Of all the fairy tales in existence, “Aladdin and the Magic Lamp” has remained one of the most popular, though few versions have enjoyed the same sort of success as Disney’s 1992 animated feature that has been entertaining children of all ages for more than 25 years. One exception, of course, might very well be the recent live action version starring Will Smith as Genie (a role made famous by Robin Williams in the original), which has pulled in over $1 billion at the global box office. And for which talks have begun regarding a sequel.
As producer Dan Lin relates in an exclusive interview tied into the film’s availability for Digital download and on Blu-ray, the challenges of a sequel are certainly different than the original. “Because,” he says, “you’re creating more original material. The first one we wrapped up pretty cleanly, so you’re just looking for what the new adventure is. For the first movie, we already were working with some songs that were proven to be big crowd pleasers. People love the songs and we did modern updates to them, but for this new movie, we’re going to have to create all new songs, and that’s a different challenge. It’s early days, but we’re certainly talking about where we can go with the story. We had an amazing experience all working together, so we’re exploring options.”
The original film certainly inspired a number of spinoffs, among them 100 episodes of an animated TV series, a Broadway musical, two animated movie sequels, a slew of video games and, now, this live action film. “The world presented is really interesting, and one that we don’t see everyday,” Dan offers in explanation. “I don’t mean it as a pun, but it represents wish-fulfillment. There’s a huge wish-fulfillment aspect to it: If you had a genie and three wishes, what would they be? I think there’s a huge opportunity there. That’s just a huge concept that people really relate to and dream about. And, ultimately, it’s an amazing romance between Aladdin and Jasmine that I think people get swept up in. You know, the outsider versus the insider. You have the street rat, the poor kid, versus the rich princess. There’s a real Romeo and Juliet quality about the story that people really respond to.”
In addition to that, people really responded to Will Smith in the role of Genie, the character that the film was going to rise or fall on. “There were many different challenges,” admits Dan, “but getting Genie right was probably the biggest one, especially for Will. But he nailed the performance, which created a new version of the genie where people still love and revere Robin Williams’ version, yet they understand this is just another interpretation of Genie. Another interpretation of an iconic character in the way that Christian Bale played Batman was very different than Michael Keaton’s Batman. It’s not that anyone forgot about that other version, it’s just different. A lot of it was on Will and the other part is really on the filmmakers and the visual effects team. A lot of it is what does a genie look like? What’s the width of his tail? How big should he be and how muscular should he be? all of that’s on the creative team, and a lot of time is spent on that.
“But Will brought himself to the character, which is why it works so well,” he adds. “That’s really the best way to put it. He brought his own personality; he’s such a positive person in real life and he brought that positivity and inspirational quality that he has. He really rallies the troops and is the kind of guy that was there on set more than he needed to be. He was off-camera helping the other actors by reading lines with them. Some actors that I work with, when they’re not on camera, they won’t actually show up on set. Will shows up on set, which sets a very high standard for everyone.”
One thing that everyone involved had to deal with was online attacks against the film’s trailers, which seemed to criticize everything. “I loved the original movie and that was why we wanted to do this,” Dan notes. “We felt like we had a way in on how to adapt and how to modernize it for today. So you kind of try to block out the noise and you just focus on the process. It’s a little bit hard, because, as you probably saw, online there were a lot of doubters bashing us as we got closer and closer to release. Just a lot of negative reaction to the material we had out there. Things start to pile up and it was hard to completely block out the noise, but certainly early on in the creative process you’re aware of the fan base. All you can do, though, is try and make the best movie you can and block out what people are going to say. The truth is, there are always going to be naysayers no matter what you do when you’re taking on a project like this.”
Aladdin is available on digital download and through 4K, UltraHD and Blu-ray.