Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Tuesday animation: The Return of Jafar

The animated film selected for today...is an interesting one for me.  Anyone who knows me knows that my favorite movie of all time is Disney's Aladdin, so to review its sequel...yeah, it'll be fun.

The Return of Jafar was Disney's first direct-to-video sequel, but unlike the other sequels that came after it, this one cannot be considered a "cheapquel."  This is because The Return of Jafar was not originally intended to be an actual movie.  It was supposed to be a multi-part opening episode for the TV series.  For this reason, the film is not very polished.  It definitely feels more like a TV episode.  You can actually tell where the intended commercial breaks were supposed to be, and the ending doesn't have that real movie feel to it.  How to actually judge this movie, then?  Well...I think you do need to take into account the original intentions for this film.  As a movie, it's quite weak, but as a special TV episode, it's pretty decent.

I adored Aladdin when I was a child, and since this sequel came out when I was only six-years-old, I was too young to notice its many, many flaws.  I just loved that I was getting to see more of Aladdin's adventures.  I was completely enthralled by the movie.  It wasn't until much later that I realized how flawed it really is, but...I still like it even today because I just love Aladdin.  :/  But I think I can be objective enough to write a decent review.

 (Screencaps from disneyscreencaps.com)

Overview: The Return of Jafar is the direct-to-video sequel to Disney's Aladdin released in 1994 that acts as the beginning to the Aladdin TV series.  Its reception was mostly negative to mixed, but due to its connection to the very popular original movie, it sold quite well.

Art: The art does not even come close to approaching the beauty and quality of the original film, but considering the intent of the film was to be part of the TV series, I don't think this can really be helped.  Obviously, it did not have the budget or the talent from the original film.  That said, the film is kind of...unattractive.  Ugly might be too strong of a word, but this movie is definitely not visually appealing.  The backgrounds are just okay.  Movements are fluid, but the trade-off is that the characters are quite flat and dull-looking with little shading and depth.  The characters are also hideously off-model.  In the original film, all of the characters have very attractive designs, even the villainous Jafar (I don't mean that Jafar is good-looking, just that his design was good).  Here, the characters are inconsistently drawn scene-to-scene, and often, they end up looking kind of ugly and warped.  Thank goodness the animators got better at drawing these characters throughout the course of the TV series.  It is just so unattractive at times that it's hard to ignore.  I think it would've been easier to tolerate if the characters at least maintained their attractive designs.

By the way, nowadays, Disney's animated TV series look really good, but back in the 90's, they definitely had more of a typical Saturday morning cartoon feel, and this series was no exception.  I'm trying to be fair on that account, but since this was released as a movie and not as a TV episode in the end, I feel that it does need a little harsher judgment.

I like the sparkles and colors
At least the animators were able to draw Aladdin's hair.  :3  He certainly has the best hair of any male animated character I've ever seen.
I...I have no idea what happened here.

Jasmine doesn't look nearly as exotic or beautiful as she does in the original movie, but she at least still looks pretty here.

XD  Aladdin's hair went kind of crazy here.
Jasmine honestly looks pretty ugly during this musical number which is such a shame since I think she's the most beautiful Disney female character.
I have no idea what happened here either.  I mean, WOW.  Aladdin's eyes and nose are both...just...I don't even.  Who drew this and thought that it looked good?

This is kind of pretty.
Sound: The movie redeems itself a bit here.  The sound quality is pretty good, no noticeable flaws.  The same voice actors reprise their role in the TV series with the exception of Robin Williams who is replaced by Dan Castellaneta.  So, the voice work is excellent.  I love Scott Weinger's delivery as Aladdin, Linda Larkin as Jasmine, Gilbert Gottfried as Iago, and Jonathan Freeman as Jafar.  They all have unique, wonderful voices (Scott's my favorite, for sure).  Dan Castellaneta's work as Genie is also very good, and he continues to get better throughout the TV series.  In fact, as much as I love Robin Williams as Genie, I think Dan's version is very, very good, and I often find myself imagining his voice in my head instead of Robin's when I think of Genie (don't hate me).  The musical numbers are not up to par with the original, but I actually really enjoy all of the songs.  I think they're all quite catchy and fun, especially "Forget About Love" and "You're Only Second Rate."  The background music is rehashed from the soundtrack from the original movie, so...I guess I almost have to say it's good.  :b  But it's cheating, so maybe not.  Overall, this is probably the best part of the movie.  It's not fantastic, but I would say it's very good, maybe even great.

Totally digging Aladdin's power stance.  :b

Story: The story isn't bad, actually.  Jafar, now a genie, is released from his lamp and plots his revenge against Aladdin who was responsible for trapping him in the lamp in the first place.  The kicker, though, is that now that he's a genie, he must abide by the rules of a genie and cannot kill Aladdin on his own, so he must be more creative.  His former sidekick, Iago, decides to try to be "good guy" and joins up with Aladdin and his friends.  Although initially met with skepticism, Iago proves his new loyalty by saving Aladdin's life and destroying Jafar's lamp, killing him.  The story is fun and exciting, full of adventure and thrills.  The villain even dies on-screen in a somewhat disturbing fashion, and Aladdin is almost decapitated.  Pretty bold for a Disney film.  The characters are all the same well-developed characters from the first movie.  Even the new villain, Abis Mal, is developed fairly quickly and is quite a funny addition.  There are some flaws and silly things in the story, but overall, it's entertaining.  I think the main reason why it it not up to par with the original movie is that there is no real theme to the story.  It's a very straightforward plot-driven story with very little character development aside from Iago's.  The original movie had characters who felt "trapped" and had to discover how to be true to themselves (as said by writer Ted Elliott, the theme was "do not accept without question the role society thrusts on you; define your own role").  This movie doesn't seem to have any theme.  I suppose Iago went through something of the same development that the other characters already went through in the first movie, but that's the closest it gets to having a theme.  Ultimately, this is just a revenge plot with mostly external conflicts.  It does set up for the TV series quite nicely, though (Iago's involvement and Aladdin deciding that he wants to have more adventures before becoming involved in the politics of Agrabah).

There's one thing I don't really like about the movie, though, and that is the "liar revealed" cliche.  I find it incredibly annoying in this film.  When Iago saves Aladdin's life, Aladdin decides to try to help Iago by talking to the sultan on his behalf.  However, he lies to Jasmine about it, telling her that he's not hiding anything.  When Jasmine finds out that Aladdin was hiding Iago from her, she became extremely angry, so angry that she jumped to the conclusion that Aladdin was still the deceitful man who lied to her about being a prince and stormed off without letting Aladdin explain his side.  First, I find it strange that Aladdin would lie to Jasmine.  I don't see why he wouldn't just say "Yes, Jasmine, I have something to tell you, but I want to wait to tell you and the sultan at the same time.  Is that okay?"  But, okay, even if he did decide to actually lie about it, everyone's reactions to Aladdin hiding Iago when he had clearly proved himself loyal to Agrabah before is so bizarre and irritating.  They really jumped down his throat on it without giving him a chance.  I suppose the point for this was so that Iago could prove himself a "good friend" to Jasmine, but I don't know...it seems lazy and out of character for Jasmine to react so strongly, and then I just end up really feeling bad for Aladdin because he just gets so sad about it.  T.T  Plus, for her to act as if Aladdin used to be a liar (he lied about ONE THING because there was no other way for him to court her, and technically, he wasn't really lying) really turns me off about her.  I just feel like her development went backwards from the first movie, but she does get better in the TV series and final movie, at least.

...rant over.

Aladdin still steals, but he's become something of a Robin Hood in that he only steals from those who don't deserve it and then gives them to others who need it.  (Just throwing them over the city seems awfully dangerous, though...)

Aladdin and Jasmine are most affectionate Disney couple ever.
They did a pretty good job with this reflection (considering there are multiple problems with reflections in the original movie) except that Aladdin's part should be on the other side of his head in the mirror.  :b  /geek

Aladdin hiding Iago.  (Jasmine's head looks really small here.)

Jafar returns!  (So that's why it's called that...)

I find it kind of strange how quick Jasmine is to trust Iago all of a sudden, but considering how quickly she turned on Aladdin, maybe I don't.

Carpet lacks all of its detail, but I guess it would've been too expensive.

Aladdin's normally gravity-defying fez actually falls off his head, and he doesn't wear it for the rest of the climactic scene.  This is pretty unusual.  I can't think of any other time (even in the TV series) when this happens.  I'm also not sure why it happens.  Did the animators just not want to draw the fez anymore?

Aladdin's and Jasmine's skin colors look darker than usual here.
Personal appeal: I do like this movie, but it really is a guilty pleasure for me since I know that it's really not that good.  As an Aladdin fan (and a fan of the TV series as well), I will always enjoy it, but I do recognize its many flaws.

Another happy end in Agrabah.
Overally, this film is visually unappealing and the story is pretty shallow.  The music and voice acting are pretty good and save the movie somewhat.  I couldn't recommend this film to anyone but avid Disney or Aladdin fans or children.  It just doesn't offer much on its own.  I don't think it's a terrible film, though.  Overall, I'd give it two out of five peridots.


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