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Disney's live action remakes have been a near constant source of box office gold for the House of Mouse, but Aladdin really succeeded better than even Disney anticipated. The movie wasn't just a hit but a juggernaut. It's made over $1 billion at the global box office. It's a much better outcome than producer Dan Lin was anticipating before the movie came out, but he believes that a combination of classic elements and new ideas hit just right the mix for success.
I recently had a chance to speak with the Aladdin producer and he admitted that he was far from sure the movie would be a hit before it came out. The social media reaction to Will Smith's Genie wasn't positive and there was a fear that would carry over to the box office once the film was released.
I asked Dan Lin why he thought the movie eventually succeeded. He gave me three different reasons. The first, despite the fact that the initial reception of the Genie wasn't great, was Will Smith. According to Lin...
One, they loved Will Smith, I think they loved his interpretation of the character, that it was really fresh and he brought his hip-hop spin to it, so I think that’s number one.
While people may not have been sold on Will Smith up front, Dan Lin thinks that those that gave him a chance were pleasantly surprised. The live-action Genie was nothing like Robin Williams, but the feeling is that was a good thing. Will Smith got to be himself, and the simple fact is, a lot of people like Will Smith.
The second reason that Aladdin worked, according to Dan Lin, was the film's overall message. It seems that every where you look the world is full of negativity, and so there is an audience that just wants to escape into a movie that will make them feel good for a while. Aladdin does that. Jasmine and Aladdin are characters that provide an empowering message that viewers want to embrace.
Number two, it’s got a real positive message of empowerment through Jasmine and even through Aladdin, of being true to yourself, and I think that’s a really important message today.
Dan Lin talked to me at length about his feeling that Aladdin was one Disney animated movie that really did need to be remade, mostly because of the way the original treated Jasmine. She's not a character you would call empowering in the original film, but she certainly tries to be in the new one.
While two of the reasons that the new Aladdin worked so well may have been things that the new version brought to the story, the third is all about what the new movie brings back, the music. Lin thinks the music, both the old and the new, and just great songs that people love to hear.
Three, the music, the music is just classic and the way Alan Menken and Pasek & Paul updated the classic songs and also introduced a new song in “Speechless.” These are songs that, when you leave the movie, you keep singing over and over again.
It's certainly true that the Aladdin songs are timeless. They were the last songs worked on by the late Howard Ashman, the lyricist who had previously worked on Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid. Not every Disney remake has been a musical but with Aladdin, I'm not sure there was a choice, if people didn't get the music, they'd probably riot.
Whatever the reasons Aladdin became Disney's third billion dollar movie of 2019. Aladdin will be available in Digital HD on August 27 and will follow on Blu-ray September 10.