‘Aladdin’: The Jokes We Didn’t Get 20 Years Ago

‘Aladdin’: The Jokes We Didn’t Get 20 Years Ago


There’s a reason that the young adults of today continue to hold their favorite childhood movies and TV shows in such high regard: a lot of them have enough sophisticated humor within to entertain adults just as much as they do kids (plus, we’re all severely addicted to the sentiment of nostalgia). No exception to this rule is the Disney modern classic Aladdin, which reached the ripe old, shudder-inducing age of 20 this week.

Many of us cherish Aladdin as one of the first movies we can recall seeing in theaters. And what a dazzling display of cinema it was — enough bright colors, loud noises, and catchy tunes to enamor any wide-eyed child between five and ten years of age. But alongside these children were the parents, a troupe that was not confined to 90 minutes of mindless babble, but instead treated to plenty of gags catered specifically to their demographic: celebrity impressions, cultural references… even some sexual innuendo.

This might change the way you think about Aladdin from now on, but hopefully you’ve reached a point in your life where you’re emotionally prepared for such an ordeal. As such, carry on forth and learn all of Aladdin‘s hidden jokes that you missed the first time around due to your kindergarten education and still malleable cerebellum.

The Genie’s Celebrity Impressions

Considering the fact that Robin Williams agreed to take the role of the Genie based on an animated video of his rapid-fire stand-up created by the Disney team to entice him, it’s not a big shock that the character frequently channels a constant of the comic’s act: celebrity impersonations. Right from the get-go, the Genie engages in one imitation after another, mocking spotlit figures of Hollywood’s golden age. The Genie was pretty far ahead of the curve, considering the fact that movie takes place in the 8th Century and all.

Anachronisms notwithstanding, the Genie can be seen launching into a handful of impressions, many of which we likely didn’t catch back in ’92 (primarily because we had no idea who half of these people actually were). Check out theese clips, and our breakdown of a few of the notable names parodied in the film (complete with analysis on “gettability” to the young 1992 viewer).

Arnold Schwarzenegger: We might have recognized this one from Kindergarten Cop, or secret totally-not-allowed late night viewings of The Terminator.

Ed Sullivan: It’s unlikely that we understood this reference, considering the talk show host’s retirement having taken place 20 years prior.

Groucho Marx: Maybe. Yes, it’s a pretty dated gag, but old Loony Tunes episodes did enough Groucho fare that we might have at least though it was a jab at Bugs Bunny.

William F. Buckley: Don’t be ridiculous.

Peter Lorre: Again, likely more recognizable from old cartoons rather than the original source — the film noire actor notable for his roles as villains and creepy nuisances

Robert De Niro: We might have heard of him, sure, but the actor’s particular shtick tackled by the Genie was probably not one we’d have been allowed to watch at that age.

Rodney Dangerfield: It’s possible we caught this one… if only for the good graces of Rover Dangerfield. Remember that? That was an actual movie.

Jack Nicholson: Whatever the Genie was doing with those dark, pointy glasses and that hauntingly slender frame seemed menacing and unpleasant. We didn’t get it, and we didn’t like it.

The Opening Scene Infomercial Parody

You wouldn’t necessarily need to get all the specific references in the film’s opening scene, delivered by a shifty market place vendor, to have found it funny in your younger years. But a familiarity with infomercials (Tupperware products) would have at least grounded the ordeal in some degree of rationale. “Weren’t there supposed to be sword fights and flying rugs?” we might have thought at this point. “Get to the good part!”

The Genie’s Romantic Innuendo (a Gay Joke)

Following the troubling scene halfway through the movie, wherein Aladdin almost drowns after being kidnapped and tossed into the sea by Jafar’s goons, the Genie takes it upon himself to save his master’s life (despite the fact that Aladdin, being unconscious, couldn’t actually wish for the rescue). Genie admits afterwards that he did it out of genuine affection for Aladdin, doubling back as not to have his friendship mistaken for homosexual romantic affection: “I’m getting pretty fond of you, kid,” the Genie smiles. “Not that I want to pick out curtains, or anything.”

And of course, there are surely others. The infamous “Good teenagers take of their clothes,” among them. What gags from Aladdin do you remember not getting way back when?

[Photo Credit: Disney]


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