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Why Disney's live-action Aladdin remake will be magic

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This is the year when three Disney existing classics get a facelift. The Mouse House has lined up a formidable trio of live action remakes for 2019, starting with Tim Burton's vision of Dumbo at the end of March.

Then, after his masterful re-imagining of The Jungle Book, director Jon Favreau takes on the mighty The Lion King in July.

And sandwiched between the two of them in May is Aladdin, taking us on another magic carpet ride to the magical kingdom of Agrabah.

Note to Lady And The Tramp fans: sorry, but Disney has confirmed that the remake of its 1955 animation will be on its streaming service only, not in cinemas.

But back to Aladdin. We've already seen the teaser trailer and some promotional images, and there are plenty of reasons to be excited about it. Will it be faithful to the original or give us a whole new world? Let's see…

1. Will Smith is The Genie

The film's biggest star gets the plum role, but he has a huge act to follow. Nobody can ever replace original Genie voice actor Robin Williams, so how will Smith make the role his own and keep fans happy?

Disney is saying we should expect "a little Fresh Prince, a little Hitch and whole lot of attitude". First reactions to Smith's appearance, which included a shaved head and pony tail, may have been somewhat mixed, but his reassurance that he'll also be suitably blue in the film has gone down much better.

And looks aren't everything, after all. The genie is the story's comic relief and nothing comes more naturally to the charismatic, confident Smith than making us laugh. His interpretation of one of Disney's most magical characters will be well worth waiting for.

2. Princess Jasmine is played by a Power Ranger

The role of Jasmine is literally a dream come true for British actress Naomi Scott, who grew up loving the princess from the 1992 original.

Best known as the Pink Power Ranger from the 2017 movie, she's also due to appear in this autumn's Charlie's Angels reboot opposite Kristen Stewart. Scott has been open about how she's planning to build on Jasmine's independent spirit from the first Aladdin and that she'll have more than a little in common with Disney's new generation of princesses.

More interested in caring for her people than following the demands of Agrabah by being married to the first prince that comes along, Jasmine could easily be on the road to becoming their leader. And, says Scott, there's the sense she has all the qualities to do that.




3. There are some brand new faces

So the essential characters are all there – The Genie, Princess Jasmine, evil sorcerer Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) and Aladdin himself, played by newcomer Mena Massoud – but we get to know some new characters as well.

At long last, Jasmine isn't the only significant female in the story: she has a handmaiden called Dalia, played by Saturday Night Live regular Nasim Pedrad. And she's much more than just a servant, as the two have grown up together and are close friends.

Aladdin has competition for the hand of Princess Jasmine in the shape of Prince Anders, a suitor from Skanland. Played by Into the Woods scene-stealer Billy Magnussen (he's therefore got past form with the studio), Anders is a brand new face created specifically for the remake.




4. There are brand new songs too

Disney refuses to do things by halves when it comes to music, and Aladdin is no exception. They've brought in Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the Oscar-winning songwriters from La La Land and The Greatest Showman, to work with award-winning composer Alan Menken, who was behind the Oscar-winning score for the original Aladdin.

The remake wouldn't be complete without the Oscar-winning song from 1992, 'A Whole New World' – also composed by Menken – and we're promised a whole new version sung by Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott.

According to Massoud, it'll be faithful to the song that everybody knows and loves – even if the two actors had the added challenge of singing while on a magic carpet! Jasmine also gets a sparkling new song of her own, while she and Aladdin also share a duet written specially for the film.

Will Smith has also said signature Genie number 'Friend Like Me' will be getting a revamp – now that we can't wait to hear.

5. There's a surprising choice of director

Guy Ritchie directing a Disney movie? Yes, yes and yes again! He may be the man behind the decidedly kiddie-unfriendly Lock Stock (as well as the more palatable Sherlock Holmes adventures), but he has five children of his own and claims he knows more about kids' movies than any other genre.

He's also extremely well versed in telling stories about street hustlers (see Lock Stock and Snatch) and there's more than an element of that in Aladdin's character. Perhaps Ritchie isn't the shock choice he may have seemed after all.

He's certain to bring his trademark visual energy to Agrabah, but with a style that's totally fresh to a Disney movie. Yes, he's something of a risky choice but, from recent reports, it doesn't sound like he's going to be playing fast and loose with a much-loved classic. Just making it his own.



Aladdin is released in Cineworld on 24th May 2019, so tweet us @Cineworld if you think it'll live up to the classic Disney original.

Freda Cooper is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.