Friday May 24th sees the release of Guy Ritchie’s live-action remake of Disney’s 1992 animated version of Aladdin in cinemas throughout the UK and US. The film stars Mena Massoud, Will Smith, Naomi Scott, Marwan Kenzari, Navid Negahban, Nasim Pedrad and Billy Magnussen. Mena Massoud plays Aladdin, Naomi Scott plays Aladdin’s love interest Princess Jasmine and Will Smith is the Genie. Marwan Kenzari plays the nefarious sorcerer, Jafar.
Here are a 5 things you should know about Aladdin, whether it’s the upcoming film or the tale …
- Aladdin was not part of the original text of The Book of One Thousand and One Nights (Arabian Nights)
Even though Aladdin is one of the best-known tales in Arabian Nights, it was not in the original collection of Middle Eastern folk tales. Aladdin was actually added to the collection in 1710 by Antoine Galland, and was attributed to the Syrian storyteller, Youhenna Diab. Two Arabic manuscripts containing Aladdin were thought to be found, but both were forgeries, and are instead “back-translations” of Galland’s French translation back into Arabic. One was thought to be written by a Syrian Christian priest living in Paris, named Dionysios Shawish, alias Dom Denis Chavis. The other is a copy supposedly made from a manuscript by Mikhail Sabbagh in Baghdad in 1703.
2. The tale was originally set in China …
Even though rulers are referred to as “Sultans” rather than “Emperors”, all the characters are Muslim and the general settings are all Middle Eastern by design, the tale was actually originally set in an unnamed city in China. This has led some to speculate that the intended setting may have been Turkestan, which is now the modern Chinese province of Xinjiang. There have also been large numbers of Muslim and Jewish Chinese communities living in China since the establishment of Silk Road and the Tang Dynasty, so the setting is not completely out-of-place geographically speaking.
3. The pantomime version has been popular for over 200 years
John O’Keefe dramatised Aladdin in 1788 for the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden. The musical is showing throughout May at the Prince Edward Theatre, Leicester Square, so if you can’t wait for the cinema release, you can head on over and catch the magic of Aladdin at the theatre.
4. 2019 vs. 1992 opening weekend
The 2019 remake is set to make around $80 million in its opening weekend. The 1992 version made $196,664 dollars. If we took inflation into account, that would be around $356,325 today. This means that 2019’s version is set to make around 225 times more than the 1992 version’s opening weekend! Of course, big budget films are usually distributed worldwide within a few weeks of each other nowadays, and budgets are generally far bigger, meaning that such modest returns were not necessarily considered “flops” back then.
5. Aladdin and The Thief of Baghdad (1940)
The 1940 film actually serves as a major source of inspiration for many of the aspects of the contemporary versions of Aladdin. The sorcerer, Jafar, was only named as such after the release of The Thief of Baghdad, and Aladdin’s pet monkey, Abu, was actually a human sidekick in the same film. The Thief of Baghdad is a great film, and we recommend all Aladdin fans watch it.
Whether it’s the theatre version or the cinema version you’re going to catch this May (or both), then get your Arabian-themed costume on and make the magic that little bit more magical - maybe enough to make a wish or two to come true!