There's A Joke In Aladdin That Worked On Japanese Audiences For The Wrong Reason


It's the 25th anniversary of Aladdin, the fourth Dinsey film in the period that is widely known as the Disney Rennaisance. Starring Robin Willaims as the Genie, it's one of just the straight-up funnier Disney movies thanks to Williams mile-a-minute ad-libbing. It turns out that that humor extends worldwide, as even the normally respectful Japanese audiences couldn't help but laugh out loud at Genie. However, they weren't totally laughing for the same reasons. Turns out that one Japanese audience loved when Genie shape-shifted into Arsenio Hall because they thought he was Julia Roberts.

Probably the biggest laugh in the whole screening was when he turned into Arsenio Hall and did his 'Woof, woof, woof' with his arm. I was asking somebody afterward about that and why it got such a big laugh. They said 'Oh, we loved it when the Genie turned into Julia Roberts from 'Pretty Woman.' In 'Pretty Woman,' Julia Roberts is doing an Arsenio Hall impression. They didn't know who Arsenio Hall was, but they knew about Julia Roberts.

In honor of the anniversary of Aladdin, directors Ron Clements and John Musker spoke with Variety about their animated tale of genies, princes, and magic carpets. The duo told a fun anecdote about Aladdin's premiere in Japan, and how they were told not to worry if the audience doesn't laugh; a Japanese audience usually sits there respectfully. However, they did laugh at the Genie, who has the ability to shape-shift into everyone from Groucho Marx to Jack Nicholson. The biggest laugh of the movie came when Genie turned into Arsenio Hall, a former talk show host. Afterwards, when Clements asked about it, they said they loved the Julia Roberts impression from Pretty Woman. Um, what?

In Pretty Woman, there is a scene wherein Julia Roberts' character waves her arm and goes "woof, woof, woof!" This is actually from The Arsenio Hall Show, and it's a move his audience would do. So, the impression Genie is doing is actually of Arsenio, but Japanese audience didn't know who he was. They sure do know Julia Roberts though and didn't seem to mind the fact that Genie gave her a mustache.

Here's the clip from Aladdin where Genie becomes Arsenio Hall. You can all judge for yourself how close the resemblance is to Julia Roberts. Genie transforms around the 20-second mark.

We can't promise that there will be any impressions, but there is a live-action Aladdin remake in the works starring Will Smith as the Genie. That movie is currently scheduled to arrive in theaters on May 24, 2019. For future Disney releases, here's our Disney live-action movie guide!

Matt Wood

Matt has lived in New Jersey his entire life, but commutes every day to New York City. He graduated from Rowan University and loves Marvel, Nintendo, and going on long hikes and then greatly wishing he was back indoors. Matt has been covering the entertainment industry for over two years and will fight to his dying breath that Hulk and Black Widow make a good couple.