Sunday, 10 September 2017

Aladdin Begins Filming

Mena Massoud (Aladdin), Naomi Scott (Jasmine), Will Smith (Genie) and Marwan Kenzari (Jafar) on their first day on set for Guy Ritchie's Aladdin
Exciting news from Disney this week as production officially began on the live action adaptation of Aladdin on Wednesday and to celebrate Will Smith (Genie) posted the very first selfie from the London set!

It's not even been two months since the first casting announcements at D23 this summer but additional casting information has been coming in fast these last few weeks and the cast is now officially complete!

We already know that Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott and Will Smith are playing our heroes Aladdin, Jasmine and Genie, but every great hero needs fantastic villains and Aladdin has found them in Marwan Kenzari's Jafar and Numan Acar's Hakim!

Completing the principal cast are Navid Negahban as the Sultan, Nasim Pedrad as Dalia (Princess Jasmine's handmaiden and confidante) and Billy Magnussen as Prince Anders (a suitor for Princess Jasmine from Skanland).

First impressions? I'm super excited! I said this after D23 and I'll say it again now - I love that Disney have cast relatively unknowns rather than big names for this because that shows they've been cast as they truly are the best people for the roles rather than just for their box office draw.

Also - I think this is going to be a very different Aladdin to either the animated original or the musical.  Disney aren't playing it safe with this and that's great.  As much as I loved this year's Beauty and the Beast it was arguably too similar to the animated classic, it added some wonderful touches, I loved the way the castle crumbled as the petals fell, but ultimately it invited too many direct comparisons that it could never live up to (and yes, I fully recognise that nostalgia does play a part in that).  A more direct adaptation may be the easier and safer option but it would mean the film would likely always be in the shadow of the original.  By doing its own thing, by being unique, Aladdin will succeed or fail on its own merits just as it did on stage.  It may not be as safe but it has a much better shot at being something very special rather than just a good adaptation of a superior original.

So what do the new castings tell us?  Marwan Kenzari as Jafar is much younger that the character is traditionally portrayed which suggests that the villainous vizier may be a more active role in this version and a more physical match for Aladdin.  This is interesting as Aladdin normally has to rely on his wits to defeat Jafar (of course at this point Jafar is normally an all powerful sorcerer/giant snake).  I'm sure that will still be the case but I definitely wouldn't be surprised to see a more personal throw down between the two first in this movie!

Numan Acar's Hakim is probably the most revealing casting that's been announced so far.  Described as both Jafar's right-hand man and the head of the palace guards Hakim effectively replaces both Iago and Razoul.  This, along with the creation of Jasmine's attendant Dalia, suggests that, like with the musical, the animals are out.  Though it is surprising that they went with a new character rather than just making fan favourite Iago human as they do on stage.  Combining the roles of Iago and Razoul also suggests a greater corruption within the palace guards this time around with ((at least) Hakim knowing Jafar is plotting directly against the Sultan.

Nasim Pedrad's Dalia will presumably fulfil the same role as her attendants in the musical - giving Jasmine someone to talk with and confide in in the absence of Rajah, though likely with a larger presence in the story.

Gotta admit, whilst it's now pretty much a certainty that the animals are out, I do hope they make an exception for Abu.  Jasmine has Dalia and Jafar has Hakim, since Babkak, Omar and Kassim haven't been cast Aladdin needs a friend and someone to interact with before he meets Genie.

I'm not sure there's much to read into the other castings yet.  Navid Negahban's Sultan rounds out the original classic characters and Billy Magnussen's Prince Anders seems likely to fulfil a similar role as Prince Achmed did in the original.  Of course I'm sure Disney and Guy Ritchie have some surprises in store for us all.  As long as they stay true to the heart of the characters and story then I'm sure everything will turn out just great.

And speaking of the heart of the piece. Alan Menken announced at D23 that he was working with the Tony Award winning songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (La La Land & Dear Evan Hansen) to create new songs for this new version of Aladdin and thanks to the Oh My Disney report we now know they'll be creating 2 all new songs for movie to go along with the classic Menken, Ashman and Rice tunes from the original.  I can't wait to hear who the new songs are for!  I'm guessing a new song for Genie and either a solo for Jasmine or a new duet for Aladdin and Jasmine.

Now, Beauty and the Beast got 3 new songs so I'm wishing with all my might that Proud of Your Boy makes the cut this time!  Long shot?  Maybe, but Aladdin is all about wishes coming true.

I'm sure I'll be writing much more about the movie real soon now that production has begun and they're officially making magic!

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