DirectorJohn Musker and Ron Clements
Release Date(s)2019 (September 10, 2019)
Studio(s)Walt Disney Feature Animation/Buena Vista Pictures (Walt Disney Studios)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: C+
Aladdin was a break-out hit when it first appeared in theaters in 1992, greatly expanding upon the critical and commercial success of The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast before it. (The Lion King would continue this upward trend just two years later, leading some historians to call this period a “renaissance” of Disney animation.) Clearly, much of this film’s success was due to Robin Williams’ extraordinary performance as the Genie—not just his voiceover work, but also the way his sheer physicality during the recording sessions informed the character animation. Williams’ frenetic energy and off-the-wall impersonations and references lent this film a level of humor and contemporary accessibility that audiences simply hadn’t seen from a Disney animated film since The Jungle Book.
Drawing upon elements from the 1924 Douglas Fairbanks film The Thief of Bagdad, Disney’s Aladdin tells the story of a young street thief who is used by the villainous Jafar to retrieve a magic lamp from the mysterious Cave of Wonders. Jafar wants the Genie (Robin Williams) in the lamp to use his magic to help Jafar overthrow the kindly Sultan of Agrabah, by forcing a marriage with the Sultan’s daughter, Jasmine. But Aladdin uses the Genie’s magic instead to become a prince so he can court Jasmine himself, all while attempting to expose Jafar’s schemes. Meanwhile, Jasmine has no intentions of simply being a pawn in marriage… she has dreams of her own. And with the Genie in the mix, nearly anything can happen along the way.
In addition to Williams, Scott Weinger and Linda Larking shine here (as Aladdin and Jasmine), and the supporting voice cast includes the likes of Jonathan Freeman (as Jafar), Gilbert Gottfried, and Jim Cummings. A great musical score by composer Alan Menken, with songs by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, elevates the film even further. Best of all, the film’s animation is bold and gorgeous, a mix of mostly traditional hand-drawn animation, lightly enhanced with occasional computer-animated elements.
Aladdin was produced using the Disney CAPS process (or Computer Animation Production System). A native 4K master was created from the original digital production file for this release at the 1.66:1 aspect ratio (which is OAR, and it’s a big deal to finally have it that way—note that it was released theatrically at 1.85). It’s also been graded for high dynamic range in HDR10. The good news is that the image looks absolutely terrific, capturing all of the detail in the original animation artwork. The HDR grade is very restrained—it’s just enough to deepen the blacks a tiny bit and to give brighter imagery (flame, magic sparkles, etc) a bit more luminance. The wider color gamut also allows for more accurate color reproduction, resulting in notably richer hues and a degree of added vibrance, as well as a tad more image depth. There’s also no edge enhancement, which was an issue on the previous Blu-ray and DVD editions. This presentation doesn’t quite have the same “wow” factor of other titles on the format, but it’s a major improvement over the previous Blu-ray and should be considered a reference image for this particular film. Honestly, it’s difficult to imagine Aladdin ever looking better than it does here. (Note that the 1.66:1 framing results in very slight black bars on either side of the image.)
Primary audio is included in a new English Dolby Atmos mix that sounds terrific… once you turn up it a bit (this is definitely mixed at a lower reference level, like some other Disney 4K UHD titles). When you do, there’s excellent clarity, solid low end, and lovely smooth atmospherics. The surround channels are used to create a satisfying sense of environment. The staging and movement are smooth and natural. Dialogue is clear, the height channels offer a nice bit of lift and overhead enclosure, and Alan Menken’s score has lovely fidelity with a full, rich sound. This mix isn’t exactly a dazzler, but it serves this film well. Additional audio options include English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, and 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus in Japanese. Optional subtitles include English for the Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish, and Japanese.
There are no extras whatsoever on Disney’s 4K disc, but the package does include the Signature Collection Blu-ray version of the film (in 1080p HD—also OAR (1.66:1), a nice touch, and so obviously sourced from this new master), which adds:
- Audio Commentary with John Musker, Ron Clements, and Amy Pell
- Audio Commentary with Andreas Deja, Will Finn, Eric Goldberg, and Glen Keane
- Aladdin on Aladdin (HD – 30:27)
- Let’s Not Be Too Hasty: The Voices of Aladdin (HD – 2:58)
- Alternate Endings (SD – 2:05)
- Classic Bonus Preview (HD – :59)
- The Genie Outtakes (HD – 8:53)
- Aladdin: Creating Broadway Magic (HD – 18:52)
- Genie 101 (HD – 4:00)
- Ron & John: You Ain’t Never Had a Friend Like Me (HD – 5:36)
- Song Selection (7 songs – 13:20 in all)
Aladdin on Aladdin, Let’s Not Be Too Hasty, and the Alternate Ending are new for this Signature Collection, while the rest of the extras you’ve seen before. But it’s not a lot of material and it’s also not everything that’s available. The previous Diamond Edition Blu-ray (reviewed here at The Bits) included the Unboxing Aladdin featurette and nearly all of the original Platinum Edition DVD’s extras too (save for the Pop-up Facts track, the Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Adventure and 3 Wishes DVD games, the self-guided version of the Inside the Genie’s Lamp tour, and all of the Animation Art and Publicity image galleries). The Diamond Edition Blu-ray also included the film in HD at the 1.85:1 aspect ratio. So if you want to keep all of that, you’ll need to retain both previous versions. You do at last get a Movies Anywhere Digital code on a paper insert in the packaging here.
Aladdin is certainly a beloved favorite among Disney’s animated films from the “renaissance” era and it’s good to finally have it available on 4K Ultra HD. A/V wise, this is a major upgrade over the previous Blu-ray. Just keep in mind that a lot of special features are missing here, so this edition in no way replaces the discs you already own. As such, the 4K is recommended… if only for diehard fans of the film.
- Bill Hunt