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When we first meet him, Aladdin doesn’t appear to be the most likely candidate for Jafar’s “diamond in the rough” or a future prince for that matter. That’s because when we meet him in “One Jump Ahead”, Aladdin is busy fleeing the city guards after stealing a loaf of bread for himself and his pet monkey Abu.
The song takes Aladdin and Abu all over the market place of Agrabah, clearly Aladdin is no stranger to fleeing the authorities. In fact, based on the lyrics in “One Jump Ahead”, Aladdin’s gotten so good at evading and eluding that he doesn’t seem overly concerned about whether or not he’ll get away.
Aladdin and Abu try to hide in several places (behind a muscle man, fruit stands, a jewelry stand (where Abu tries to help himself to the merchandise) the most notable being what appears to be a brothel (you know, the room full of pretty girls dressed in bright clothes that sing about “oh it’s just Aladdin again?”) At least that’s what someone claims it is on Tumblr, but another possible (maybe) explanation is that it’s a family of pretty girls, they’re all sisters and Aladdin just annoys them? (I really don’t want the brothel explanation to be true, because it weirds me out that Disney would put anything like this in one of their movies!!)
A recurring theme in the song is Aladdin being derided as “rif-raff….street rat…scoundrel…” etc. It’s clear the “respectable” people of Agrabah think very little of a poor kid like Aladdin. This point comes up again in the reprise to this song, after Prince Achmed informs Aladdin “You were born a street rat, you will die a street rat, and only your fleas will mourn you!”
Meanwhile, Aladdin continues to dodge and evade, but the guards are slowly closing in from all directions, forcing Aladdin and Abu to climb higher and higher, until finally, all they can do is “JUMP!” They get away safely, and the guards end up falling into a stinky pile of camel poo (ewwwwwwww, gross!)
However, after spending all that time and effort to acquire a loaf of bread to eat, Aladdin ends up giving it to two little kids who clearly need it a lot more than he does, showing that despite being a thief, Aladdin is really a good guy at heart. After being insulted by Prince Achmed shortly afterward, Aladdin begins the long walk home, singing a sad reprise of “One Jump Ahead.” This part always got to me when I was younger (having been teased and called names a great deal), because it talks about how all the people Aladdin knows judge him and put him down, but they wouldn’t if they really KNEW him. I really liked the last line “they’d find out/there’s so much more, to me…”
At the end, we get to see that Aladdin lives in a half ruined building that has a great view of the palace. Aladdin dreams about being rich someday, imagining that when he lives in a palace he “won’t have any problems at all.” Of course the complete opposite happens to be true, as Princess Jasmine knows all too well.
“One Jump Ahead” was one of the songs created by Alan Menken and Tim Rice after Howard Ashman passed away. Originally, this part of the film had a completely different number entitled “Proud of Your Boy”, a song that Aladdin sings to his mother (who is disappointed in how he’s living his life). This song was ultimately cut (but later restored to the Broadway play adaptation of the story) and temporarily replaced by a song entitled “Count on Me” before “One Jump Ahead” was finally selected. The song serves as a good introduction to Aladdin and his mischievous nature, and I enjoy listening to it.
So that’s it for “One Jump Ahead” and would you believe there’s only one song left? All that remains is “Prince Ali (reprise)” and that’ll do it for Aladdin!
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