Ah, Agrabah, City of Mystery.
they'll cut off your ear if they don't like your face.
Where it's flat and immense and the heat is intense. It's
barbaric, but hey, at 4 PM it's either this or Oprah.
Aladdin: The Series turned out to be a mixed bag. Appropriately enough for 1994, it was a box of chocolates in which you never knew what you were gonna get. Sometimes you'd get a thrill-packed adventure with witty jokes and touching moments good enough to stand on par with the film itself. And then there were those rainy Mondays when the plot revolved around some stupid smelly fat guy who loved bad cheese.
How do you separate the wheat from the chaff with such a bipolar show? Don't worry; I'm here to do the thinking for you. Because this page is all about spotlighting the FIVE BEST ALADDIN EPS. My apologies for the "Toon Disney" watermark on every single picture, but there's never been a bug-free version of Aladdin ever released. Even when it was on The Disney Afternoon, they stamped it with a small "Aladdin" logo, just in case you forgot what you were watching.
Animationwise, this one is an incredible treat. Back when Disney produced TV animation by the bucketload and also cared what it looked like, they had several units throughout the world built to gather the best talent from each region and put it to work for them. In my opinion Disney Australia was the best unit of them all, and this episode alone proves that. It contains a ton of what they were born to create -- two genies exploding all over the place.
The story begins with Abis-Mal stealing Genie's lamp, because his thick head still hasn't caught on that Genie was freed. As a result Genie has to take residence in an old shoe until he can find Abis-Mal again. And he's about to, but then he spots something else he thought he never would: another genie. A small waif by the wharf has found another genie, and she's single!
Aladdin didn't think genies reproduced sexually, and he implies as much when he remarks "I didn't know genies fell in love." Genie says you know two genies have fallen in love when a field suddenly blooms in flowers overnight, or when flying space pigs pay croquet with the stars. (The second phenomenon was only funny the first time and didn't need to be repeated 15 more.)
Not only can genies fall in love, they can get ADHD. Eden (the new genie's name; two guesses as to who she's named after) is at least twice as hyper as Genie, and borders on "way too much" at times -- but the animation saves her. At one point she turns into five things within four seconds. It's not a task for the untalented pencil, nor for a culturally alien studio that has to adhere to model drawings for every character. I can't begin to imagine how long it would have taken anyone else under such a system. You'll only see this stuff here, folks!
Eden returned in Season 3's "The Book of Khartoum," but she was handled by a Korean studio that time, and looked about as lively as a snail. She also made an appearance in Marvel's Aladdin comic book, but I have no idea what that was like. It was printed after the comic was already cancelled, in a compilation title meant to burn off the unpublished leftovers of their failed Disney line. Good luck finding that one.
Every so often, there was an out-of-Agrabah episode where Aladdin, Abu, Genie, Iago, and Carpet would go have an adventure somewhere else in the world. Did you notice someone is missing from that list? I always did. "Where the heck is Jasmine?" Why was the only girl left out of half the adventure? Isn't that kind of sexist? Maybe the reasoning was that, since she was royal, she had certain duties and was too busy to tag along sometimes....but if that was true, it was never stated as fact.
This only made episodes like "The Secret of Dagger Rock" (where in a flip situation, Jasmine saves Aladdin from captive imprisonment) feel more forced. What did they want her to be? Was she the pampered priss from the palace or an Arabian asskicker? The vibe I got was that she was often the first one until somebody remembered "we have to have her do something tough right now or the feminists will get mad!" After several kidnappings and villain assaults Jasmine would just suddenly go Rambo and kick someone, then go right back to being the victim. It didn't feel natural at all.
I was less enthusiastic about any episode that didn't include the whole gang....with some exceptions, like the show above, and the show in front of you. Despite no princess, this is a nifty and original story (and the original part was most welcome, as most Disney Afternoon plots came out of a can).
Al and Pals are hanging around in the middle of the desert, watching a pretty sunset, when without warning a gang of horsemen, the Riders of Ramond, emerge from a canyon -- and a band of dangerous marauders brandishing scimitars blazes right for them! Being the virtuous dude he is, Al has to warn the Riders -- but before he can get there on Carpet, the whole group suddenly vanishes; both the Riders and the marauders into thin air!
Were they ghosts? Mirages? Caught in a weird repeating rift thing? It turns out to be the third one. The Riders and the Marauders are stuck in time. Through several viewings of the incident, our heroes deduce that every sunset the Riders will emerge from that canyon, have the same conflict with the same marauders, and disappear again. It's been this way for years. But why? To make matters worse, as they investigate, Aladdin, Abu and Carpet are all caught in the rift, repeating the incident over and over with everyone else.
They eventually figure out it's all due to the destruction of a glowing jewel that spilled out of a treasure chest at the end of the fight. Only Genie and Iago are left, but after Genie is caught in a bottle, Iago has about thirty seconds to stop the treasure chest from falling over or they're all doomed! He fails to stop the chest, but he DOES catch the jewel, breaking the magical glitch and restoring time for the Riders.
The episode works where others fail because it establishes a mystery and winds tension tighter as it unfolds. It's just a good story. Despite the lack of Jasmine time, "The Sands of Fate" lands at #4.
Let's pause for a minute and talk in general about the villains in this show.
Jafar was dead, so the producers had to come up with some new threats. Unfortunately, none of them ever measured up to the original, and some were intentionally meant to pedal as far away from coolness as possible. Mekanicles -- gimmee a break. Whenever he showed up you knew the episode wasn't going to be great. Mozenrath was lame too, and yes, I just said that. Being a serious threat doesn't redeem all his painful lines, and Jonathan Brandis didn't make for a convincingly evil voice at all. Mozy's only good point was that a brown lisping eel floating in midair is a slightly less annoying sidekick than a screaming parrot with Gilbert Gottfried's voice. Besides that....Jafar could beat all these guys combined.
As for Mirage....I didn't get Mirage. She just seemed way too powerful to lose, and every single time, the heroes would only win because she gave up and wandered off. If she can slash her hand through the air and slice Aladdin to ribbons from 100 feet away, then why doesn't she just DO THAT if she hates him so much? The obvious answer is that the main character can't be killed off, especially on a kiddie show. But it's not a realistic motive.
With clever writing, though, an episode doesn't necessarily need a cool fearsome villain to be thrilling. In the competency department, Abis-Mal is, well, abysmal, but several of the shows he starred in were among the best episodes. When you think about it, this guy came closer to destroying the protagonists, several times, than anybody else in the series. Case in point: "Lost and Founded."
Abis-mal steals a magic time-altering hourglass from a hissing old lady, but the gang catches him in the act. Since he already has it, though, he can get away rather easily -- and in the process, the entire city suddenly changes into something run-down and evil-looking (though the palace got a definite improvement). Worse yet, Abis-Mal's face is everywhere! He's instantly taken over everything! No use sticking around here....our heroes follow our villain into the portal before it closes, and find themselves in a time just before Agrabah was founded, when nothing was at the site.
The history books say a travelling caravan stopped in the middle of the desert and its leader, Hamed, founded a city there. (One interesting note: the Sultan was originally going to be named "Hamed" before he went without a name.) Among the city's original residents is Abnor-Mal, Abis-Mal's ancestor. Abis's plan is to convince Abnor to get rid of Hamed and found the city himself, thereby making him the first leader, and Abis-Mal the present leader.
Abnor-Mal doesn't take to the idea at first, and he's a little weirded out about the guy who looks like him pushing him into doing it. So Abis goes for the direct approach instead, and kidnaps Hamed in the middle of the night. Right before the first commercial break, he opens another time portal and throws Hamed into it!
And then Jasmine disappears! As Aladdin stands there in shock, Abis-Mal gloats that since she's the direct descendant of Hamed, she can't exist without him. Willing to do anything to get her back, Aladdin rushes into the portal after Hamed. What follows is the tensest three minutes in the series' history. This isn't a problem that they can spend the whole episode fixing -- it has to be resolved NOW or it never will be! Hamed is in prehistoric times, sinking into a tar pit! Genie can barely keep the portal open! Hamed is too far to reach! AND HERE COMES A SABERTOOTHED TIGER! AAAAAAHHH!!
What I admire about this episode is not only its suspense but its unpredictability. The above situation could have been padded out to 20 minutes and then Tad and his buddies could have gone out for pizza, but they keep it exactly the right length. And once it's resolved, another hairy situation arises, this one even more crazy. Abis-mal ends up breaking the hourglass, causing a chaotic black-holeish time distortion that sucks several people in, including Aladdin and Hamed. One of the wildest conflict sequences ever follows, as the vortex they get stuck in constantly shifts between time periods and grants them different weapons. Aladdin is suddenly a knight in shining armor, dodging the laser blasts of a futuristically-armored Abis.
The "time machine" episode is one of the oldest cliches of children's animated television, and every show has to have one of those plots, but Aladdin's is one of the best. I'd go so far as to say it holds up fun-wise against the Back to the Future trilogy (even if it steals one or two things from it blatantly).
Whenever a major motion picture is adapted into a children's cartoon show, the first thing to go in translation is any and all romantic elements of the original film. There was no Dana in the Ghostbusters cartoon, nor any Princess Babes in the Bill and Ted cartoon. Some adaptions went so far as to change a couple into brother and sister (or in the case of the Donkey Kong cartoon, Pauline became Mario's niece). The reason for this is obvious: kids don't want to watch lovey-dovey stuff. So when Aladdin appeared on television with Aladdin and Jasmine's relationship intact, it was quite a bold and different move.
But no one really complained about it. In this case, it would have been far worse if they were now just friends. Kissing may be revolting to children, but the shippy gene kicks in a lot earlier than the rest of puberty. Kids like to pair characters up. I remember watching many a 'toon where the lead male and the lead female got along well, and wondering when they would get together. A lot of kids assumed Rebecca and Baloo were eventually going to fall for each other, and were let down when TaleSpin ended before that. I waited a long time for Alvin the Chipmunk to fall for Brittany (I'm still waiting on that one). If there was anything we knew, it was that Aladdin and Jasmine belonged together. Period. They shared a Corn Flakes box for crying out loud.
Stones, McCorkle and Schooley had the rare insight to not mess with A-J, but not only that, to abstain from separating them to "keep interest going." Throughout the series, there was little doubt cast on the future of their relationship. They were always in love with nary a fight more severe than "pretending to fall for a smelly fat guy to make your partner jealous." And you know what? It worked. They didn't need that soap opera crap at all. Whenever I hear another TV producer say that he has to keep the fan-favorite couple apart from each other for yet another season because he's afraid everybody will lose interest if he doesn't, I always think "Then you're a terrible writer who has to resort to unfair gimmicks because you don't know how to make the couple interesting on their own." I've never been a fan of a dragged out will-they-or-wont-they on a TV series. Aladdin and Jasmine are proof alone that it's unnecessary.
Overpowered catgirl Mirage and mysterious cycloptic beggar Fasir have made a bet. Fasir says no matter how powerful Mirage is, she can't destroy love, especially Aladdin and Jasmine's love. "It is SO on!" implies Mirage, and as a result, it's a pretty lousy day to be the Princess of Agrabah.
Mirage disguises herself as a shopkeeper and sells Jasmine some tainted skin cream that claims to reduce blemishes, but instead turns the cream-er into a hideous snake creature. The next morning Aladdin rides Carpet into Jasmine's room as usual to discover OH SHOOT, she has a scaly tail where her legs should be, and she's going to get uglier by the hour! Now that Mirage has destroyed Jasmine's beauty, she thinks, he'll surely dump her! Nope -- he remains at her side, and they set off on a quest to find a tree that produces healing fruit.
Things get worse as Jasmine transforms, eventually sprouting poison barbs all over her body that'll kill Aladdin if he touches her. Despite even this, he stays with her. Then Mirage realizes Aladdin's continuing devotion to Jasmine MUST be because he hopes she'll regain her beauty eventually. So as soon as they get to the tree, she destroys it. Then, as if she wasn't being enough of a jerk, she appears right there to mock them.
"I'm stuck like this....forever....I can never touch you again! It's over!" Jasmine sobs.
Aladdin's response is to use the last of the
cream to transform into the same creature.
"If we can't be together as people, then we'll be together....like this...."
"I'll never leave you."
Moments this romantic in a children's cartoon are almost nonexistent. Among all the endings in Aladdin, this is the most bittersweet and enough to catapult it into the Top Two. Fasir uses his power to bring the tree back, then makes a remark from the distance implying he and Mirage were once an item. ....Nothing is ever said about that again.
A story like this is a big risk because there's no way kids won't find it mushy. But compare it to the alternative. This is how Marvel had them act in the Aladdin comic book to better identify with their target audience:
Yeech. The show was way better.
It's worth noting that, while several other women wanted Aladdin, almost nobody wanted Jasmine, despite her being hot enough to melt the sands into glass. Jafar referred to her as "the shrew" and only wanted to marry her so he could push her off a cliff and take her throne. Abis-Mal acknowledged she was pretty -- right before he ordered her death. Mozenrath called her "the royal pain." There was nothing from Mekanicles, but I don't think he goes for girls. The only other competition for Jasmine was from ultra-snooty princes who didn't stand a chance. Not only was Aladdin the perfect mate for Jasmine, he was the only one that WOULD take her.
And now the loudest drumroll begins! The #1 Must-See Aladdin Episode is.........four episodes at once!
Numerically, it's cheating, but when it comes to Sadira, there are rules worth breaking. It's unbelievable that on a show full of lousy stock villains, they'd come up with something this well-crafted. Sadira could carry an entire show on her own -- she's that good a character. I wanted more than four appearances from her.
Sadira episodes are more about her than about Aladdin, or anybody else. Her situation is similar to Aladdin's in the original movie: she's a street-smart street-rat who has an unobtainable goal, until she finds a source of power. But where Al's goal was reachable, Sadira's isn't: she unrequitedly wants him! And when she finds out he already has, well, THAT, she's utterly heartbroken, realizing she will never have a chance.
Unlike every other character, and perhaps the entire Disney standard up to this point, Sadira isn't clearly defined as good or evil, but instead displays traits of both. You definitely don't want her to succeed, but at the same time, you feel empathy for her. The character of Aladdin is wish fulfillment, but the character of Sadira is reality. She doesn't spout bad one-liners or cackle "CURSES!!" when she fails. When she gets upset, she cries. Sadira feels real.
And it's that identifiable feeling that makes the Sadira episodes the best episodes of Aladdin ever made.
In the first episode, "Strike Up The Sand," Sadira first meets Aladdin, and takes an immediate liking to him -- until she first meets Jasmine. Deep in self-pity over what could have been, she takes solitude in an abandoned building, only to plummet through the ground into the long-abandoned ancient lair of the Witches of the Sand. There Sadira inherits their power, and knows exactly what she wants first -- Jasmine eliminated!
Only she doesn't want to eliminate her that way. Sadira's new to the whole magic thing and rushes into pursuing her passion without a plan. She summons forth an irate sand monster with an Australian accent who enjoys pounding people, and orders it to capture Jasmine -- against his protests ("But I lov smashin' stoff!"). When he returns with Jas, Sadira has no idea what to do next. This makes the monster so mad, he revolts against his master and starts trying to smash them all.
After several failed attempts by the gang to stop the sand monster, Sadira realizes the only true way out of the mess she got everyone into is to destroy the amulet that gave her power in the first place. She reluctantly does so. Despite the whole kidnapping thing, Jasmine still sees some good in Sadira and she invites her to the palace. Sadira refuses, still deep in depression.
A few days later, "SandSwitch" aired. Out of the four Sadira episodes, she is least sympathetic in this one -- in fact, she's borderline irrideemable. But out of all her schemes to snare Aladdin, this was the most effective by far. As she couldn't beat Jasmine, she became her.
The next morning, Sadira's sand magic has switcherooed everything. Sadira is Princess of Agrabah and Jasmine is a street-rat. Aladdin loves her, and they're getting married right away! The script doesn't make it clear here whether Sadira was actually powerful enough to rewrite history, but I don't think that's what she did. There is a scene where Jasmine vaguely remembers the Sultan being her father, which she wouldn't recall if it no longer happened. It's more likely she merely mindwiped all of Agrabah into thinking she was the princess. Plus, there's the problem of the animals knowing.
She would have gotten away with it if it weren't for that meddling monkey and that annoying feathered abomination. The spell didn't work on animals, and Sadira has to find ways to keep them contained until the change is made permanent by the wedding kiss. This is one of the series' best plots, as the homeless Jasmine has to overcome insurmountable odds (even Genie is against her now) to be reunited with Aladdin. It doesn't do much for perception of Sadira, though, who is supposed to be sympathetic. My best guess is that #1, #3 and #4 were by the same person, but someone else wrote #2. At least that's what it feels like.
The third appearance from Sadira was in "Dune Quixote." By now, Jasmine's grown less tolerant of Sadira's antics. When she narrowly escaped a pounding by Daniel Feldspar the Stereotypically Australian Sand Monster, that was fine, but turning her into a bum and taking her throne and boy in one swoop crossed the line. This time, Sadira's created a fantasy world in which she wants to roleplay. She's playing a beautiful princess, naturally, and Aladdin's going to be the great knight who rescues her from a dragon. He doesn't feel like doing that, so Sadira magically hypnotizes him into believing he IS the knight. They're about to rush into the portal when Jasmine arrives on Carpet, ready to kick Sadira's arse so hard she'll kiss the moons!
Jasmine orders Genie to slam the portal shut. Genie points out that Sadira's magic is different from his and there's no telling what will happen if their cosmic forces clash. She goads him into obeying her anyway, but he was right to hesitate. The backlash turns Abu into a donkey and despite losing his armor, Aladdin still believes he is a dragon-slaying knight. He rides off on Abu to battle a dragon that doesn't exist to save a princess who's really a lonely witch, who more likely needs saving from Jasmine. Suddenly, the title of this episode makes sense.
The only way to break the spell and return Aladdin to normal is if he kisses the princess, and not the ACTUAL princess, but the girl Sadira was going to play. Jasmine's horrified to hear what the antidote is and pleads for any other solution. But there isn't one.
Not only does Al have to kiss a fake princess, he has to fight a fake dragon as well. Genie has that covered with a movie-set-like backdrop and a giant mechanical dragon. Sadira is dolled up like a damsel in distress and chained to the cliffside. Al Quixote rides in from the distance, and it's showtime!
Genie controls the mechanical dragon via remote. "Are you sure this is safe?" Jasmine asks nervously while staring at the scary towering contraption.
"Of COUUURSE! What could go wrong?" Genie assures her, at the exact moment he accidentally throws the remote out of his hand and smashes it against the wall. The dragon has now gone rogue, and Sadira is in REAL danger! Who will save her -- Genie? No, he's lost his head at the moment (literally). Not Iago -- he's too busy making loud sarcastic comments. It's gonna have to be Jasmine!
While Aladdin, uh, distracts the
dragon, Jasmine gets to work picking the lock on Sadira's
shackles. It's not second nature for her, though.
"Didn't they teach you anything in the palace?"
They're momentarily safe, but not for long. Jasmine and Sadira must put aside their rivalry to come up with a dragon-slaying plan.
Here's what they come up with: Jasmine plays matador with the dragon. When it charges, Sadira will hoist Jasmine up out of the way and the dragon will bash into the wall, breaking into a thousand metal pieces. Unfortunately, what Sadira doesn't know is that the rope hook has slipped out of Jasmine's top. All that pulling is doing nothing and the dragon's about to create a royal roast!
Luckily, Iago decides at that moment to pick his one time to be useful that month, and slips the hook back into her top. Right before the flames reach her, Jasmine is lifted up into the air, and the plan works perfectly.
With the dragon slain, the last step is the kiss. Jasmine makes more irritated "ooooh" noises than the monkey, but she has to allow it. Aladdin snaps out of it, and panics when he realizes Sadira just kissed him and Jasmine is standing right there.
EXPLAIN! I MEAN, I CAN'T EXPLAIN! BUT--UH---"
"It's a long story, I'll tell you about it later."
This whole adventure has wised everyone up. For the first time, Sadira sees the error of her inability to take a hint and apologizes for trying to steal Jasmine's boyfriend. Jas accepts and hey, she did save her life, so she declares Sadira her new friend. They walk off to do some girly things together, and leave Aladdin still sitting on a rock confused.
The final climactic Sadira episode, "Witch Way Did She Go?" aired on a Saturday. There was another eight-episode season coming, and it was sad to get no Sadira that season, but this episode caps off the saga very well. Now accepted into the clan, Sadira treats everybody to a home-cooked meal. She's not very good at it, though. And when I say not good, I mean so bad that instead of creating soup, she unknowingly resurrects the original Witches of the Sand!
That night the palace is attacked by a giant sand viper. Sadira has an alibi -- she was in Jasmine's room chatting with her the whole time. Aladdin, however, can't be convinced it was anybody else but her, because she's bugged them in the past and she's the only one around who can control sand that way (as far as they know). Jasmine remains on her side, but Sadira is touchy and runs off back to her lair -- where the Witches of the Sand have reappeared.
Back in their day, the Witches ruled the seven deserts with an iron fist. They now plan to return to power, and expect Sadira's full cooperation. Instead, Sadira runs away, not sure who to trust. "SHE'LL be back," the head witch cackles.
Sadira returns to the palace just in time to watch Aladdin convince Jasmine the viper was her doing. She bursts into tears and goes back to the Witches again. (Somehow, it never crosses her mind that THEY put that snake there.....)
Aladdin believes Sadira is up to something bigger and rushes to her place with the others in tow. They arrive just in time to watch the Witches of the Sand initiate a gigantic spell that will resurrect their palace and cover Agrabah in dark twisted roots. Worse yet, they now fully believe Sadira is evil and in cahoots with them. Worser yet, Sadira must attack and imprison them in sand or else face the Witches' wrath! This is the ultimate moment of Sadira's life. This is the moment where she must decide, once and for all, if she is a good person or a bad one. If she does the right thing, it's no guarantee they'll still trust her. What will she do? What will she dooo??
SHE'S GOOD! She comes up from behind and smacks the Witches back into the hole they came out of! But the third one grabs her leg and pulls her down with her! Aladdin races to the hole to save Sadira from eternal imprisonment in a realm with three angry witches, but his grip loosens! Sadira falls into the mists, sacrificing herself to save the kingdom!
Everyone sniffles over the loss, but....yeah right, this is a Disney cartoon.
Sure enough, she comes back in ten seconds. Sadira yanked the staff away from the head witch and used it to rise back up, then close the portal for good. Now she's okay and everyone's happy! Thus ends the greatest and most satisfying character arc in the show's history.
You know what else makes Sadira great? On a show stuffed with horrible puns for names, they always referred to her as a "Witch of the Sand." They did not ONCE call her a "Sand Witch."
As an easter-egg epilogue, Sadira was present at Aladdin and Jasmine's wedding in movie #3. BUT SO WAS THAT STUPID FAT GUY.
Despite how well some episodes turned out, Tad Stones still looks back on Aladdin: The Series as a disappointment. His next project was Hercules: The Series, and he made that a prequel situation because he found continuing a story that had already ended to be too hard. Well, I disagree with the guy who created the show. He did a great job. He understood the appeal of the concept and emphasized the right areas. This is still the best continuation of a Disney movie that has ever been made. Despite the dumb villains it's epic, funny and enthralling. It's a seamless adaption and to me it's always felt like the movie was a pilot and the show was the real story.
Having now filled your obligation
to read this article, I now set you free.
take off your clothes. Take off and go!
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