Walt Disney's latest, and in financial terms greatest, animated feature, opened in London yesterday with two premieres and, at the behest of the Disney organisation, the Regent Street lights themed to the Aladdin story for the whole Christmas period.
Last night was the gala premiere and yesterday aftenoon, more importantly in terms of consumer testing, a special children's premiere, raising funds for Great Ormond Street Hospital and the Variety Club of Great Britain. Before both performances there was a stage show with British dancers performing classic Disney characters. The Disney Store was selling exclusive Aladdin merchandise in the foyer and, conscious of Walt's mission to explain, 'a fun-filled yet educational Disney Animation Exhibit' in the lounge.
What else? Oh yes, the film. It's already won Oscars for best original score (Alan Menken) and best original song 'A Whole New World' by Menken and Tim Rice, though Rice's predecessor as lyricist on the movie, Howard Ashman, who died during production, must lay claim to the most Disneyesque lyric: 'I come from a land, from a faraway place, where the caravan camels roam. Where they cut off your ear if they don't like your face. It's barbaric, but, hey, it's home.' This lyric incidentally was changed for British audiences presumably for politically correct reasons, to 'where it's flat and immense and the heat is intense'.
The film was a child's delight, humorous and exciting, every frame hand-drawn in Disney tradition but with the most modern computer technology from the studio's CGI department (Computer Generated Imagery) to add post-production magic.
Though the first half-hour seemed a little lacking in the wit and romance that characterised the great Disney classics, it then sprung brilliantly and manically to life with the introduction of a camp genie, whose voice earned Robin Williams a Golden Globe.
As for the customers, they were unanimous in their approval, watching with rapt attention throughout and applauding enthusiastically at the end.
With Aladdin certain to be the family treat this Christmas, and The Jungle Book top of the video charts, Walt, were he here, might be asking why they want to bother with theme parks in France.
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