After successfully owning the world of animation, Disney has found a remarkable way to take a second bite at the apple, by remaking all their most popular animated movies in live-action. Following on the success of The Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast, Disney now has their sights set on the 1990s hit Aladdin. While we expect the movie to be a more or less straight forward remake of the animated classic, not every Disney remake has been done that way, and there's enough going on here to make us wonder.
Aladdin is one of Disney's most popular films but part of the reason for that is the iconic performance by Robin Williams, something the remake will have to do without. Will the new film be able to put the pieces together to make yet another memorable movie? Here's everything that we do, in fact, know about Disney's upcoming live-action Aladdin.
What Is The Live Action Aladdin Release Date?
While there's a lot we do know about the upcoming Aladdin film, one thing we don't know is when we'll see it. Disney currently has three dates set aside on their release calendar for live-action fairy tale movies between August 2018 and December 2019. While we originally thought that the movie would be scheduled for the November 2, 2018 date had been previously scheduled for the live-action remake of Mulan, we now know that May 24, 2019 will see this new version of Aladdin hit theaters.
What Is The Live Action Aladdin Rating?
While PG-13 tends to be the goal rating for most of Disney's subsidiary brands, like Star Wars and Marvel, the House of Mouse is still all about the family experience. All of the live-action remakes that Disney has made so far have been rated PG and there's little reason to expect anything different from Aladdin. Even if it is directed by the guy who made Snatch. Aladdin isn't particularly violent or scary and while the transition from animated characters to real people certainly adds an element of reality to the proceedings, it shouldn't push the material past a PG rating.
Unless Disney decides to give Guy Ritchie just a little bit more freedom of movement, of course. Maybe there's an outside chance of a PG-13 rating.
Oh, did we mention that part yet? In a move that is either the most brilliant, or utterly insane, decision made by Disney in recent memory, Guy Ritchie has been tapped to direct the live-action Aladdin. The thing is, if you filed the serial numbers off of the plot, there's a lot that would make a good argument for Ritchie to direct this. The main character is a streetwise orphan who has to outwit the local police in order to survive, before stumbling on a plan to impersonate a prince in order to win his dream girl. The plot is made for Ritchie's signature style. He loves "street rat" characters, and as long as they don't make Aladdin swear too much, this could work
While Guy Ritchie strikes us as an unusual choice, Ritchie himself has said that with his five kids, he knows as much, or more, about kids movies than he does any other type of movie. He seems to be fully on board working with Disney and he's familiar with the product, so we can't wait to see what the creative director will do with Aladdin.
The screenplay for the live action version is a team effort between Guy Ritchie and John August. This will be August's second Disney script, following up his work on Tim Burton's stop-motion feature version of Frankenweenie. In fact, August is a frequent Tim Burton collaborator, having worked on the scripts for Big Fish, Corpse Bride, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. John August has certainly written some creative stories, which is good for a Disney property, although, this is his first screenplay since 2012.
What Is The Live Action Aladdin Story?
For the most part, we know what the plot of the live-action Aladdin will be, as it will, more or less, follow the plot of the animated original. "Street Rat" Aladdin gets chosen by Jafar to enter the Cave of Wonders to retrieve a magic lamp, but instead, Aladdin takes the lamp and uses it to become a prince in an attempt to woo Princess Jasmine. The Princess, on the other hand, is dealing with a parade of princely suitors, none of which she's much interested in because she wants to marry for love, not political reasons. Shenanigans ensue.
Of course, how closely Disney's remakes actually stay to the previous version has varied across films. While Beauty and the Beast was an incredibly faithful remake, Cinderella added a great deal of new material. The Jungle Book contained some of the animated versions' original music while Beauty and the Beast was a full musical. The success of Beauty and the Beast might lead Disney toward a more faithful remake, yet we just can't see Guy Ritchie making an entirely traditional Disney movie. At least one of the acting choices that the new movie has made would indicate that the movie is planning to do some things differently.
One way in which the live-action Aladdin is expected to follow in the footsteps of Beauty and the Beast is by adding music. Early word from the Aladdin casting process was that they were having some difficulty casting the lead roles of Aladdin and Jasmine because it was difficult to find actors who met all of their requirements. One of those requirements was the ability to sing. This would certainly seem to confirm that the new Aladdin will include all the musical numbers that the original version did. Beauty and the Beast also included new music, and we've found out that Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the songwriters behind The Greatest Showman and La La Land, have collaborated with Alan Menken on two new songs for the film. There's also the possibility that music from the Broadway production could also make its way into the movie.
The movie may be called Aladdin, but when you think about Disney's animated movie, you think first of the Genie, voiced to perfection by the great Robin Williams. There's no replacing Williams in the role, so Guy Ritchie and Disney have apparently decided the best way to cast the role is to go for something totally different. Will Smith is on board to play the Genie in the live-action remake. This could be an utterly brilliant decision as Smith is an actor with endless amounts of personality, while at the same time, that personality is completely different from that of Williams. We actually found out at CinemaCon 2018 that this version of the character is being described as "a little Fresh Prince, a little Hitch, and a whole lot of attitude," which makes sense, considering who's playing him. This movie might not be about the Genie, be he's the character that's going to hold the film together, so let's hope that characterization works with everything else they have planned.
We also learned from footage shown at CinemaCon that Will Smith's Genie will basically just look like Will Smith, albeit with a mostly shaved head, ponytail and puffy genie pants. There is, at least, no question that The Fresh Prince will be able to handle the vocal requirements of the role, though we can't help but wonder if "Friend Like Me" is going to have a bit more hip hop flavor in this version.
The title role in Aladdin will be played by Mena Massoud. While not strictly a newcomer to Hollywood, he's not a household name by any means. Massoud has primarily been a TV actor up to this point, and he'll be seen in Amazon's upcoming Jack Ryan series. Indications had been that filmmakers were looking for an unknown actor for the role and so it appears that Massoud might be exactly what they need, an actor who's not recognizable from any other role, but who has a significant amount of experience. As far as we can tell Massoud has no significant singing experience, which could mean he has natural talent that he's never explored, or it could mean he'll be spending pre-production working with a voice coach.
Aladdin's better half will be played by the slightly better known Naomi Scott. Scott most recently introduced herself to film audiences in the role of Kimberly, the Pink Ranger, in the newest Power Rangers movie. Scott's name was long rumored to be in consideration and at the recent D23 Expo, it was confirmed that she'd be in the one in the role. Scott got her start with singing before she was an actress so she has the musical ability the role will require.
If there's one thing Disney animated films almost always get right, it's the villain, and Aladdin's Jafar is one of the all-time greats. Currently, Marwan Kenzari is in talks to take the role of the Sultan's Grand Vizir. Recently, Kenzari has had significant roles in movies like The Mummy and The Promise, but playing the big bad in a Disney movie will almost certainly be the actor's big debut for mass audiences. We just hope he's practicing his evil laugh. Also probably his singing, as we can't tell if he's ever really done that before.
If there's one more major role that's left to be cast it is likely the Sultan. While it's theoretically possible they could make Jasmine an orphan and make Jafar target her rule directly, odds are there will still be a father figure character of some sort. We haven't heard any rumors as to who might be in talks for this role but we certainly expect it to be filled. It's not necessarily a large part, but it's a necessary one unless the movie is planning to make a lot of changes to the source material that we weren't expecting.
The Animal Characters
While the vast majority of Aladdin characters are humanoid, some of them fall into the classic Disney category of talking animals. At this point, we simply don't know if Aladdin's Monkey sidekick Abu, or Jafar's parrot pal Iago will even be part of the new movie, though it does appear that Rajah will play a part. Disney proved with The Jungle Book that they were capable of creating CGI animals that interact realistically with people, but at the same time, neither character is really necessary for the larger story. The mice in the animated Cinderella were huge characters, yet they were essentially taken out of the live-action version. It's quite possible Aladdin could be planning to do something similar. Abu, along with Jasmine's pet tiger Rajah, are really just animals and since neither one speaks, you could actually just put real trained animals in those positions if you wanted to. Iago, however, would need to be a fully voiced CGI bird, and while that might work when all creatures are animated, it might not work nearly as well in a movie where the majority of roles are being played by actual people. In the Broadway version of Aladdin, Iago isn't a bird but is instead just a person, so perhaps the movie will go that route.
While we're not sure that every old character will be back, we do know that the live-action Aladdin will introduce a trio of new characters. Former Saturday Night Live alum Nasim Pedrad has been cast in the new role of Mara. Mara is described as a handmade and friend of Princess Jasmine. The role is being called a comedic supporting role, which seems perfect given Pedrad's previous work. It's also a welcome addition considering that the original animated film really only had the one female role.
In addition, Numan Acar has been cast in the role of Hakim, the chief of the guards who is described as the right-hand man of Jafar. This could indicate that if Iago doesn't exist in this film, Hakim could be taking on the position of Jafar's go-to subordinate. Overall, the role sounds to be very much like the animated film's character named Razoul, who was the head of Agrabah's guard but had no particular love for Jafar in that version.
Lastly, actor Billy Magnussen, who showed off his singing chops in Into the Woods as well as appearing in Game Night, Ingrid Goes West and American Crime Story, has signed on to play the role of Prince Anders. Right now, we don't know anything about this character or how he'll fit into the narrative, but it's possible that he'll end up being one of the many potential suitors for Princess Jasmine.
At this point, those are the only new characters that have been added, but we won't be surprised if we hear about others before too long.