In keeping with the live-action rebooting of a classic animated Disney, it’s time to switch gears a little bit and talk about Starkid’s AMAZING take on Aladdin.
Haven’t seen Twisted yet? This is a problem easily remedied. You will not regret it.
Our Protagonist: Aladdin
We defy you to not love Aladdin (unless you’re from Starkid, apparently). He’s a good character: easy to like, not particularly complicated, kind of an underdog, but reasonably smart and capable too. See his ability to survive healthily as a street rat (which may be ever-so-slightly due to Abu’s help), and his swindling one extra wish out of the Genie.
We will admit that we were a little puzzled during our rewatch when the Guardian of the Cave of Wonders tells Gazim that only “the diamond in the rough” may enter, because while Aladdin is very likable, and he feeds orphan children who are looking for scraps in the garbage, are these things really enough to qualify him for diamond in the rough status?
Our realization was that it is only Aladdin who is allowed to enter the Cave, and once in it, he is only allowed to touch the lamp, because he’s the only one who is going to set the Genie free. Which then made us wonder whether that was the Cave’s Guardian’s plan all along. Which would be cool, except then the Guardian needs to get over the stickler-for-the-rules thing, because locking Aladdin inside with the lamp is the opposite of setting the Genie free.
Anyway, all in all, a good egg, Aladdin is.
Our Protagonist: Twisted
When all the Starkid fans learned that Dylan Saunders would be playing Jafar, the unanimous consensus was, “FINALLY.” But besides the excellent portrayal, the character is also very well thought-out. He manages to embody a Disney antagonist throughout the show even though he has our sympathies right from the beginning. This is because he’s a cynical realist, but not one of those smug ones who enjoys crushing the dreams of small children in his spare time. He’s just been beaten down by years of political impotence.
He’s the guy everybody blames for the Kingdom not being perfect while at the same time he’s the only person actually trying to fix things. The idea here is that in a typical Disney movie, having dreams and wishing on stars seems to be all it takes to achieve your ends, and Jafar’s the guy who shows up and tells you that you’ll actually need to put some hard work in, and you’ll need to compromise on a few things, and maybe shave off some of the unrealistic elements of your ambitions while you’re at it.
What makes the show perfect is two things: we see how Jafar starts out, and it’s as a young idealist with fairly unrealistic ideas about how the Kingdom’s problems will be solved; and we have that ending. Which we’ll get to.
Our Antagonist: Aladdin
We’ve talked about Jafar. He’s a lot of fun. We don’t really get what he’s doing apart from coming up with new power-grabbing schemes every minute, but we forgive him because he’s so entertaining. His voice actor is great, he has great character design, we LOVE his villainous reprise… but yeah. Dude needs a hobby.
We haven’t talked about Iago, though, and that’s too bad. We’re not sure what’s going on here. He’s a parrot who pretends to be a “dumb animal” but is basically a human in parrot form, down to the inexplicable teeth he has. There’s no explanation for this. We assume that because both Rajah and Abu act like a bit like furry people who can’t talk, Iago is just lucky enough to be able to converse with language because as a parrot he would of course have that ability.
Why does he then have to pretend to not be a witty little schemer in front of the Sultan, especially when the Sultan would probably never notice the difference? We don’t have an answer.
And just to reiterate though it doesn’t need to be said. Voice acting is awesome.
Our Antagonist: Twisted
It was jarring to see Aladdin this way. But it was so necessary. Three may deeply dislike the taste of mint and erm can’t stand most sitcoms, but we have many shared pet peeves and one of the biggest ones are those explanations of why the villains in Disney movies are actually right.
All you have to do is rewatch any given Disney movie to learn that the villain is NEVER right. Sometimes we feel for them, sometimes we like their villain songs, but there’s nothing justifiable about their actions. Twisted’s Aladdin, even though he’s not actually a canon Disney villain, is no different. He’s a horrible person who makes life difficult for everyone around him because he doesn’t bother to worry about the consequences of his actions. In the end he goes full-blown psychopath, and… wow. But it had to be done, because you can’t just retell the Aladdin story and make Jafar the protagonist without rewriting your characters, no matter what a Cracked.com piece may say.
Aladdin is an interesting character to watch for any Disney fan because he’s been written as a Disney protagonist taken to extremes. He’s “the best wisher” who gets whatever he wants, even if he has to take it. But this can only work with Jasmine as his comparison, at least for those of us who love Disney movies. We need to see the good elements to the young dreamer as well as the bad ones in order for Aladdin to stand out as a truly evil villain.
Our Setting: Aladdin
So we have a couple of problems with Agrabah. First off, what is wrong with the Sultan? It might be tempting to blame Jafar’s constant brainwashing for the state of Agrabah’s socio-economic inequalities (as a certain Captain of the Guards would no doubt do) but it seems to us that Mr. Sultan could do a little less glass animal tower-building and a little more governing of his country. Also, he could have realized early on that he has the power to change laws so that the entire romance subplot wouldn’t have stakes.
Also, are we having just a bit too much fun with some stereotypes here?
Disney. Stop relying on this stuff.
Finally: why does Aladdin get to be Sultan after the current Sultan’s death? Why can’t it be Jasmine with Aladdin as her consort? Seriously, Agrabah, get your hereditary privileges right.
Otherwise, Agrabah is really fun to look at and escape to for 90 minutes.
Our Setting: Twisted
The Magic Kingdom is just excellent. We like that they grapple with the poverty question repeatedly, whereas in Aladdin it’s never actually discussed as something that they might ever want to do something about.
In the Kingdom we know exactly why everything is the way that it is. We see how Jafar needs to broker an alliance with the land of Pixar to save their flailing economy. We see the other Viziers’ deliberate mismanagement. The Sultan is fully evil on top of simply being incompetent.
What we don’t know is why, even under Jafar’s command, the royal guards are still so motivated to extremes by the theft of a loaf of bread that, and we quote, “things got a little out of hand and a lot of good people are dead.”
Get your priorities right, Jafar.
Our Wish-Granter: Aladdin
We have nothing to say. The Genie is the greatest. ❤ Robin Williams.
Our “Throw-Away Joke:” Twisted
The Genie does show up in Twisted, but all he does is speed the plot along while endlessly referencing movies, which is great, but we though we’d take the chance to talk about Achmed instead.
In Twisted, Jasmine isn’t allowed to get away with having Rajah attack a foreign head of state without consequences. This is made all the better by having Prince Achmed be from Pixar. His song is one of the best Starkid songs ever which is saying A LOT. It’s so much fun to sing along to, with lyrics like:
“She may not love me yet, but I’m willing to bet that once I’ve killed all her people, she will!”
“There’s only one route I see: arrange the slaughter of millions of innocent civilians – THEN they’ll remember me!”
Our Princess: Aladdin
Jasmine isn’t the most fleshed out character out there. Her characteristics include being stubborn and feisty, and she for some reason hasn’t been eaten by her pet tiger yet. There was a lot more that the filmmakers could have done with her, but that’s typical of a Disney love-interest. Think all of the Prince Charmings who do nothing. While Jasmine may not be as well-rounded as we would have liked, at least she has a personality.
There are a couple of moments that could have been expanded into something beyond just “fiery love interest.” First is the moment in the market, where Jasmine unthinkingly gives a hungry boy an apple without realizing that she’ll need to pay for it. She almost loses her hand because of this, and yet we never call back to it later, when she’s safe at the palace. It seems as though the moment has only been used to show Aladdin’s quick-thinkingness, which is nice, but we could have used a little Jasmine scene later where she barges in on her useless father and says something along the lines of “OMG dad stop playing with those and DO YOUR JOB here let’s brainstorm I have ideas about fixing world hunger and getting rid of extreme punishments for petty crime let’s hop to it.”
We do have Jasmine reflecting upon her decisions mid-movie about a different incident, however. Jasmine cries with Rajah because she thinks it’s her fault that Aladdin has been executed – which it would have been, if any of what Jafar had told her was true. This is nice, because we haven’t had one Disney princess with any regrets up until Aladdin came out, and she isn’t even the main character. After this, she goes to her father for help, he “helps,” and then she tells Jafar that she’s going to get rid of him as soon as she has the power to do so. So all in all, we like this little mini adventure of Jasmine discovering consequences and political ambitions, and we wish it had been expanded to its fullest potential.
Speaking. Of. Which.
Our Princess: Twisted
We LOVE how Twisted portrays Jasmine. She begins as a spoiled, outspoken brat with a lot of political ideas, and not a whole lot of substance. And although Jafar acts as kind of a mentor, scolding her for setting her tiger on a visiting prince and being too easily taken in by Aladdin, Jasmine comes to her own realizations on her own terms. When the final confrontation takes place between Jafar, Jasmine, and Aladdin, Jafar only stumbles onstage AFTER Jasmine has decided that she’s no longer interested in the creep.
When Jafar entrusts her with the lamp, he doesn’t give her any specific guidance. He just tells her that her youth, passion, and even her niavete will mean that she will be able to make all of the changes that he failed to enact come true, and she is absolutely able to fix everything once he’s gone. Mentor stories are always better when the mentee is able to teach the mentor something at the end.
Jasmine ends up being your typical Disney protagonist who doesn’t have to ruin everyone else’s day to get what they want, but instead saves everyone, and declares that the path to equality is to decree that EVERYONE IS A PRINCESS.
Our Music: Aladdin and Twisted
We love all of the music. Shout outs to Prince Ali, A Whole New World, Dream a Little Harder, Twisted, Orphaned at 33, Everything and More, Sands of Time – Golden Rule, and, of course, No One Remembers Achmed.
This is unrelated but crucial:
All caps from Disney Screencaps except the ones we grabbed from Twisted on youtube.