Ever notice how animated features these days are written as much for the adults as for kids? Shark Tale, for example, is filled with Mafia references that will go way over Junior's head. Where did all that start? Aladdin, the 1992 Disney feature that starred Robin Williams as the voice of the Genie, that's where.
It takes 35 minutes to get to him, but Genie's riffs on everything from Jack Nicholson to Rodney Dangerfield made this one fun for all ages.
I could go on and on, but instead I hired a couple of professional kids to help me critique Aladdin. The first lesson I learn is not to let the little buggers get the remote control. Alex, 5, immediately fast-forwards past the first two chapters -- "That's the boring part," he assures me. Meanwhile, Carson, 3, is busy with a defective Halloween sticker on his hand, bellowing "My sticker won't stick!" So far, it's not going well. I have to get tough on Carson: "You call yourself a kid? C'mon, watch the TV!"
"Movies like this should have some popcorn," announces Alex. As he wanders off to rustle up some, I ask Carson if Jafar, the villain, is as scary as other Disney villains. "I think Shafar looks cooler," he replies. "I hate the villains, but I like him."
Alex returns, sans popcorn. It's almost to the part where Aladdin and Jasmine sing "A Whole New World," one of the best-known Disney songs.
"That's the prince," says Carson, pointing to Jasmine. "Why did they make a girl prince? That's so crazy."
"I'm gonna fast forward," Alex announces, and promptly does so.
"Why did Alex not want to see the fall-in-love part?" Carson wonders. "He just goes all over the world, [Aladdin] shows the girl all over the world."
"I'm going to ask Mommy for some crackers," Alex decides. "Crackers are protein, right?"
Again, he wanders off. So I ask Carson where Aladdin fits into his list of favorites. "When you first got it, I just said to myself, 'I like Aladdin the best.' I just kind of gave up on Beauty and the Beast."
"Snack's up, guys," says Alex, bearing a sleeve of Ritz crackers. "Yeah, Genie's funny," they agree, with cracker crumbs tumbling out in front of them. If I had a genie, Carson tells me, "You could wish that you have the whole world."