Film Review: “Aladdin”

ALADDIN
Starring: Will Smith, Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott
Directed by: Guy Ritchie
Rated: PG 13
Running time: 2 hrs 8 mins
Walt Disney Pictures

Will Smith has fought many a cinematic battle.  He’s taken on drug dealers, aliens (many times), a mechanical spider and George Foreman and beaten them all.  This week he takes on his biggest challenge, the memory of Robin Williams.  And I’m happy to report he succeeds.

We open with a family at sea.  The children remark at the opulence of the boats around them, causing their father to remind them that bigger isn’t always better.  He then begins to tell them the story of Aladdin and his Magic Lamp.  We meet Aladdin (Massoud) as he and his monkey companion, Abu, work their trade through the marketplace.  Their trade is theft, and they are very good at what they do.  However, when Aladdin sees a beautiful young woman (Scott) ahead of him, his thoughts go from larceny to love.  He introduces himself and offers to show her the town.  However, she suddenly rushes off, explaining that she is a handmaiden to the daughter of the Sultan.  Like Cinderella, she is off with Aladdin seeking to find her.  However, unlike Cinderella, SHE is the Sultan’s daughter, which puts her a little out of Aladdin’s league.  If only he had a way of becoming a prince.

The least “Guy Ritchiest” of any Guy Ritchie film, “Aladdin” is actually an entertaining bit of filmmaking.  All of the characters from the beloved 1992 animated film are here.  Aladdin.  Princess Jasmine.  Jafar (a very evil Marwan Kenzari).  His parrot, Iago.  Abu.  Rajah the tiger. And, of course, the Genie.  Robin William’s performance as the Genie in the animated feature was so amazing that the Golden Globes created a special award for him.  It was really the first time I thought that an actor would get an Oscar nomination for voicing an animated character.  I give Will Smith a lot of credit for even accepting the role.  And he does well.  He isn’t Robin Williams, but he isn’t trying to be.  This is vintage early Will Smith.  Think the Fresh Prince or Mike Lowery from “Bad Boys.”  A lot of fun and a lot of attitude. 

The musical numbers are immaculately staged, like you just wandered into a “Bollywood” production.  And while this film is about 40-minutes longer than it’s animated predecessor, it doesn’t suffer under the crush of added time like the recent “Dumbo,” which was almost twice as long as the 64-minute animated original.  The cast is excellent, and I’ve read where Disney made sure to cast actors whose heritage is from the actual parts in the world the film depicts.

My one disappointment, and this was echoed by many of the people around me in the screening that sat through the entire closing credits, was that there was no dedication to the memory of Robin Williams.  For generations to come, whenever the animated “Aladdin” is mentioned, his name will be the first thing brought up.  A very simple “FOR ROBIN” would have been a fine and quiet tribute.

Blockbusters Disney’s Aladdin And Mean Girls Anchor 19/20 Fairwinds Broadway in Orlando Season At Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts

Current subscribers may renew their seats for the upcoming season beginning at 10 a.m. Friday, February 15, 2019

ORLANDO, Fla. (February 14, 2019) — Blockbuster Disney’s Aladdin and record-breaking new musical comedy Mean Girls will make their Orlando premieres as part of the 2019-2020 FAIRWINDS Broadway in Orlando series at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. The season also includes audience favorites Escape to Margaritaville: The Jimmy Buffett MusicalA Bronx Tale and The Play That Goes Wrong, along with Tony Award®-nominated revivals Miss Saigon and Lerner and Loewe’s My Fair LadyThe season will also feature the return of the musical phenomenon Les Misérables, for one week only.

Dr. Phillips Center joined Florida Theatrical Association and Broadway Across America today to announce the full line-up.

19/20 FAIRWINDS Broadway in Orlando series:

Escape to Margaritaville: The Jimmy Buffett Musical November 12–17, 2019

The Play That Goes Wrong — December 3–8, 2019

Disney’s ALADDIN  January 22–February 9, 2020

Mean Girls  February 25–March 1, 2020

Miss Saigon  March 31–April 5, 2020

A Bronx Tale  April 28–May 3, 2020

My Fair Lady  May 26–31, 2020

Les Misérables will be presented as a Season Option playing for one week only October 22-27, 2019. Subscribers will have first access to purchase tickets for Les Misérables once they have renewed their seats for the 19/20 season.

“The 2019-2020 season builds on the excitement and success of last year, our biggest season yet,” said Dr. Phillips Center President and CEO Kathy Ramsberger. “The opportunity to bring the best of Broadway to our community in both the performances on our stage and the ‘backstage’ educational experiences like Master Classes and Cast Chatbacks, is a way to invite everyone to experience our vision of Arts For Every Life.”

“We could not be more proud to partner with the Dr. Phillips Center and FTA to bring the best of Broadway right here to downtown Orlando. The upcoming season is a real treat for Central Florida audiences with a balance of some of the biggest hits in recent years alongside gorgeous revivals of legendary musicals,” said Susie Krajsa, President of Broadway Across America.

“We are once again excited to offer special, one-of-a-kind experiences and exclusive pre-sale opportunities to our members through our continued support of the FAIRWINDS Broadway in Orlando series at Dr. Phillips Center and to provide quality entertainment to our entire region,” said FAIRWINDS Credit Union President and CEO Larry Tobin.

One of the benefits of being a subscriber is having the option to renew your seats each year. Current subscribers can renew their seats now through March 15, 2019. Subscribers who renew early before March 1, 2019 can guarantee the lowest price for their subscription by taking advantage of loyalty pricing. FAIRWINDS Broadway in Orlando will first send renewal information via email and encourages renewing online for ease and convenience. This electronic communication will be followed up with a brochure sent via posted mail.

New subscriptions for the 19/20 season are not yet available for purchase at this time. Those interested in subscribing for the 19/20 season may join Broadway in Orlando’s subscription notification list at orlandobroadway.com. In April, those on the notification list will be among the first to be alerted when subscription seats become available.

Groups of 10 or more may begin placing ticket requests for most shows in the new season beginning February 15, 2019. Group minimums and discounts vary by show. Seating locations for group orders may not be confirmed until later this year.  For more information, email groups@drphillipscenter.org or call 407.455.5550. Tickets for individual shows in the 2019–2020 season will be made available at a later date.

For more information and to renew a subscription for the 2019–2020 season, visit OrlandoBroadway.com.

ABOUT THE SHOWS

Images and B-roll: https://dr-phillips-center.box.com/s/9aj4fixa5b9avk26w9vdocar7dstpobj

Les Misérables

October 22–27,2019

Walt Disney Theater

Season Option

Cameron Mackintosh presents the new production of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg’s Tony Award®-winning musical phenomenon, Les Misérables, direct from an acclaimed two-and-a-half-year return to Broadway. Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France, Les Misérables tells an unforgettable story of heartbreak, passion, and the resilience of the human spirit. Featuring the beloved songs “I Dreamed A Dream,” “On My Own,” “Stars,” “Bring Him Home,” “One Day More,” and many more, this epic and uplifting story has become one of the most celebrated musicals in theatrical history. With its glorious new staging and dazzlingly reimagined scenery inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo, this breathtaking new production has left both audiences and critics awestruck. “Les Miz is born again!” (NY1). 

Escape to Margaritaville: The Jimmy Buffett Musical

November 12–17, 2019

Walt Disney Theater

Welcome to Margaritaville, where people come to get away from it all—and stay to find something they never expected. Get ready for a hilarious and heartwarming musical with the most unforgettable songs from one of music’s greatest storytellers. USA Today calls it “A little slice of paradise!” and Entertainment Weekly raves, “It will knock your flip-flops off!” So don’t let the party start without you.

The Play That Goes Wrong

December 3 –8, 2019

Walt Disney Theater

What would happen if Sherlock Holmes and Monty Python had an illegitimate Broadway baby? You’d get The Play That Goes Wrong, Broadway & London’s award-winning smash comedy! Called “A GUT-BUSTING HIT” (The New York Times) and “THE FUNNIEST PLAY BROADWAY HAS EVER SEEN” (HuffPost), this classic murder mystery is chock-full of mishaps and madcap mania delivering “A RIOTOUS EXPLOSION OF COMEDY” (Daily Beast) that is “TONS OF FUN FOR ALL AGES” (HuffPost)!

Disney’s Aladdin

January 22–February 9, 2020

Walt Disney Theater

Discover a whole new world at Aladdin, the hit Broadway musical.  From the producer of The Lion King comes the timeless story of Aladdin, a thrilling new production filled with unforgettable beauty, magic, comedy and breathtaking spectacle.  It’s an extraordinary theatrical event where one lamp and three wishes make the possibilities infinite. 

Hailed by USA Today as “Pure Genie-Us,” Aladdin features all your favorite songs from the film as well as new music written by Tony® and Academy Award® winner Alan Menken (Newsies) with lyrics penned by the legendary Howard Ashman (Beauty and the Beast), Tony Award winner Tim Rice(The Lion King, Aida), and book writer Chad Beguelin (The Wedding Singer). Directed and choreographed by Tony Award winner CaseyNicholaw (The Book of MormonSomething Rotten!), this “Fabulous” and “Extravagant” (The New York Times) new musical boasts anincomparable design team, with sets, costumes and lighting from Tony Award winners Bob Crowley (Mary Poppins), Gregg Barnes (Kinky Boots),and Natasha Katz (An American in Paris).  See why audiences and critics agree, Aladdin is “Exactly What You Wish For!” (NBC-TV).

Mean Girls

February 25–March 1, 2020

Walt Disney Theater

“BY FAR THE FUNNIEST MUSICAL OF THE YEAR!” – Chicago Tribune

Direct from Broadway, MEAN GIRLS is the hilarious hit musical from an award-winning creative team, including book writer TINA FEY (“30 Rock”), composer JEFF RICHMOND (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”), lyricist NELL BENJAMIN (Legally Blonde) and director CASEY NICHOLAW (The Book of Mormon).

Cady Heron may have grown up on an African savanna, but nothing prepared her for the vicious ways of her strange new home: suburban Illinois. Soon, this naïve newbie falls prey to a trio of lionized frenemies led by the charming but ruthless Regina George. But when Cady devises a plan to end Regina’s reign, she learns the hard way that you can’t cross a Queen Bee without getting stung.

New York Magazine cheers, “MEAN GIRLS delivers with immense energy, a wicked sense of humor and joyful inside-jokery.” USA Today says, “We’ll let you in on a little secret, because we’re such good friends: GET YOUR TICKETS NOW!”

“IT’S NOT A REGULAR MUSICAL, IT’S A COOL MUSICAL.” – Entertainment Weekly

Miss Saigon

March 31–April 5, 2020

Walt Disney Theater

“A DYNAMITE BROADWAY REVIVAL.” – The New Yorker

Experience the acclaimed new production of the legendary musical Miss Saigon, from the creators of Les Misérables.This is the epic story of a young Vietnamese woman named Kim. In a bar run by a notorious character called The Engineer, Kim meets an American G.I.just before the fall of Saigon. That encounter will change their lives forever. Featuring stunning spectacle, a sensational cast of 42, and a soaring score including Broadway hits like “Last Night of the World,” “The Movie in My Mind,” and “American Dream,” this is a theatrical event you will never forget.

A Bronx Tale

April 28–May 3, 2020

Walt Disney Theater

Jersey Boys meets West Side Story.” – amNewYork

Broadway’s hit crowd-pleaser takes you to the stoops of the Bronx in the 1960s—where a young man is caught between the father he loves and the mob boss he’d love to be. Bursting with high-energy dance numbers and original doo-wop tunes from Alan Menken, the songwriter of Beauty and the BeastA Bronx Tale is an unforgettable story of loyalty and family.

Three years ago, Academy Award nominee Chazz Palminteri teamed up with Academy Award® winner Robert De Niro, Tony® Award winner Jerry Zaks and  Tony® Award nominee Sergio Trujillo to create this streetwise musical – based on Palminteri’s true life story.

The New York Times hails A Bronx Tale as “A Critics’ Pick! The kind of tale that makes you laugh and cry.”

Lerner and Loewe’s My Fair Lady

May 26–31, 2020

Walt Disney Theater

From Lincoln Center Theater comes “a sumptuous new production of the most perfect musical of all time” (Entertainment Weekly), Lerner & Loewe’s My Fair Lady, directed by Bartlett Sher.  Boasting such classic songs as “I Could Have Danced All Night,” “The Rain in Spain,” and “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly,” My Fair Lady tells the story of Eliza Doolittle, a young Cockney flower seller, and Henry Higgins, a linguistics professor who is determined to transform her into his idea of a “proper lady.”  But who is really being transformed?

“Thrilling! Glorious and better than it ever was! A marvelous and transformative revival.” – The New York Times

For more information and to renew a subscription for the 2019–2020 season and Broadway in Orlando, visit OrlandoBroadway.com.

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FAIRWINDS Broadway in Orlando is presented in partnership with Broadway Across America and Florida Theatrical Association. FTA is a non-profit civic organization with a volunteer board of trustees established to ensure the continued presentation of quality touring Broadway productions and the promotion of arts education throughout the state of Florida. For more information, visit FloridaTheatrical.org.

About Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts

Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts is a private, not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization operating the state-of-the-art performing arts center in downtown Orlando, Fla. With its opening in November 2014, the arts center has become a gathering place for creativity and discovery, and a vibrant urban destination where artists, audiences and students come to experience, explore and learn. The two-block community destination features the 2,700-seat Walt Disney Theater, 300-seat Alexis & Jim Pugh Theater, Seneff Arts Plaza, Advent Health School of the Arts, the DeVos Family Room and other event rental spaces. Under construction is Steinmetz Hall, a 1,700-seat acoustical theater, along with rehearsal, classroom, office space and commercial development spaces. Dr. Phillips Center collaborates with the City of Orlando, Orange County, the City of Winter Park, the State of Florida and generous donors.

BROADWAY ACROSS AMERICA (BAA) is part of The John Gore Organization family of companies, which includes Broadway.com, The Broadway Channel, BroadwayBox.com and Group Sales Box Office.  Led by 13-time Tony-winning theater producer John Gore (Owner & CEO), BAA is the foremost presenter of first-class touring productions in North America, operating in 44 markets with over 400,000 subscribers. Presentations include Disney’s The Lion King, Wicked, The Book of Mormon, The Phantom of the Opera and Hamilton. Current and past productions include The Band’s Visit, Beautiful, Cats, Chicago, Dear Evan Hansen, Hairspray, Mean Girls, The Producers and Waitress.

About FAIRWINDS

FAIRWINDS Credit Union, headed by President/CEO Larry Tobin, is one of the largest financial institutions headquartered in Central Florida, with assets of more than $2.2 billion, 190,000+ members and over 500 employees. The financial cooperative established in 1949 is open to anyone living or working in Central Florida.

Animator Rick Farmiloe Talks About His Amazing Career

I hate to sound like Grandpa Simpson here, but “back in my day,” Saturday morning cartoons were…well they were cartoons. They weren’t 30 minute advertisements for toys (I’m looking at YOU, Transformers). Animator Rick Farmiloe remembers that time, and how his work then led him to a stint working on some of the greatest and best loved animated films in recent history.

Beginning on such shows as “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids” and “The New Adventures of Tom and Jerry,” Mr. Farmiloe worked his way to the Disney Studios, where he helped with the animation of such early 1980 films as “The Great Mouse Detective” and “The Black Cauldron.” He continued working in television, including multiple episodes of “Ghostbusters” and “She Ra- Princess of Power.”

Back at Disney, he worked on “Oliver and Company,” then helped take Disney into an all new world of animation success, designing some of the most popular characters of all time, including Scuttle in “The Little Mermaid,” LeFou in “Beauty and the Beast” and Abu in “Aladdin.” He has also animated for Dreamworks (“The Prince of Egypt,” “Shrek”) and added his touch to “The Simpson’s Movie.”

To help spread the word that “Frozen” actresses Eva Bella, who played young Bella and Livvy Stubenrauch, who played young Anna will be appearing at the upcoming Kansas City Comic Con (Nov. 10th-12th), Mr. Farmiloe took some time out from his schedule to talk with me about his career.

Mike Smith: You began your career in what was, to me, the golden age of Saturday morning cartoons. How has the process and style of television animation changed since you started?

Rick Farmiloe: When I started in the late 1970’s all animation was still done in the US. Most of it now is sent overseas to keep down costs. Storyboarding is still done here, but the actual animation is done out of the country. TV animation was a good way for a young animator to get started. A lot of veterans were around to help with advice and drawing tips. These days there are a LOT more outlets and styles of animation. There were no ‘adult’ cartoons back then. It was all very safe and by the book. “The Simpsons” changed all that, and now TV animation runs the scale from pre-school to ‘R’ rated style shows.

MS: You’ve animated some of the true classic Disney characters of the past three decades. How are the characters assigned?

RF: At Disney we were cast just as actors would be cast. Those with very strong draftsmanship, or a bent towards more realistic characters would be cast on the leads. I always had a knack for doing more comical animation, so I was always cast to do funny sidekick characters. Those characters were always attractive to me because of the freedom to come up with funny things for my characters to do. I always wanted to ‘plus’ my animation, and if I could come up with an even funnier idea or gag, I was given the freedom to pitch it to the director. If he liked it, I gave it a shot. ALL animators were encouraged to improve upon ideas that were in the script or in storyboard form. A friend of mine once compared my animation to that of Ward Kimball, one of Disney’s famed ‘Nine Old Men’ because Ward pretty much only animated sidekicks as well. That was a huge compliment of course, but that was a role that I felt very comfortable with. I was never one of the best draftsmen at Disney, but I feel I had a talent at doing some funny animation. People still remember a lot of my scenes. I am very proud of that role.

MS: You’ve also worked on some non-Disney animated features. Are there different rules for animating for Disney as opposed to a studio like Dreamworks?

RF: At Dreamworks, Jeffrey Katzenberg made a decision to NOT be ‘Disney’. He was largely responsible for helping to create a style at Disney during the 80’s and early 90’s. He knew trying to be another Disney was the wrong way to go. The character designs and overall feel of the Dreamworks Films were much different from what was done at Disney, even though a lot of us came from Disney. He wanted the films to be for more mature audiences, not for small children but more like teens. “Prince of Egypt” was the first film in that style. It was a really bold choice in subject and style. I had to adjust my animation style to fit the subject matter. I animated the camel. I wanted to still make him funny, but without the usual broad animation and really cartoony style I was used to doing. I think the film holds up really well. I’ve always respected Jeffrey so much for wanting to come up with a new and unique style of filmmaking.

MS: Best show, in your opinion, between “The Simpsons,” “Family Guy” and “South Park?”

RF: You forgot “Ren and Stimpy!” (laughs). I like all of those shows a lot! The writing on all of them is just so smart and never obvious. They are all more of an adult nature, but completely unique in style and content. They all have their copycats of course, especially “Ren and Stimpy!” But since you are FORCING me to pick only one, I’m going to have to go with “The Simpsons.” It was the first and still the most consistent. Matt Groening is an absolute genius. The show has been on the air since 1962 or something and still has that great quality. The reason it’s still on, if you ask me….and I think you did….is because people LOVE that family! They seem 100% real. And beneath the sarcasm and cynicism, there is a real love between all the family members. I was lucky enough to work on “The Simpsons Movie,” and got to see first hand how that franchise works so successfully! INCREDIBLE writing! It will probably be on long after we are all gone!

MS: What are you working on next?

RF: I am always doing freelance on one project or another! I just finished animating on a live action Chinese feature that has some sections of hand drawn animation. We are in the planning stages of doing some animation for a documentary/celebration film on the legendary band, Cheap Trick! My girlfriend Christi Haydon and I have teamed up on a fun project called “Full Moon Cartoons.” It is a one panel cartoon that deals with us as cartoon characters who have moved to a town called Full Moon Springs. It is inhabited solely by monsters! It has a very mid-century modern style to it. It deals with us just trying to fit into the monster world as comfortably as we can, with funny results. It comes out every Friday, which we call ‘Full Moon Friday.’ You can find it on a site called HorrorBuzz.com, and our Facebook page called Rick+Christi’s Full Moon Cartoons. It’s so much fun for us because we have EXACTLY the same sense of humor. I have loved drawing classic monsters my entire life. Christi is a writer and production designer who loves stylistic details, and is great with color choices. We also love traveling around the country appearing at numerous comic conventions, meeting fans and making lots of new friends! It’s a very exciting time.

You can also see more of Mr. Farmiloe’s work here.

Blu-ray Review “Aladdin: Diamond Edition”

Actors: Robin Williams, Gilbert Gottfried, Scott Weinger, Linda Larkin, Jonathan Freeman
Directors: Bill Perkins, John Musker, Ron Clements
Rated: G (General Audience)
Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Release Date: October 13, 2015
Run Time: 90 minutes

Film: 5 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray: 5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 5 out of 5 stars

“Aladdin” was and will always be one of my all-time favorite Disney films. I saw this film in theaters with I was a kid and fell in love. I was also a huge fan of the Sega Genesis game and TV series growing up as well. There is just so much magic packed into this film. The music. The animation. Robin Williams. It is simply perfect. Watching this film definitely makes me miss Robin a lot! He was a comedy genius in his prime and luckily will never be forgotten! My favorite part of this film arriving on Blu-ray this year is that I am able to now introduce it to my 3 1/2 year old daughter, who has no become quite obsessed with it as well. So my job as a dad is done as far as I am concerned. This is a must own for any Disney fan, PERIOD!

Official Premise: Climb aboard for a magical carpet ride with nonstop laughs, action-packed adventure and Academy Award(R)-winning music that will make your heart soar (1992: Best Music, Original Song, “A Whole New World,” Original Score). Now for the first time ever, a whole new world of Disney’s ALADDIN is revealed in a whole new way on Blu-ray and Digital HD — with never-before-seen bonus! With the help of a hysterically funny, shape-shifting, 10,000-year-old Genie, street-smart commoner Aladdin and clever, confident Princess Jasmine join forces against the evil sorcerer Jafar to put an end to his plans to take over the kingdom!

Disney released this Diamond Edition as a combo pack with a Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD copies included. Let me tell you I was simply blown away with the animation in high definition. The colors are just unbelievable. Everything about this movie just shines in 1080p. I am glad they waited this long to release this film because it looks like they really gave this film some good loving. Same goes for Disney’s DTS Master Audio 7.1 track, which perfectly showcases the songs that we all know and love for all those years. Simply perfect. No other way to describe it, honestly.

The special are fantastic editions to this already wonderful Blu-ray. I absolutely loved watching “The Genie Outtakes”. Robin Williams bloopers with his famous character are magically. “Genie 101” features Scott Weinger (the voice of Aladdin) as the host discussing the character. “Ron & John: You Ain’t Never Had a Friend Like Me” features the two directors, John Musker & Ron Clements, talking about the film. “Aladdin: Creating Broadway Magic” focuses on the stage play with host Darren Criss. “Unboxing Aladdin” explores Easter eggs and hidden secrets with  Joey Bragg from Disney Channel’s Liv & Maddy. Lastly there are also ALL classic bonus from the original DVD releases. There are also some extras bonus extras included if you use Disney Movies Anywhere.