Life Lessons from Disney: Aladdin

Aladdin - Agrabah Palace

This winter 2014 Disney’s Aladdin will come to Broadway as a musical, similar to the likes of Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King. The all new production is set to open at the New Amsterdam Theatre in late February with opening night on March 20. The show will feature new characters not included in the original film as well as new songs from Alan Menken, the original award-winning composer.

This news brings about a new post in Life Lessons from Disney.  Disney’s 1992 masterpiece Aladdin was so popular and iconic, and the characters so wonderfully crafted, that it garnered two sequels – The Return of Jafar (1994) and Aladdin and the King of Thieves (1996) – as well as a beloved TV series of the same name, which ran from 1994 – 1999.

Treasured songs, such as A Whole New World, vivid imagery, and the indispensable performance of Robin Williams as the Genie made Aladdin one of Disney’s most cherished movies and most lucrative franchises. However, the true brilliance of the film lies in some of its key themes and most important messages.

The Outlaw & the Underdog

The key to the success of Aladdin – apart from beautiful traditional animation and ingenious musical score – is in the story and character of Aladdin.

We have a fascination of the outlaw and the underdog. Stories about infamous heroes such as Billy the Kid and the outlaws of the Wild West have been popular since before television. Pirates have held our fancy since before Jack Sparrow’s maiden voyage. And Robin Hood was celebrated for his thievery and benevolence, and not for his business savvy.

Tales of the underdog are as old as David and Goliath. The history of the United States winning independence and the fairy tale of Cinderella prove that people enjoy the underdog. In these stories, we do not root for the giant or the evil step-mother. Instead we sympathize with the “little guy” and the “servant girl”.

Such is the case with Aladdin.  His tale is of the orphaned street urchin, the clever yet impoverished thief, who yearns for food, comfort, and security. He wants a better life for himself and his friend, the monkey Abu. He has a dream, and he believes it will come true one day.

Lesson #1:  You are Greater than your Situation

Aladdin & Abu

The arrogant Prince Ahmed, after being thwarted by Aladdin, pushes our hero into the mud and storms off on his steed. But before he leaves he sneers back, “You are a worthless street rat. You were born street rat, you’ll die a street rat. And only your fleas will mourn you!”

Later, Aladdin sings to himself:

Riff-raff, street rat, I don’t buy that.

If only they’d look closer.

Would they see a poor boy?

No siree…

They’d find out, there’s so much more

To me.

You must believe in yourself, even when others doubt you and discourage you. Remember, even Walt Disney was repeated discouraged from others time and time again, yet he believed in his dreams and he believed in himself.

Diamonds are produced from the same minerals as coal. Although you are not yet fully polished, you are still a “diamond in the rough”!

Lesson #2: Count your Blessings

Aladdin & kids

At the start of the film, Aladdin is at his lowest: he has no money, no food, no worldly possessions, and no family. He is alone and all signs point that he should not make it in life. Yet, about ten minutes into the film, something amazing happens.

Aladdin has just successfully evaded the palace guards. He has stolen a loaf of bread for breakfast and narrowly escaped with his life. Just as he sits down to eat he spots two younger kids digging through the trash. The children look pitifully hungry and are scared. Aladdin takes compassion on them and decides to give them what he has. Such benevolence is infectious, so Abu also gives his share of the spoils.

True, Aladdin has very little, but what he has is important. He has ability of his body. He is able to walk, jump, duck, and dodge. He has intelligence and wisdom. He has sympathy. He has faith, hope, courage, and determination. And he has friends.

We must count our blessings, as there are always people less fortunate than us. Remember what he have and be thankful.

Lesson #3: Be Careful who you call your “Friends”

Aladdin and Friends

The Sultan, upon spotting his vizier says, “Ah, Jafar; my most trusted advisor”.

Little does he realize, Jafar is hardly “friend-material”.

The villain Jafar is supposed to be the sultan’s right hand man. He’s there to advise in all aspects of life, whether they be political or personal. He is trusted – unfortunately – by the sultan, who gives him power. Yet Jafar: lies to the sultan, uses the sultan, uses Iago – his only “friend”, and hypnotizes the sultan, among other grievances.

Fortunately for us, Jafar gets what he deserves in the end. Yet Aladdin serves to show we must always be careful who we chose to be our friend. Some pretend to like us, but really envy us or, worse, hate us.  Some people will never like us. But, there are people out there who are true, genuine friends.

So we must pick true friends. A friend like Abu will always be there for you. They will help you out in “sticky” situations and be your closest pals.

A friend like Genie could save your life (figuratively or literally)! You ain’t neva had a friend like this before!

A friend like Carpet looks out for your best interests. Who knows, a friend like this could hook you up with a date or a “magic carpet ride”.

A friend like Raja is there to comfort you. This friend gives you the shoulder to cry/lean on.

And a friend like Jasmine deeply connects with you. This type of friend will love you for who you are. There are no disguises, tricks, or provisions for this friend. In fact, they may even bend the rule just to be with you!

That’s all for Life Lessons from Disney this time. Go back and re-watch Disney’s Aladdin and see what other precious gems you can uncover from the Cave of Wonders!

Aladdin & Jasmine

“Let me share this whole new world with you!”

*All images belong to Disney. I do not own any of these images.

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