I have a friend in Bloomington with whom I go to films on a regular basis. We have several genres of films which we prefer, and others with which we will experiment, but animation, particularly Disney, was never among them. However, I've often enjoyed Robin Williams characterisations, and so persuaded my friend Jim (who informed me that I would then owe him the next three film selections) to go to Aladdin. He enjoyed the film, and I loved it. This was a children's film that had entertainment value for adults, too, and crafted the witticism and irony into the dialogue and songs that were incredible.
Alan Menken is the primary composer behind this soundtrack. Working with Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, Menken and company produced a Oscar-winning soundtrack with individual songs as winners and nominees ('A friend like me', Williams vocal character tour de force, received a nomination, and the themesong, 'A whole new world', won the award).
Tim Rice (Sir Tim Rice, actually), lyricist, is known for many spectacular productions, including various collaborations with Andrew Lloyd Webber (again, now titled...), such as Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita. The crafting and care in the songs is evident; erudition is not sparing in this collection, but neither are the songs inaccessible to either children or adults. This, I feel, is the mark of a great talent.
Finally, working on the project was Howard Ashman. Ashman died of AIDS in 1991. He worked on many Disney projects, including Beauty and the Beast. According to the Disney corporation, 'In animation, we have two guardian angels. One is Walt Disney, who continues to touch every frame of our movies. The other is Howard Ashman, who continues to touch every note of our movies.' One of my reasons for originally wanting to see this film is that I had heard of Ashman's connexion with my university, Indiana University -- he received his MFA from that school in the early 1970s. Ashman is also known as the lyricist for 'Little Shop of Horrors', another collaboration with Menken, which, if one watches Aladdin with that in mind, gives a whole new world of impression on the film!
The music makes me laugh and feel good. I am much less prone to aggressive driving if I have this CD in the box in the car! Of course, this is a sappy love story with, in my opinion, a rather silly denouement, but it works for the kids. Of course, the lyrics are, as I indicated, educational: I've had the chance to explain what nom de plume, charge d'affaires, and coterie mean.
Some filmtracks have lifted portions of this music for use as background material, which is another sign of successful composition.
But, by far the high point has to be Robin Williams' vocal flexibility and ingenuity in the characterisation of the Genie. Alternating accents and impressions (at one point doing Edith and Archie Bunker, at another doing William Buckley, etc.) the rapid flow of the voices smoothly across causes me to wonder if the characterisations were improvisational, with the animation produced afterward to fit the flow of the changes.
I recommend this soundtrack most highly to children and to adults who love comedy. It is an interesting treat.
One Jump Ahead
Friend Like Me
A Whole New World
'A Whole New World' has two tracks -- the one of the actual movie scene, performed by Brad Kane and Lea Salonga, and the 'radio edit' performed by Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle. There are some dozen additional tracks of background/mood/theme-setting music.