The Inconsistent Aladdin Series

In 1994, Disney created an animated series of their 1992 masterpiece, Aladdin. The movie was an incredible work of art which recently joined the ever-expanding list of princess anniversaries in November to celebrate its 25th anniversary. Unfortunately, the television series fell rather flat in comparison to the film. Though it lasted a grueling 85 episodes, most of it has been forgotten by the general public with the exception of a small handful released alongside episodes of The Little Mermaid series on VHS featuring Princess Jasmine. I recently took the liberty of watching all 85 episodes to see if the show could withstand the test of time. My findings were not promising.

The Aladdin series was introduced with The Return of Jafar, Disney's first sequel, and one of the worst. It's no wonder, then, that the series sports the same cheap animation, flimsy storylines, and lack of character growth as its intro movie.Though it occasionally gave the characters new outfits (as pictured above), much of what happened in the original film remains stagnant. In the series, Aladdin is still poor and lives in an abandoned hovel despite getting engaged to the princess. I mean, seriously? He goes to the palace for meals and then walks back to his stone cold bed every night? Even the wanted thief Flynn Rider gets a nice room in the castle in the Tangled series, and he hasn't even gotten engaged to Rapunzel yet. So little changes in the series that if the much stronger sequel, Aladdin and the King of Thieves, in which Aladdin and Jasmine finally tie the knot, had taken place immediately after the original Aladdin movie, virtually nothing would have changed, with the exception of Iago becoming an ally.

Even though I realize Jasmine is not the main character, this is a princess blog, so I'd like to talk a little about her role in the show. As I stated earlier, the only episodes that were released on VHS were about Jasmine, and the tapes were clearly marketed for girls. I even remember a Jasmine charm necklace that I got from one of them as a kid. Most people who saw the show as children know that the Jasmine-themed episodes were the best ones. Some examples that come to mind are "Garden of Evil," in which Jasmine gets kidnapped by plant-like man who wants to make her part of his beautiful garden, "Elemental, My Dear Jasmine," in which Jasmine gets kidnapped by a jealous mermaid, and "Sandswitch," in which the jealous Sadira alters everyone's memories so she could take over Jasmine's life as the princess and Aladdin's fiancée. Some might argue that Jasmine suffers from "Damsel in Distress" syndrome from these examples, but the show was actually rather progressive in that respect, with Jasmine always insisting on joining the rest of the gang on dangerous quests in order to protect her kingdom. She absolutely refuses to be seen as a damsel in distress, no matter how many times she gets kidnapped.

Being that Jasmine is such a strong character and the show was marketed as part of what would later become their Disney Princess line, it's surprising that she was absent from so many episodes. The Arabian princess is missing from roughly a third of the series. Many of the episodes without her have no female characters in them whatsoever, which draws glaring attention to the fact that she is the only woman in the show's entire primary cast. This makes the majority of the series difficult for girls to enjoy or relate to. Yes, there are some great recurring female villains, like Sadira the sand witch (Sandwich. Get it?), Selene the mermaid, and Mirage the shapeshifting cat lady, but many episodes focus on macho men showing off their macho strength on macho adventures. It's interesting how Disney put so little effort in promoting the show to boys through their promos and merchandise. Though Jasmine was often missing in action, you won't find a single episode that lacks everyone's favorite blue genie, making it seem as if he was the most important character even though Aladdin's ultimate goal in the movie was to win Jasmine's heart through the Genie. The lack of female characters in the Aladdin series is a reverse example of how the Disney Princess Enchanted Tales series failed due to a lack of male characters. It really says something about how far we've come that the Tangled series added a female sidekick to the cast who appears alongside Rapunzel in virtually every episode. Yet, you won't find Eugene absent from any episodes of that show.

In addition to uneven casting, every episode of Aladdin follows a similar formula that that is inconsistent with the version of Agrabah we were presented with in the movie. In each episode, some sort of mysterious new evil is threatening the lives of everyone in the kingdom, and it's up to Aladdin to stop it with the help of his genie and flying carpet. According to the series, magic is so common in Agrabah that it should have come as no surprise whatsoever to Aladdin when he fell into the Cave of Wonders and found a lamp containing a genie who offered him three wishes. Remember how intimidating Jafar was at the end of the movie when he became a powerful sorcerer and threat to the well-being of everyone in the kingdom at large? Well, apparently, that was no big deal because Agrabah gets threatened by some sorcerer or powerful supernatural being every other Tuesday or so. I know Shahrazad had 1,001 magical tales about Arabian nights, but I didn't think they all happened in the same kingdom at the same time. These regularly recycled storylines are another cause for the show's complete lack of continuity and growth. Add to that the fact that there are no original songs in it, unlike every other Disney series that features a princess, and every episode starts to feel the same.

Aladdin: The Series is a perfect example of too much of a good thing. As much as we would all love to own Jasmine's wardrobe, a magic carpet, and be friends with a genie, eventually all those incredible adventures will start to blend together and feel boring. Unlike Elena of Avalor, which does a great job at building its world's culture, the only consistent thing about Agrabah seems to be that Aladdin saves it on a weekly basis with or without Jasmine by his side. All that, and he still doesn't get a room in the palace.


Unknown said…
You said you watched all the episodes? How and where did you do that?
Lisa Dawn said…
It's on YouTube, but not in the best quality. The audio is a little distorted, and the picture is shrunk into a box in the corner.

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