These movies somehow are able to tap into what made the originals so special, while updating them properly for a new audience. (They also make lots and lots of money.)
In 2019, Guy Ritchie will bring us a retelling of their 1992 animated classic "Aladdin," with Will Smith stepping into the big blue shoes of Robin Williams, whose iconic performance as the Genie remains a high water mark for the art form.
It's on the anniversary of the original animated classic -- and a look towards the future -- that we demand the following from the brand new movie:
1. Some Kind of Cultural Specificity
Disney has made great strides in assembling a cast almost entirely of actors of color. (It's one misstep was an early announcement of the very white Billy Magnussen, followed by scuttlebutt that Ritchie was seeking Tom Hardy for the role of Jafar.)
This is awesome and amazing and we realize that "Aladdin" is set in a fictionalized Middle Eastern country, but it would be huge if Disney, Ritchie, and screenwriters John August and Vanessa Taylor acknowledged the cultural and historical specificity of the region. It doesn't have to be a history lesson -- but something would be really welcomed. Ritchie's recent "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword" did some cool stuff in regards to the fantasy history of England and he should carry that over into Agrabah.
2. A Distinctly Guy Ritchie Feeling
The hiring of Ritchie caught many off guard, but it's pretty perfect, especially if you look at his early filmography, which focused entirely on scrappy street urchin types trying to climb the ladder. But the Disney live action remakes so far have been pretty anonymous, tonally and conceptually.
Giving "Aladdin" his distinct personality, with the rhythm and cadence that all of his films have, would really elevate the whole enterprise to something bigger and more artistically sound.
3. A Great Genie
One of the clear standouts of the original movie, and the thing that made it a cool crossover sensation with folks that normally didn't attend animated features, was the Genie performance by Williams.
By hiring Will Smith (after Kevin Hart turned them down), they have tapped into a well of creative and comedic potential. We just hope that Smith is given the same freedom that Williams was afforded when creating the character, and that the final version of the Genie doesn't get lost in a haze of CGI/performance capture nonsense.
If they are able to come up with a fully realized Genie that is as heartfelt and hilarious as what Williams conjured forth in 1992, then the rest of the movie will undoubtedly be a slam dunk. Conversely, if they botch the character, the whole movie is sunk.
4. Good Songs
It has been confirmed that, unlike the upcoming live-action "Mulan," this new version of "Aladdin" will indeed have songs. Which is good, because we want them. Like, bad.
The songs from the original feature are excellent and have endured, providing the Broadway musical its driving narrative engine (and chief selling point) all these years later. And what's more, Ritchie is going to absolutely kill these sequences. Not only are his movies particularly musical, with much attention paid to music, but also in terms of their rhythm and tempo; he's actually done a full fledged musical sequence before, in his otherwise disastrous "Swept Away."
In that film, his then-wife Madonna lip syncs to Della Reese's cover of "Come On to My House" and it's pretty magical. If he can push that spirit and energy into "Aladdin" then we will be very well off.
5. Something New
The new "Beauty and the Beast" is a whopping 45 minutes longer than its animated counterpart. And what, exactly, did it add? Some unnecessary back story, some crummy new songs, and that's pretty much it.
For "Aladdin" to truly make a mark as a classic film every bit as beloved as the original, it's got to do something new. Not necessarily more, but new. Whether that's in the representation of the genie, or its action sequences, or the way that the musical numbers are put together, this can't be another carbon copy. And it can't be 45 minutes longer.
Star Naomi Scott, who plays Jasmine, has already teased that her character will be different and contemporary, describing her as "a multidimensional woman." This is great news. Hopefully everything else will get a similarly modern makeover.