During script and storyboard development, the writers were already considering Robin Williams for the role of the Genie but had not approached him for the project. In order to convince Williams to do the role, Eric Goldberg animated the Genie doing several minutes of Williams's stand-up routines, including parts from his album 'Reality... What A Concept', and screened it for him. Williams was so impressed that he signed almost immediately.
Originally, the peddler who introduces the movie would be revealed to be the Genie at the end - hence the fact that Robin Williams voiced him, too. Notice the similarities in the design of the two, especially the eyebrows, the beard, and the four-fingered hands. (All the other human characters have five fingers.)
From August 16-18, 2014, Robin Williams had passed away, and Disney honored him by airing Aladdin on their three children's channels (Disney Channel on Saturday, Disney XD on Sunday, and Disney Junior on Sunday evening and Monday morning), twice on each channel. At the end of the movie, just before the credits, they put up an image that read, "In Memory of Robin Williams, who made us laugh." using animator Eric Goldberg's tribute to him (a.dilcdn.com/bl/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2014/08/genie_robin_williams_eric_goldberg_tribute.jpg) as a backdrop. Disney is considering keeping the image at the end of the film on future releases on home video.
The opening scene with the street merchant was completely unscripted. Robin Williams was brought into the sound stage and was asked to stand behind a table that had several objects on it and a bedsheet covering them all. The animators asked him to lift the sheet, and, without looking, take an object from the table and describe it in character. Much of the material in that recording session was not appropriate for a Disney film.
Robin Williams provided the voice for the Genie, at union scale rate (the lowest legal pay rate a studio can give an actor), on the provisos that his voice was not used for merchandising (i.e. toys and such), and that the Genie character not take up more than 25% of the space of a poster, ad, billboard, or trailer. When these wishes were not granted, he withdrew his support for Disney and the film. As a result, his name was not included in "The Art of Aladdin" book (it makes constant references to "the voice of the Genie"), and he was not available for the direct-to-video sequel The Return of Jafar (1994) or the Aladdin (1994) TV show (Dan Castellaneta filled in as the voice of the Genie for these productions). In an attempt to get back on good terms with Williams, Walt Disney CEO Michael Eisner apologized to him with a peace offering of an original Pablo Picasso painting. Still angered and feeling betrayed by Disney, Williams would not accept the gift. It was not until Disney chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg was fired and replaced by Joe Roth that Williams returned to Disney. Through Roth, a public apology was given. Promises to right wrongs were kept, and Williams was so touched that he came back as the Genie for the second direct-to-video sequel, Aladdin and the King of Thieves (1996). Disney was so thrilled that they threw out the previously completed recording sessions with Castellaneta.
Jafar at first was more hot-tempered, while Iago was a cool, haughty British type. The filmakers felt that having Jafar losing his temper too much made him less menacing, so the personalities of the two characters were switched around.
While filming this movie, Robin Williams frequently received calls from Steven Spielberg, who at the time was working on Schindler's List (1993). He would put him on speaker phone so he could tell jokes to the cast and crew to cheer them up. Some of the material that he used was material that he was using for this film.
When the film was first released on VHS in October 1993, it sold over 10.8 million copies in its first week and went on to sell over 25 million in total. This record stood for only two years when it was beaten by the release of The Lion King (1994).
Production designer Richard Vander Wende devised a simple color scheme for the film, inspired by its desert setting. Blue (water) stands for good, red (heat) for evil, and yellow (sand) is neutral. For example, the villainous Jafar is clad in blacks and reds, while the virtuous Jasmine wears blue. Another example is in the Cave of Wonders, where the lamp's chamber is blue, and the ruby that tempts Abu is bright red.
In the preview screenings for the movie, nobody applauded after the big song numbers. The animators wanted applause and so somebody stuck the Genie with an "Applause" sign at the end of "Friend Like Me". The joke worked and the sign was kept for the movie.
In the original recording for the opening song "Arabian Nights", part of the song originally went "where they cut off your ear, if they don't like your face". After the movie's release Arabic Americans took offense so the line was changed to "where it's flat and immense, and the heat is intense". If you listen closely, you can hear a distinct vocal change when he sings, "it's barbaric, but hey, it's home!" The lyrics in the film's opening song "Arabian Nights," originally were: "Oh, I come from a land From a faraway place Where the caravan camels roam. Where they cut off your ear If they don't like your face It's barbaric, but hey, it's home." Arab-American groups complained it was racist. It had already been released however Disney agreed to change it on the video release and any subsequent theater releases. So the new lines "Where it's flat and immense, and the heat is intense" replaced the 2 offensive lines.
On what came to be known among the Aladdin animators as Black Friday, then Disney head Jeffrey Katzenberg told the team to scrap virtually everything they'd been working on for months and start all over again. He also refused to move the film's release date. Directors John Musker and Ron Clements were able to completely turn around the film's new plot and screenplay in just eight days.
This was the first major animated film which was advertised on the strength of having a major movie star providing one of its voices (Robin Williams). This has since become the norm with animated features.
Jasmine was originally supposed to be a bit more active. At one point, she was supposed to confront the Sultan and angrily declare "We have to talk", but the animators nixed it because it would have meant designing an entirely new room for that talk so were forced to fall back on showing Jasmine crying instead (which made them cringe). Also, when Jasmine was trapped in the hourglass, she was supposed to use the jewel in her headpiece to cut herself free, but this was changed to a last-minute rescue by Aladdin. Jasmine was also going to be a spoiled brat who wanted to marry the richest of all the princes, only becoming a sweet girl who learns humility after falling in love with Aladdin. A song was even written for the spoiled version of Jasmine, titled "Call Me a Princess". The production team dropped this personality because they didn't think audiences would like her very much. Also, when Jafar wished to rule Agrabah, the original idea was for time to be altered, so everything was as if he'd always been the sultan, everyone's memories had been altered, and Aladdin, Abu, and the Carpet were only unchanged because Carpet wrapped around them and protected them from the magic wave. That was deemed way too confusing, and was scrapped as well.
The Genie sings in "Friend Like Me" that "Scheherazade had her thousand tales". Scheherazade was, of course, the supposed author/teller of the stories from "A Thousand and One Arabian Nights", which "Aladdin" comes from. While there weren't really a thousand tales, she did supposedly keep the sultan entertained for 1,001 nights.
The second Disney animated feature to use fully-rendered and -textured 3D CGI moving backgrounds in combination with the traditionally animated character animation, a technique that was expanded upon in the Disney short Off His Rockers (1992) and previously in Beauty and the Beast (1991). This led to the creation of "Deep Canvas" a brand-new technique created by Disney seven years later for use in Tarzan (1999), which allows 2D hand-drawn characters to exist seamlessly in a fully 3D environment.
Layout supervisor Rasoul Azadani traveled to his hometown of Ispahan, Iran in 1991 to get a feel for the look of the film. He took nearly 2,000 pictures there. His name was supposed to be the incantation Jafar used when he approached the Cave of Wonders, but the idea was written out so as not to be such an in-joke. However, in The Return of Jafar (1994), the (here nameless) captain of the guards was eventually named in his honor.
The two men in the crowd that Aladdin pushes through are caricatures of two of the directors (John Musker and Ron Clements); the original plan was to use film critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, but they couldn't get permission.
Part of the plot revolves around Jafar seeking Aladdin as he is the only one able to enter the Cave of Wonders and retrieve a valuable item inside; Aladdin finds the lamp and narrowly avoids dying inside the cave. This imitates the plot in an earlier Disney classic, The Rescuers (1977), in which Madame Medusa uses an orphan girl small enough to fit through the opening of a dangerous pirate's cave and retrieve the Devil's Eye diamond inside. Penny and her rescuers exit the cave with the jewel after narrowly avoiding drowning.
The idea of adapting the Aladdin story as a Disney animated musical was first proposed by Howard Ashman in 1988 at the time that he and Alan Menken were still working on The Little Mermaid (1989) and before work had begun on Beauty and the Beast (1991). Ashman wrote an initial treatment for the project and collaborated on six songs with Menken. When John Musker and Ron Clements finished directing duties on The Little Mermaid, they turned their attention to writing a first draft of this film's script, and eventually became its directors.
Aladdin was originally fully aware that Jasmine was the princess when he first met her. It was changed because the production team believed that it implied Aladdin fell in love with her because of her money and power, not because he genuinely cared about her.
During his first song, the Genie mentions Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. This is, of course, another story from the Arabian Nights, and was used as the basis for the direct-to-video sequel, Aladdin and the King of Thieves (1996).
In early visual development, Aladdin resembled Michael J. Fox. As the film developed, Jeffrey Katzenberg didn't think Aladdin had enough appeal to women, so he asked that Aladdin be beefed up a bit to resemble Tom Cruise.
Howard Ashman and Alan Menken originally conceived the opening song "Arabian Nights" to be recurrent throughout the film, acting as narration. This idea was dropped when the visuals and storytelling proved strong enough in their own right.
Bill Plympton turned down a seven-figure offer to work on this film, because any ideas and concepts he developed for his other projects while under contract with Disney would become their intellectual property.
Though loosely based on the original short story from Arabian Nights, many plot elements are created just for the film: Jafar's desire for Jasmine, framing Aladdin for a crime and having him imprisoned, Aladdin meeting another prisoner (actually Jafar) who helps break him out of prison and tells him of a hidden treasure, Aladdin using the treasure (the lamp) to falsely portray himself as a prince, and to take revenge on Jafar. These plot elements are all quite similar to the plot of Alexandre Dumas père's novel, The Count of Monte Cristo. Appropriately, the novel itself makes reference to the Arabian Nights several times: the treasure of Monte Cristo is compared to that of Ali Baba, the cave in which it is hidden is compared to the one in Aladdin, and the protagonist Edmond Dantes at one point calls himself Sinbad the Sailor.
After proving his abilities to Aladdin by getting them out of a collapsed cave, Genie calls Aladdin "Mr. Doubting Mustafa". In the classic tellings of the Aladdin story, Mustafa was the name of Aladdin's late father.
Originally, Aladdin was supposed to use his second wish in order to get through an obstacle course designed to test Jasmine's suitors. The production team eagerly approached the idea of scripting and animating a fabulously elaborate action sequence but couldn't get the idea to work in practice, and ended up going for the much simpler solution of Aladdin being jumped by guards and then having to use the second wish to save his life.
When Iago pulls a picture of him and Jafar out of his cage, the line "And, uh, how about this picture? I don't know, I think I'm making a weird face in it" was ad-libbed by Gilbert Gottfried and Robin Williams couldn't stop laughing when he heard it.
The Islamic cultural setting of the film is directly referenced to several times throughout the film. Such examples include when The Sultan yells "Praise Allah" when he realizes that Jasmine wants to marry Prince Ali/Aladdin, when The Sultan says "Allah forbid you have any daughters!" when he is frustrated with Jasmine, and when Gazeem at the beginning says "By Allah" when he sees The Cave of Wonders. Though not stated it is implied the religion in Aragabah is Islam as Sultan as well as Gazeem mention 'Allah' which is what Muslims address God as.
In the Cave of Wonders, there was supposed to have been an extended version of the lamp-grabbing scene. In it, Aladdin would have approached the lamp and, before he would grab it, would look up and see images of others, including Gazeem from the beginning, who attempted to take the lamp and were killed. As it turned out, the lamp he was going for was a fake and, by stepping away from it, would have been granted access to the real one.
When Howard Ashman began work on the movie, he developed the story as a fast-paced comic adventure about a young boy trying to prove his worth to his parents. But, in 1991, Ashman died, and the story problems stalled the movie. So, the plot was reworked to be about a teenager, Aladdin, seeking self-respect instead of the approval of others.
Contrary to popular belief, Gilbert Gottfried and Robin Williams recorded their parts separately and did not once bump into each other during the film's production. However, the two had performed stand-up comedy together with Gottfried extolling Williams' generosity and support in an article for CNN following his passing.
Eight other songs were written for the film but were later removed. Some of the original songs before the story was rewritten and half of the characters were cut: "Proud of Your Boy" (supposed to be sung by Aladdin to his mother - later removed from the story - while she was sleeping); "Call Me a Princess"; "Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim"; "Humiliate the Boy" (sung by Jafar, cut as it was considered too cruel for the film); "High Adventure"; "Count on Me" (which was something Aladdin sung to his friends and family, then it was changed to "A Whole New World").
In the earliest scripts, there were two genies, one occupying the lamp, and one a ring, and Genie himself could grant an infinite number of wishes. In the first draft, Aladdin had three friends (Babkak, Omar, and Kassim), a magic ring and two genies. In the spin-off series Aladdin (1994), Omar was the name of one of the merchants. In Aladdin and the King of Thieves (1996), Cassim's name was used for the King of Thieves.
During the mid-1990s, a rumor began that alleged that during the balcony scene, Aladdin says, "Good teenagers, take off your clothes" when he encounters Rajah. This was one of many accusations by moral groups during that period which tried to prove that Disney was subliminally promoting sexual promiscuity in its films. The film's directors insists that Aladdin is actually saying, "Nice kitty, take off and go, go on." One Disney animator, Tom Sito, backed up this statement by stating that the people responsible for helming the scene are deeply religious and would never deliberately add such racy humor. All subsequent copies of the film cut the line entirely to avoid any further controversy.
Iago was originally intended to be voiced by Danny DeVito, but he was unavailable during production. DeVito would later star in a Future Animated Disney Production as the voice of Phil in Hercules (1997).
When Genie outfits Aladdin, the screen behind them has two pictures on it, one with Genie in a shirt, tie and eye-patch. This is a reference to a very famous ad campaign by David Ogilvy known as "The Man In The Hathaway Shirt".
As of 2015, this is the only theatrically released Disney animated feature where Frank Welker has a credited speaking role (the Cave of Wonders), as opposed to just providing vocal effects for animal characters.
Sebastian, the crab from The Little Mermaid, makes a brief cameo appearance. Genie pulls him out of the cookbook (accompanied by the opening notes from "Under the Sea") when he's granting Aladdin's first wish to be made a prince.
In the song, "Friend Like Me," the Genie sings, "Have some of column A, try all of column B." This line is very similar to a quote from the 1966 film, "The Oscar," with the quote being, "Take one from column A and two from column B."
As they try to recover Genie's lamp, Jasmine, Abu, and even the carpet technically become Genie's masters at least for a second, as they did hold the lamp (however, never summoned Genie). Just as that, Aladdin also was Jafar's master a few moments, as he held the lamp before Genie sent it away.
During and after A Whole New World Greece and China are the two countries seen in the film. This is foreshadowing as Hercules and Mulan released several years later are set in those two countries respectively although the Pastoral Symphony in Fantasia was also set in Greece. Iconically Aladdlin was originally set in China, not in the Middle East.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
When Aladdin realizes that he might become the next sultan he worries and the Genie tries to cheer him up by saying, "Aladdin, you've just won the heart of the princess! What are you going to do next", setting him up for the popular Disney advertising campaign line, "I'm going to Disney World!" Aladdin does not say this, but we hear the Disney theme music in the background. Similarly, when the Genie gets ready to leave at the end of the film, he is wearing a Disney souvenir Goofy hat.
Andreas Deja based Jafar on Marc Davis's design for Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty (1959). The two villains share more than just looks: both carry a staff which they use to execute evil magic; both have bird henchman (Maleficent's is a raven, Jafar's a parrot), and both turn themselves into gigantic reptiles in their respective films' climactic battles - Maleficent as a dragon, Jafar as a snake. UltimateDisney.com featured Maleficent and Jafar in their Top Villain Countdown at #1 and #2, respectively.
HIDDEN MICKEY: When Aladdin puts Jafar back into the lamp, the spell on the other characters is broken. Start watching when the cub Rajah jumps into the Sultan's arms. When Rajah hits his arms and starts to grow back into a tiger, just before he becomes normal, his face appears as Mickey Mouse for one frame.