Having lived in a household where the only nursery rhymes I was familiar with until relatively recently were the ones delivered by Andrew Dice Clay on HBO in the 1980s, I am only now experiencing many of the Disney 2D movies. To wit: Last weekend, I watched Aladdin for the first time with my daughters. I wasn’t terribly impressed. I assume it’s considered one of the middling efforts of the era. Indeed, 23 years after its release, it feels dated: The racist stereotypes are cringeworthy, and as great as Robin Williams is, I suspect the Ed Sullivan and Jack Nicholson impressions are lost on many.
By complete coincide, ahead of the DVD re-release of the film, the film’s directors Ron Clements and John Musker (who were also behind The Little Mermaid and Hercules) officially confirmed a long-held theory about the film, namely the identity of the peddler stereotype in the beginning of the film — who has four fingers, like the Genie, and is voiced by Robin Williams, like the Genie — is actually, surprise, the Genie!
I saw something that speculates that the peddler at the beginning of Aladdin is the Genie. That’s true! That was the whole intention, originally. We even had that at the end of the movie, where he would reveal himself to be the Genie, and of course Robin did the voice of the peddler. Just through story changes and some editing, we lost the reveal at the end. So, that’s an urban legend that actually is true.
Watching for the first time as an adult, that seemed obvious. I assumed, because Williams was voicing him and relaying the story in flashback, that he was the eventually freed Genie. However, that thought had never even occurred to my wife, who watched it for the first time as a child.
Our innate feel for obvious callbacks clearly doesn’t develop until we are teenagers.