There are a lot of classic elements of the animated Aladdin still present in the new remake – from the colorful antics of the genie, to all the songs that have been stuck in your head for the last 27 years – but one aspect that is changed quite a bit is the presence of Iago. The parrot is still the right hand of the power-hungry Jafar, and regularly feeds him information that drives the plot forward, but as a character he is very different than what fans are familiar with. Rather than being an abrasive animal sidekick brought to life with the voice of Gilbert Gottfried, he’s instead, well… a parrot.
It’s an interesting choice that the film makes, particularly because there are still many other magical elements in play, but there is a good reason why it was done. According to director Guy Ritchie, a more anthropomorphic version of Iago in the new Aladdin simply didn’t fit as the story was brought from animation to live-action, and just didn’t feel right within the presentation.
I brought up the character when I recently sat down with Guy Ritchie at the Los Angeles press day for Aladdin, asking how those kinds of decisions were made, and he explained,
Good question, actually, and one I don't mind talking about, this one, at all. It's funny what you can get away with in an animated production that can't, my feeling is, that you can't get away with in quite the same way in live action. So although you still got magic carpets and blue genies coming out of bottles, [it] still has to be rooted in some form of reality. It's hard if you have a parrot who has paragraphs of dialogue. Somehow it just sits uncomfortably in a live action production.
Going for a more appropriate adaptation of the character, Aladdin has the new Iago act much more like a scarlet macaw that you would find in real life, albeit with a slightly enhanced ability to speak (he has the occasional line, but nothing on the level of what we hear in the 1992 movie). Physically he’s entirely a digital creation, and the voice is done by Alan Tudyk – who has become a Disney regular in recent years, with parts in Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen, Big Hero 6, Zootopia, Moana, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and Ralph Breaks The Internet.
Unlike the human characters, which were easy to adapt from medium to medium, Aladdin’s animals presented a particular puzzle for the filmmakers, but it was a code they eventually cracked. It was all about finding what Guy Ritchie referred to as the “sweet spot” where things didn’t seem out of place or two extreme. Said the director,
There was a sweet spot that we found between animals in their animation or articulation before you went too far and then you went, 'Oh, hold on. This is live action.' But as I say, you're talking about wishes and genies, yet somehow there's a position that the mind occupies that accepts certain amount of fancy without becoming absurd.
You can watch Guy Ritchie discuss his approach to bringing Iago to life in the new Aladdin by clicking play on the video below!
In addition to Alan Tudyk, Guy Ritchie’s Aladdin sports an impressive ensemble cast that includes Will Smith, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Marwan Kenzari, Navid Negahban, Nasim Pedrad, Billy Magnussen, and Numan Acar. The movie will be hitting theaters this weekend, and be sure to stay tuned here on CinemaBlend for more from my interviews with the cast and filmmakers!