and goes off on them in what has to be one of my favorite rants ever:
“How dare you! All of you, standing around, deciding my future? I am not a prize to be won!”
Like most of our Disney Princesses, Jasmine longs for something more. In her case, that something more is her desire for agency, so she can make her own choices. She wants to choose where to go, rather than being stuck behind the palace walls. She wants to marry for love rather than business. And more importantly, she just wants people to listen to her and respect her choices. Jafar doesn’t do that. Her father also doesn’t do that, at first, anyway, but he comes around eventually. The first person who respects her and listens to her is Aladdin, and guess what? He’s the guy she ends up falling in love with because of that.
I just love her and how much she loves herself, and how Disney wasn’t afraid to give us a heroine who is cunning and a little bit snarky and also incredibly confident and stubborn. Like Ariel and Belle did before her, Jasmine paves the way for the princesses that come after her, and that’s part of why I ❤ her so much.
3. Two fully fleshed out dual protagonists who build on what’s come before them, and create an even stronger foundation for future characters.
First we had Phillip and Aurora. Next came Eric and Ariel. While Phillip and Eric got quite a bit of development, and we spend a bit of the movie with them, The Little Mermaid focused more on Ariel, and as for Sleeping Beauty… well, quite honestly Phillip could’ve been a bit more fleshed out as a character, considering the fact that he’s pretty voiceless in the second half.
Beauty and the Beast comes after those, and we get so much wonderful development for both Belle and the Beast. The Beast is probably the first prince with a character arc, which is very important, because that builds on Aladdin, where we have two main characters with pretty equally split screen-time and two very strong character arcs.
Aladdin wants people to see him for who he really is, not just as a street rat. We even get a whole song about this, which I am embedding below because it gives me lots of feelings:
Jasmine wants to gain some agency and learn about life behind the palace walls. She doesn’t have a song. However, we do get this really awesome discussion with her dad, which basically amounts to an ‘I want’ chat, where Jasmine lays down the law with her father and tells him that she wants to marry for love, and she loathes the rules that bind her.
The musical also has this amazing song that kind of sums this up in a song called “These Palace Walls:”
We spend a pretty equal amount of time jumping between Jasmine and Aladdin, and when they finally meet, we’re rooting for them to get together because they’re both awesome. More importantly, we the audience have gotten to know both characters well at this point, and thus we’ve invested in their journeys going forward. We want them both to have their own happy ending. We want Jasmine to get that agency and freedom she desires. We want Aladdin to realize that he’s more than the label he’s been given, and to find someone who can see past that and love him for him. Heck, we even care about more minor characters like the Genie and his want to be free.
The character development and dual arcs in Aladdin set the tone for future Disney movies like Tangled, where we get more focus on each side of the couple. It’s pretty awesome how all of Disney’s animation builds on itself, isn’t it? Nowhere is this more evident than in the romance between Aladdin and Jasmine, our most fully realized pairing thus far of the Disney Princess films.
4. Aladdin and Jasmine are the ultimate OTP, basically.
Aladdin and Jasmine’s relationship is really important to me. Not only are both incredibly fleshed out, but their relationship is formed on trust and respect, which are two very important building blocks in a relationship. After Aladdin gets Jasmine out of that tight spot in the marketplace, we get that awesome scene in the movie where they hang out and bond on the rooftops. Here, a foundation of respect begins.
For Aladdin, it starts when Jasmine pole-vaults her way across the rooftop, and proves that she isn’t quite as much of a damsel as Aladdin seems to think she is. Aladdin’s wide-eyed look leads into him respecting Jasmine, and only grows as they talk about that feeling of being trapped. Granted, they’re referring to two different things (Aladdin, life on the streets; Jasmine, life in the palace) but they both understand that feeling of being trapped by people’s expectations and rules. For Jasmine, it’s the fact that Aladdin actually listens to her, which no one else really does.
We also get this wonderful moment:
Which later leads into this fantastic moment:
In between this point, we’ve had Jasmine dealing with ‘Prince Ali’ (who she doesn’t know is Aladdin), and there’s a very important distinction made. Aladdin thinks that being a prince and becoming something he’s not is what will win Jasmine over, since surely she’d never want to marry a street rat. But Jasmine is taken aback by Prince Ali’s arrogance. All of the claims made in Prince Ali, about his wealth, possessions and status, mean nothing to her.
It’s not until she realizes that Prince Ali = Aladdin, and Aladdin starts showing her his real self, not his egotistical alter ego, that she falls head over heels in love with him.
The “do you trust me?” moment is important not only because Aladdin is asking for consent to take her on this adventure, rather than just taking her along for the ride, but also because it shows that Jasmine is impressed by the sentiment. Aladdin showing Jasmine a whole new world can be referenced in two ways: 1) him showing her around the kingdom, and 2) showing her the kind of affection and respect that she has never gotten from another guy, or well, anyone, really.
Plus, these two make an amazing team. They’re equals in their relationship, which is really important. They also get the most development out of any of the Disney couples, because we have three movies and a TV series to follow their growth through. By the time of Prince of Thieves, Aladdin and Jasmine have been together for some time. They’ve seen the world, they’ve grown and changed as people, and more importantly, they know each other so much more than they did at the start of the movie. Their relationship has strengthened and grown, and so has their trust and respect for one another. Them getting married feels more important than past marriages, because whereas we never really got that growth before, here we get to watch the relationship unfold. Here, it feels more significant, and more developed as a whole.
Plus, look at how cute these two are!
5. All of the songs are flawless and catchy.
Aladdin is one of those movies that I always wind up humming along to when it’s on. Every song from this movie is catchy, from “Arabian Nights” to “A Whole New World.” Each song has a purpose, adds something to the plot, and more importantly, is awesome to listen to. My favorite of the bunch is probably “A Whole New World,” which I rambled a lot about in the Disney Love Songs meta I wrote last month with Mic, so I won’t bore you with more rambling.
But seriously, the music is awesome. Even the sequels have good songs! Return of Jafar gives Jafar a true villain song with “You’re Only Second Rate” while Prince of Thieves just has awesome songs all around, like “Out of Thin Air” (which is one of my favorites) and “Are You In Or Out?”
I do want to talk about the nice juxtaposition in the music, with the opening of Aladdin, and the ending of The Prince of Thieves. Aladdin opens with “Arabian Nights” which is essentially our introduction to the world, and then shows us the merchant, who is essentially our narrator of the story. Then Prince of Thieves, the final movie, ties up the storyline by ending with the “Arabian Nights (Reprise)” in which the merchant finishes his story up for us. It’s a really cool way to tie together the series, and it shows the awesome continuity that the movies share.
6. Jafar is a pretty awesome villain.
I’ll admit it: Jafar is pretty twisted.
But that’s part of what makes him an effective villain. Jafar is our first male antagonist of a Disney Princess movie, and he’s a quite chilling one. He’s manipulative, petty, possessive, entitled, and he has a very deadpan sense of humor.
Like Gaston before him, Jafar feels entitled to lots of things. He thinks he deserves the kingdom. He thinks he deserves Jasmine. One of the great things about Jafar is that in a way, his relationship with Jasmine is the exact opposite of Jasmine’s relationship with Aladdin. While Aladdin respects Jasmine and her feelings, Jafar just kind of doesn’t. Jafar sees Jasmine as a trophy that he deserves, and Jasmine points out, she’s not a prize to be won. Unfortunately, Jafar never really gets that through his thick skull, or maybe he just doesn’t care. Either way, his lack of regard for Jasmine’s feelings and his attempts at forcing her into a relationship are shown as despicable, as they should be. It’s a great way of highlighting a not healthy relationship vs. a healthy one.
Unlike Gaston, who was mostly all talk and no bite, Jafar has the dark magic to back himself up. He’s also a fairly clever villain, who uses hypnotism and trickery in order to achieve his goals. His plot to steal the lamp from Aladdin, for example, was actually pretty clever. But like Gaston before him, Jafar’s arrogance is his downfall, and his wish to be a genie and get that unlimited power he desires ends up backfiring when he forgets that power always has a price. In his case, that means being shackled to a lamp. Whoops. Maybe he should’ve remembered that old adage: be careful what you wish for.
In Return of Jafar, Jafar doesn’t quite learn from his past lessons. He is a bit sneakier, which ends up helping him out for a while, but his flair for dramatics, and the way that he treats people as pawns rather than people (his treatment of Iago, for example) ends up screwing him over in the end when Iago leads directly to his defeat. Even cosmic powers can’t help you out when you just don’t leave from your past mistakes.
8. The Genie.
Do I even need to go into why the Genie is awesome? Genie is awesome, not only because he has cool cosmic powers and makes great puns, but also because he’s the character who plays the voice of reason for Aladdin. He’s the one pressuring Aladdin to just fess up and tell Jasmine the truth, and to stop worrying so much about everyone else thinks and just be himself.
He also has an awesome song (“Friend Like Me”). And he gives us lots of feelings. He is also voiced by the incredible Robin Williams (may he RIP), who did such an amazing job bringing Genie to life. I’ll just sum this up by including that scene that gives us all feelings and happiness:
8. Aladdin and Jasmine have awesome relationships with their dads!
I’ve talked a lot about how Aladdin builds off of the films that came before it, and this is very true in how it portrays the relationships with Jasmine/the Sultan and Aladdin/Cassim.
Previous Disney movies gave us some pretty great father/daughter and father/son bonds: Phillip and his father, Ariel and her father, Belle and her father…
And with both Aladdin and Jasmine, we get to see their relationships with their fathers grow and unfold. In Aladdin, we focus solely on Jasmine’s relationship with her father, the Sultan. The Sultan means well (“I just want you to be taken care of”), but the problem is that he’s so caught up in rules and tradition that he doesn’t realize that Jasmine knows what she wants and is perfectly capable of making her own decisions. He slowly realizes this over the course of the movie. Jafar turning out to be a traitor, and him seeing Jasmine’s independent spirit and her love for Aladdin, shakes him out of his daze and leads to him becoming closer to Jasmine and giving her the agency she desires to make her own choices.
In Aladdin’s case, it’s a bit different. While Jasmine grew up with her father, sheltered, Aladdin lived on the streets exposed to a harsh world that treated him like crap, basically. When he finds out his father’s alive, he has lots of complicated feelings about him, because as he says, “What kind of man leaves his son?”
Aladdin has always felt abandoned by his father. He never had that fatherly figure to look up to. He didn’t have a father to guide or shape him the way that Jasmine did. As he says in “Out of Thin Air:”
Your father’s a man who taught you who you are;
Mine was never there
The fact that his father wasn’t there for him was a sore subject, especially when he realizes that his father is alive and off being the King of Thieves which to him feels like his dad didn’t care enough to come find him. However, just like Jasmine and the Sultan, Aladdin and his father begin to bond and understand one another. And just like the Sultan, Cassim learns to value his son and who he is as a person. Much like Jafar, Cassim was pretty obsessed with power, but whereas Jafar got consumed by power, Cassim follows in his son’s footsteps and realizes that power isn’t everything. He’d rather have his son – and his awesome future family.
While he doesn’t stick around, Aladdin doesn’t begrudge him for it, and Cassim leaves at the end of King of Thieves to go on his own trip to see the world, with Iago in tow. I’d like to think that trip led to some character growth for them, just as Aladdin and Jasmine grew in the animated series when they went off to see the world. 😉
What is your favorite Aladdin movie? What’s your favorite song? And what do you guys love most about the trilogy? Sound off in the comments!