We received “The Art and Making of Aladdin” from Insight Editions to review, based on the upcoming live action film. The book is now out, and does focus exclusively on the live action version with a couple of pages mentioning the original classic (unlike “The Art and Making of Dumbo“, which has a bit more). “The Art and Making of Aladdin” features a wide variety of film photos and pieces of concept art throughout its approximately 150 pages.
The introduction is by filmmaker Guy Ritchie, who was approached by Disney to tackle this project. For Ritchie, “Aladdin is a human story told in a fantastical world of magic and music”. It is also his first musical.
The first chapter is called Returning to Agrabah and does tread a bit where Ritchie already went in the introduction, though explaining a bit further how he and others came to the film. It is nice to see Alan Menken back to helm the music. The film location was changed to a busy port city, and the filmmakers wanted to be respectful of the culture of the region (even though Arabah itself is fictional).
The next chapter talks about the global cast they put together for the movie, and Guy Ritchie said they were “very fussy about our Aladdin”, further stating that they looked on almost every continent and many countries. It was only a few weeks prior to filming where they chose actor Mena Massoud for the title role. And for Jasmine, they wanted to update her but still hearken back to the original animated version, including in her costumes. Jafar receives his own backstory, and the one thing about Art of books is that they can have minor spoilers, so I won’t go further into that. But suffice to say, his costumes also will “reference the animated version”.
The hardest shoes to fill, by far, will be Robin Williams as Genie. Disney’s head of production Sean Bailey calls the work of Williams, “legendary, iconic, highly memorable”. The book talks about casting Will Smith and what he brings to the role. There is also a page on creating Genie as the Big Blue version.
Originally the filmmakers wanted to shoot Aladdin in Morocco, but instead chose Longcross Studios outside London. That meant building Agrabah and the palace rooms from scratch, and the book talks about that and also how the parade was created – along with discussing locations and costumes in some detail.
Abu wasn’t a real monkey on set though a real monkey did help filmmakers create him. All of the animal characters have been re-imagined and have pages dedicated to them.
If you’ve seen the extended Aladdin sneak peek at the Disney parks, you’ll have seen the lively One Jump Ahead musical sequence. It took several weeks to shoot the scene, which is amazing because it feels very organic. Massoud did most of his own stunts.
There are a number of pages dedicated to the music. Incomparable composer Alan Menken is shown and this section talks about how he was involved both with writing one new song (sung by Naomi Scott as Jasmine) and the re-arranging of songs from the classic film.
Aladdin comes out on May 24th, 2019. I would recommend “The Art and Making of Aladdin” if you want to know more about how the movie was made! Because I have not yet seen the film, the most interesting part of the book for me was the “One Jump Ahead” sequence because I have seen it. It will be fun to re-read the book once I’ve watched the whole film.
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