Before we jump into the wonderful mayhem that is “Prince Ali”, we first need to explore the context of when and where all of this is taking place. Agrabah, the city where Aladdin lives, is ruled by the benevolent (if somewhat absentminded) Sultan, whose only daughter Jasmine, must (according to the Law) marry a Prince by her next birthday (which is only three days away). The problem is, Jasmine has firmly rejected any and all princely suitors that have hitherto come her way (the most recent, Prince Achmed, is sent packing after Jasmine’s pet tiger Rajah takes a bite out of his pants). The poor Sultan is despairing of Jasmine ever choosing a husband, but have no fear….Jafar, the Royal Vizier is here to help.
Thanks to Jafar’s involvement in the opening scene with the Cave of Wonders, we as an audience already have an idea that Jafar is up to no good, but here in front of the sultan he puts on the face of a well-intentioned counselor, whose only wish is to serve. The Sultan wants guidance on how to get Jasmine to marry someone, and Jafar says that this may easily be done, but first he needs the diamond ring off the Sultan’s hand. When the Sultan balks, Jafar reveals that he really is a villain by hypnotizing the Sultan into handing over the ring via his cobra-headed staff. (In reality, Jafar needs the ring to find “the diamond in the rough” who can enter the Cave of Wonders without getting killed).
Jafar is actually a villain I hadn’t paid much attention to, even as a kid, that is until I learned a rather interesting fact about him last year. After I bought Sleeping Beauty on Blu-ray, there was an interview with the now-late animator of Maleficent, and several other Disney animators. One in particular, the lead animator for Jafar, revealed that Jafar’s design is directly based on that of Maleficent. Looking at the picture above, I can totally see the resemblance. But I digress, on to “Prince Ali” !!
After Jafar’s plan to use Aladdin to get the lamp backfires (with Aladdin presumed dead and Jafar left without the lamp), Jafar has to think of a new way he can come to power. Thankfully, his wisecracking parrot Iago has the perfect solution: why doesn’t Jafar simply marry Princess Jasmine? There’s nothing in the Law that says it can’t be done and it would be the easiest route to power as (via Iago’s plan) once the wedding is done, Jasmine and the Sultan would suffer an unfortunate “accident” resulting in Jafar as the sole ruler of Agrabah. It’s diabolical, and it just might work too! All Jafar needs to do is hypnotize the Sultan into authorizing the marriage and it’s a done deal. But just as the Sultan nearly agrees to it, a faraway trumpet blast breaks the hypnosis and the Sultan runs to see what is coming.
I absolutely LOVE this song! The fanfares, the pageantry, it’s just amazing to watch. And right away you can tell that the leader of the parade is the Genie with flesh-colored skin. The entire song is performed by Robin Williams, the purpose being to present “Prince Ali Ababwa” (aka Aladdin) as this amazing prince whom the princess couldn’t possibly think of refusing because he’s so awesome! According to the Genie (who presents himself in various guises in the crowd), Prince Ali has done it all: he’s as strong as ten men, he defeated a horde of bandits, he’s generous with his money and he’s the peak of physical perfection. Of course, aside from the handsomeness, everything else is a complete lie, Ali/Aladdin hasn’t done any of these things, so while it’s understandable what the Genie is trying to do (making Ali/Aladdin look good), he’s going seriously overboard. I mean, suppose a horde of bandits had swept down on Agrabah and everyone looked to this Prince Ali to solve the problem? I’m probably nitpicking, but it is something to think about.
At any rate, the procession is extremely impressive. In fact, it’s modeled after the famous Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City (with the giant floats and even a giant balloon gorilla at one point). Everyone is impressed: the people, the city guards who used to chase Aladdin, even the bawdy girls that Aladdin used to try and impress (I honestly don’t know what else to call them). Everyone is impressed…except Princess Jasmine (who leaves in a huff before the song is even over).
Jafar is not impressed either. While he doesn’t realize (yet) that Prince Ali is the street rat Aladdin that he left for dead in the desert, he IS upset that another Prince has arrived to upset his plans of marrying Jasmine himself. No matter how great this Prince Ali is, as far as Jafar is concerned, he has got to go!
Poor Iago got squashed…
The song ends as the giant procession forces itself into the throne room (after Jafar attempts to keep them out, only to get smashed by the door for his efforts) where Prince Ali presents himself to the Sultan by flying down on his magic carpet. That’s quite an entrance for any Disney Prince to make, but will Jasmine be interested? Possibly…IF Ali/Aladdin can be himself and IF he can tell her the truth and IF Jafar doesn’t figure out who he really is first, wow that’s a lot of “Ifs”.
What do you think about “Prince Ali” ? Did the Genie take things a little too far? For next time, we’ll look at “Friend Like Me”. Have a great Wednesday (we’ve made it halfway through the week!) -Bex
*all images are the property of Walt Disney Studios
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