This review originally appeared on the now-defunct site FamilyWonder.com, which showcased children's entertainment for parents and caregivers.
Network: Disney Channel
Best For Ages: 2-5, 6-8
Disney's pauper-turned-prince Aladdin - along with spirited Princess Jasmine, monkey mime Abu, wisecracking parrot Iago, and the irrepressible Genie - travel through the mythical kingdom of Agrabah on a magic carpet. Their adventures with street magicians and desert beasts are a little tame for kids over six, but the humor provided by the animal sidekicks makes up for the thin plots.
Educational Value: Aladdin relies as much on his wits as on the magic carpet at his disposal. Most of the stories have some sort of moral, like supporting one's friends and owning up to false bragging. Not much from THE THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS though.
Entertainment Value: Beautiful if stereotyped images of the Middle East make the stories more exotic. Though less impressive than the ALADDIN feature film, the animation is still clean, classic Disney.
Emotional Intensity: Aladdin's fatherless youth becomes a frequent theme.
Gender/Racial Issues: This cartoon reinforces stereotypes of fierce Middle Eastern warriors and harem women. Arab anti-defamation groups have objected to certain characterizations.
Questionable Behavior: Aladdin often disobeys rules, especially if they're based on silly tradition or superstition.
Sex/Nudity: Scantily-clad women.
Violence: Run-ins with armed guards and street thugs never result in anyone getting injured, though there are some swordfights.
A very loose adaptation of a classic Middle Eastern tale, Disney's ALADDIN brings back beloved characters from the theatrical film and two direct-to-video sequels, THE RETURN OF JAFAR and ALADDIN AND THE KING OF THIEVES. Parrot minion Iago, initially a bad guy, has become Aladdin's wise-cracking ally for television, and his sarcastic humor outshines the Genie's. Without Robin Williams' brilliant voice performance as the supernatural showman, that character loses a lot of its interest.
The mythical kingdom of Agrabah is an interesting mix of tradition and social growth, with characters ranging from swooning veiled women seeking exotic boyfriends to ex-thieves trying to form a pseudo-union. Aladdin straddles the social classes, having been born a pauper but transformed by decree of the Sultan into a worthy mate for the princess. Thus he can socialize with neighborhood kids, but his exploits tend to place him more in a class with Hercules than Robin Hood.
Young kids won't understand the show's fun postmodern sensibility, which makes it amusing for adults as well as older children. Though a six-year-old viewer caught a direct reference to another Disney film and an oblique nod to the legend of George Washington and the cherry tree, he didn't understand the parody of a game show host. But he was still amused by the jokes, while his three-year-old sibling was entranced by the talking parrot and the flying carpet.
The stories are predictable and have obvious morals about not exaggerating, admitting mistakes, and working with others to get jobs done. But they're told with verbal and visual energy, often involving chases through busy streets or foreign locales, with slapstick interruptions and lots of one-line jokes. Many older kids will sit happily for a half-hour episode once in awhile, even if they don't watch regularly.
Children's Television Reviews