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Re: [Insert song here]

Posted by Ted on Tuesday, 23 June 1998, at 12:12 a.m., in response to [Insert song here], posted by Steve B on Monday, 22 June 1998, at 11:16 a.m.

> Dear Ted & Terry,
> When you wrote Aladdin, did Menken/Ashman already
> have the songs/lyrics written, or did you write something
> along the lines of--

> "Okay, this is a good place for a song.
> In it, introduce Aladdin, show these character traits,
> and show such-and-such interaction with so-and-so
> characters..."

> --and then the song guys went at it?

Both, actually. When we came on board, 'ARABIAN NIGHTS', 'FRIEND LIKE ME' and 'PRINCE ALI'S PARADE' were already in place (and even starting to be animated).

The two remaining songs and Jafar's reprise of 'PRINCE ALI'S PARADE' were figured out amongst us, the directors, the story artists, and Alan Menken and Tim Rice (who came on board after Howard Ashman's much-too-early death).


Re: MULAN & Column #35

Posted by Ted on Saturday, 27 June 1998, at 5:33 p.m., in response to Re: MULAN & Column #35, posted by Glenn Camhi on Saturday, 27 June 1998, at 6:18 a.m.

> I think it's this same basic trio of goals that
> drives Ariel and Pocahontas (and even Jasmine, but
> I'm talking about starring heronies): They all wanna
> escape what they call their humdrum lives to find
> something more interesting for themselves (to wit:
> adventure and a husband).

When Terry and I were working on ALADDIN, we made the suggestion that Jasmine leaves the palace not to run away, but to try to find some way to help her father, who she felt was acting strangely (unknown to her, due to Jafar's influence). Actually, it was an oft-repeated and very vocal suggestion. Didn't carry the day, unfortunately.

But we did feel a minor victory when Jasmine says "... _if_ I do marry, I want it to be for love," rather than "when." At least she wasn't totally consumed by it.

Another bit that was rejected: when Jasmine is locked in the hour glass and Aladdin is battling the Jafar-snake, we wanted Jasmine to take off the diamond tiara Jafar had given her, score up the glass, and then shatter it. Effect her own escape and all. Nope, we were told -- Aladdin has to rescue her. He does! we said. He vanquishes Jafar! No dice. Too bad.


Re: Ask yourself: do you feel lucky?

Posted by Ted Elliott on Sunday, 5 July 1998, at 2:02 a.m., in response to Re: Ask yourself: do you feel lucky?, posted by Don Fitz-Roy on Saturday, 4 July 1998, at 4:15 p.m.


> BTW, I though Aladdin was definately a success,
> but I can understand the POV of it only being animation.

Actually, my POV isn't that it's only animation -- in fact, I'm feeling a bit huffy about that word 'only' .

The difference between ALADDIN and MASK OF ZORRO is that on ALADDIN, we came in on a film already in progress. A lot of the decisions had already been made, and our sensibilities matched up well with those of the people already on the film, particularly Ron Clemens and John Musker, the directors. We were helping them fulfill their vision of the movie.

Despite some story elements that pre-existed our involvement on MOZ, the script was completely reflective of our vision of how the characters should be handled, how the story should be told, the tone, the style, etc. The film, in almost all ways, is then 'our' film (or as much 'ours' as a single writer (or team) can achieve on a big Hollywood movie).

> Nevertheless I loved some of the small stuff thrown
> in there... "Do you trust me" and "Collosal
> power, tiny little living space" being great
> examples of smart writing.

Funny story on "Phenomenol cosmic power ... itty bitty living space." When I wrote that line (and I only mention specific authorship for the sake of this story), I remember thinking "Well, it's the right idea ... but there's got to be a better way of saying it." I just never came up with a better way. Then Robin recorded it, and, suddenly, it worked -- so well, that it then became Aladdin's kiss-off line to Jafar at the end (when the line was first written, we still had not convinced anyone to go along with the 'Jafar the Genie' ending; I'm convinced that Robin's performance played a large part in carrying the day on that one).


Re: Interview with Chechik and MacPherson

Posted by Ted on Wednesday, 26 August 1998, at 11:41 a.m., in response to Re: Interview with Chechik and MacPherson, posted by K. Sargent on Wednesday, 26 August 1998, at 2:12 a.m.

Two little notes, one THE AVENGERS, one on test screenings:

Both quotes that Chuck Pogue cited are on the money. When ALADDIN was being test-screened, the audience had a lot of kids in it (natch). When asked if there was anything they didn't like, they near-unanimous response was: Jafar. Obviously, they meant: I don't like him 'cause he's the villain. But it wasn't so obvious that certain people didn't start worrying about whether Jafar should be 'softened' or made 'more likable.' (And Jeffrey Katzenberg was *not* one of those people, just to clarify).

On the other hand, one of the big bugaboos that was worrying those same people was the fact that Aladdin was a thief, and kids might think we were condoning stealing (this, even after adding the moment where he gives the purloined bread to a couple of hungry kids). Asked about this, the kids, bless 'em, said 'But he only steals 'cause he's hungry, and no one's taking care of him!'

Of course, this didn't stop those same 'certain people' from continuing to insist that Aladdin shouldn't be a thief, 'cause kids might get the wrong idea (one of these same people also wanted to cut Jasmine kissing Jafar in order to distract him when Aladdin is trying to recover the lamp). The upshot: people find test screenings valuable if it backs up their own opinions; if they don't, then those same people dismiss them as wrong.



Re: After Little Monsters

Posted by Terry on Monday, 12 October 1998, at 11:44 p.m., in response to After Little Monsters, posted by Archie on Monday, 12 October 1998, at 11:50 a.m.

> What happened during your careers between LITTLE MONSTERS and > ALADDIN, particularly right after little monsters?

> Also, how did the ALADDIN offer come about?

Before Little Monsters was released, we took an assignment to do an adaptation of Stan Lee's political parody novel DUNN'S CONUNDRUM, then an adaptation of John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee series.

The Little Monsters script was read by a producer who recommended us for an open assignment at Hollywood Pictures, to adapt Edgar Rice Burroughs novel A PRINCESS OF MARS. Hollywood Pictures was so happy with that draft that they signed us to an overall deal at Disney.

When the folks in Disney Animation were looking for writers, their first stop was to see what writers they had under contract. So we auditioned against just two other screenwriters for the ALADDIN job.

Re: Col # 32: "Visceral Logic"

Posted by Ted on Tuesday, 29 September 1998, at 12:07 p.m., in response to Col # 32: "Visceral Logic", posted by Lorenzo Orzari on Monday, 28 September 1998, at 1:26 a.m.

Visceral logic, as opposed to intellectual logic, is a shorthand way of reminding ourselves that plot -- no matter how clever or flawlessly logical -- in and of itself is not interesting unless there is an emotional context for it.

Likewise, it is sometimes not necessary to fill in the blanks in a plot if the emotional context does not demand it.

An example of this in our own work: the ending of ALADDIN. The dilemma/decision Aladdin faces is whether to honor his promise to Genie (wish him free) or marry Jasmine (which he can only do by wishing to become a prince).

Given the intellectual logic of the plot, there was a really simple solution to this. It had been established that if someone else takes possession of the lamp before the previous owner has used all of their wishes, the previous owner still gets his un-used wishes (Aladdin uses two wishes, Jafar gets the lamp and uses three wishes, Aladdin gets the lamp back and still has one wish to left). So, when faced with the dilemma/decision of how to use his last wish, Aladdin could have just handed the lamp to Jasmine, let her make three quick wishes (including making him a prince), then the Sultan, Abu, the carpet -- and then used his last wish to free the Genie.

Kinda ruins the whole dilemma/decision scenario, doesn't it?

However, by focusing on the characters' emotions (and how the audience feels about the characters), we didn't even have to address this situation. The audience likes Aladdin, and is rooting for him to do the right thing. The audience likes the Genie, and wants him to get what he wants. In an earlier scene, where Aladdin reneged on his promise, the Genie is genuinely hurt (one of the story artists on ALADDIN really liked the fact that it was the first time he ever got to board scenes where two characters who liked each other actually got mad at each other in ways that genuinely mattered to the plot, citing both this scene and an earlier one where Jasmine realizes that Aladdin's been lying to her).

Anyway, back on point: since the emotional context for Aladdin's dilemma had been clearly established, the intellectual logic cited above didn't matter. Handing the lamp off to others would have been logical within the plot, clever, and possibly even funny -- but it would have lessened the emotional impact of the scene, the characters, and Aladdin's decision. While we were aware of the intellectual logic of the scene, it was the visceral logic -- what the audience was feeling or wanted to feel -- that carried the day: Aladdin made a promise, the Genie is depending on him to keep that promise, what will Aladdin do?

We opted to follow the visceral logic of the plot. We then followed it up with another moment of visceral logic when the Sultan re-writes the laws so that Jasmine can marry Aladdin irregardless of him being a Prince. It made emotional sense that, after the experiences of the story, the Sultan would come to this decision (he cared deeply for his daughter, and wanted to make sure she would be 'taken care of' when he was gone; Aladdin certainly proved himself capable of that, among other things). This viscerally logical turn of the Sultan's character allowed us to dispense with the 'intellectual logic' problem of the law, as well as have even another moment of emotional/visceral logic: Aladdin does the right thing, and is rewarded in an unexpected way.



Re: Front Page News

Posted by Ted on Friday, 15 May 1998, at 1:35 a.m., in response to Re: Front Page News, posted by Gary on Thursday, 14 May 1998, at 12:33 a.m.

> I've noticed that some cartoons feature an "Additional
> Writing By" credit. Might this not be a good
> category for the writers that did the other 5% of
> the work. Or is this idea too looney toons?

Actually, the more common credit on animated features is 'Additional Development by ...' (on ALADDIN, both Howard Ashman (who conceived the project and wrote a first draft that was discarded as too stage-bound) and Linda Wolverton (who wrote a script that was virtually identical to the Korda Bros. THIEF OF BAGDAD) received this credit).

Personally, I think its a good solution -- but it still leaves the problem of who gets 'Written by' credit ...


Re: The Flip Side

Posted by Ted on Sunday, 22 November 1998, at 10:26 a.m., in response to Re: The Flip Side, posted by Louise B on Sunday, 22 November 1998, at 9:53 a.m.

> Look at Aladdin. It was still the princess who got rescued
> by the prince.

It was also the princess who brought about change in the society through the force of her convictions.



Posted by Ted on Monday, 23 November 1998, at 9:10 p.m.


On ALADDIN, we were firm on the fact that there had to be a limited number of wishes. The version they were working with had unlimited wishes, but that meant the drama of Aladdin's choice -- make another selfish wish or free the genie -- was diluted. It was not an clear either/or. And that was how we presented it: here's what we would do, here's why, that's the make-or-break on whether we're going to write this movie (from either our perspective or theirs)(we also felt that Aladdin's mom had to go, because it undercut the relationship he developed with the genie -- but we were not as adamant about that).



"We ain't got nothin' better to do."

Posted by Ted on Tuesday, 1 December 1998, at 1:08 a.m., in response to Antz vs. A Bug's Life (spoilers), posted by Brad on Friday, 27 November 1998, at 5:05 p.m.


For some reason, it's endimic to animation to avoid the truly dramatic. I'm not sure why -- Walt Disney certainly was not adverse to it. He's the guy who killed Bambi's mother, after all. My theory is that many people who go into animation only remember how they felt at the *end* of the animated movies they loved -- and try to make every scene generate that same feeling. They love dessert, so they try to make every course dessert. Sorry, but it's the broccoli that makes the dessert all the more delicious.

When we were working on ALADDIN, a number of experienced animation talent were amazed that we had written not one, but two scenes where characters were genuinely angry with each other -- and where the hero had actually done the wrong thing (lying to Jasmine, breaking his promise to the Genie). There were even a number of attempts to soften and backpedal those moments (never by the directors, though). Fortunately, those attempts failed.

Someday, Terry and I will detail the hell that has been THE ROAD TO EL DORADO. At one point, virtually every moment that could have been genuinely dramatic and emotionally involving had been short-circuited to avoid it.


Re: The other two guys

Posted by Ted on Tuesday, 2 March 1999, at 11:24 p.m., in response to The other two guys, posted by T.L. Campbell on Tuesday, 2 March 1999, at 7:24 p.m.

The other two guys were Ron Clemens and John Musker, who co-wrote and co-directed THE LITTLE MERMAID (more recently, they co-directed Disney's HERCULES, and Ron co-wrote it).

Ron and John wrote the draft immediately prior to ours (Howard Ashman, who conceived the project, also wrote one, as did Linda Wolverton. The project then stalled in development until Ron and John came aboard). The story and characters are almost exactly as they conceived them (and the Robin Williams genie was entirely their concept). We were brought in after Jeffrey Katzenberg decided that their version was not working.

Terry and I always felt that the only reason Ron and John didn't write the new draft themselves was that they were simply too busy directing the movie (animation has a very peculiar and demanding production schedule -- approximately 3-4 years from green light to release).

Regardless of all the bizarred dealings we've had regarding screen credits, ALADDIN is one we feel is an accurate reflection of the work done.


Re: What do you mean by...?

Posted by Ted on Thursday, 4 March 1999, at 12:18 p.m., in response to What do you mean by...?, posted by Peter on Thursday, 4 March 1999, at 8:14 a.m.

One of the things that Ron Clemens and John Musker do so well is find concepts that intrinsically demand animation.

For instance: it was their idea to do THE LITTLE MERMAID. Mermaids are intrinsically animatable. On the far side of the scale is the recent animated version of THE KING AND I -- which is based on the Rogers & Hammerstein play which has been done on stage and in live-action film. It does not intrinsically demand animation.

Howard Ashman's draft of ALADDIN was brillant and fun (particularly his take on Jasmine, who really was a 'princess' -- he had suggested Fran Drescher for the voice) -- but it also did not demand to be animated. His concept for the genie was a Cab Calloway-like character (you can still echoes of this concept in the songs, particularly 'Freind Like Me'), but while the Genie worked magic, he himself was not 'magic.'

Ron and John had actually written a role for Robin Williams in THE LITTLE MERMAID (as a dolphin friend of Ariel's, named Breaker), but it was cut (they actually ended up giving a lot of the lines written for Breaker to Ariel).

When they came on board ALADDIN (Howard's draft had already been re-written at least once by Linda Wolverton, who basically cut the brillance and fun but didn't make it any more animatable)(actually, it was less so), Ron and John were the ones who insisted on casting Robin Williams as the genie, and having the character's visual match the frenetic quality of Robin's vocal characteristics.

So the concept of the Robin Williams genie that you see in the finished movie is their's.

(BTW, they also came up with the idea of Gilbert Gottfried as Iago the Parrot -- another great bit of casting).


The Pendulum

Posted by Terry on Thursday, 11 March 1999, at 10:44 p.m., in response to A man of two minds., posted by Bob on Thursday, 11 March 1999, at 8:19 a.m.

> No matter how many times I go over my script, I always seem to
> conclude it's brilliant one day and trash the next. I'm never
> secure in what I've written. Is anybody else like me?


It doesn't stop with scripts, it even goes on to movies. I remember two screenings of ALADDIN, back-to-back. One, the audience just kind of sat there. Not many laughs. Film seemed to be a mess. The next screening, the audience was hanging on every word, every little gesture, and the film seemed perfect.


Re: How to write for ad-libbers

Posted by Ted on Monday, 24 May 1999, at 7:34 p.m., in response to How to write for ad-libbers, posted by Scott on Monday, 24 May 1999, at 3:51 p.m.

> How did your 'Aladdin' Genie dialogue look before
> Mr. Williams went crazy on it?

80% of the time, it looked exactly like it would if you transcribed the final movie (round abouts there, anyway).

Really. It was clocked because of a contract dispute between Robin Williams and Disney, and that's the number they came to: Robin Williams improvised 20% of his dialogue.

And even when he improvised, there was already something there for him to record if he didn't improvise.

In other words: it's your job to write a complete script, beginning to end, with great characters and scenes and dialogue.

The actors add the icing -- they don't bake the cake.



Posted by Ted on Monday, 19 July 1999, at 10:52 p.m., in response to The Magic Flute & Dual-Level Movies, posted by Steve B on Monday, 19 July 1999, at 5:31 p.m.


An excercise: re-watch ALADDIN, and keep in mind when the movie was made: mid-80s, Bush was president, the country was still embroiled in the "Greed is Good""Homeless people choose not to work"Savings & Loan Scandal post-Reagan Revolution.


Not only is it a good technique ...

Posted by Ted Elliott on Thursday, 22 July 1999, at 9:53 p.m., in response to I use placeholders all the time ..., posted by garys on Thursday, 22 July 1999, at 8:25 p.m.

... sometimes those placeholder lines may be better than you think.

I've mentioned before that in ALADDIN, the line "Phenomenal cosmic power ... itty-bitty living space" was essentially a placeholder line. One of those "I know there's a joke in there somewhere, but damned if I can find it!" Unfortunately, it wasn't found before the first recording session with Robin Williams, who performed the placeholder line ... and made it work, and made it work so well, that we re-used it as Aladdin's kiss-off line to the bad guy.

The upshot: I actually own an officially-licensed ALADDIN coffee cup emblazoned with a placeholder line.

There's probably some kind of ironic point about life, writing, or merchandising in there somewhere, but damned if I can find it ...


Subtext (dedicated to Andrew)

Posted by Ted Elliott on Wednesday, 11 August 1999, at 1:20 a.m.


Terry and I will often look at characters from the point of view of how they embody some element of the story theme. In ALADDIN (which was about the search for identity), Aladdin was unhappy with his own identity, Jasmine was unhappy with the identity that had been assigned to her, Jafar was unhappy that he did not have the identity he felt he deserved, the Genie assumed multiple identities because he was not free to choose his identity, the Sultan was happy with his identity to the point of obliviousness, Raja's identity was dependent on his ability to protect Jasmine, Abu's identity was his value as Aladdin's accomplice, Iago accepted his identity as villain's stooge even though he was more clever than Jafar (really!) ...

BTW -- note in the sequence where Jafar gets power, he makes Jasmine a slave, Raja a kitten, Abu a toy, the Sultan a jester, and sends Aladdin to oblivion. Fun stuff, huh?



Re: That's an interesting point, Terry...

Posted by Terry on Wednesday, 15 September 1999, at 6:33 p.m., in response to That's an interesting point, Terry..., posted by Robert de C on Wednesday, 15 September 1999, at 7:47 a.m.

> I'm probably alone in this reaction but as funny and as good
> as I found it, I also found it so dense there was little room
> 'for me'.

Funny you should mention that. There was a scene intended for ALADDIN that almost made it in the film. It was a simple little non-verbal scene where Aladdin's monkey, Abu was being stalked by Rajah in the menagerie. Rajah was sniffing around, and came upon a set of garden sculptures: three monkeys in the classic poses of hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. At the end was a fourth monkey, trying to blend it -- that was Abu, in the pose of 'smell no evil.'

Part of the intent of the scene was to give the film 'breathing room'; to have a non-verbal, no-new-information scene to allow the audience time to process. It got cut; no time (animation films are ruthless about running time). The other mistake they make in animation films is, to save time, cut off 'heads and tales' throughout the picture (the beginning and endings of scenes) to save a minute or to. It gives the films a rushed feeling.


The cult of childhood and the damage its done

Posted by Ted Elliott on Thursday, 23 September 1999, at 10:09 a.m., in response to Where have all the children gone…, posted by Alice on Wednesday, 22 September 1999, at 5:47 p.m.

After World War II, it was decided that childhood in the U.S. should be prolonged as much as possible (there wasn't a bunch of people in room who made the decision; it was simply an understandable societal reaction to one-two-three punch of WWI, the Depression, and WWII).

The problem is that post-adolescents aren't children, but they are still treated as children. When most people want to start assuming more responsibilities for their own lives -- and, in the past, did start assuming more responsibility -- they are 'protected' from doing so (the irony is, they are nonetheless told they need to ACT like responsible adults, but are not trusted to BE responsible adults, nor are they TREATED like responsible adults).

And since teens are treated like children, it means children are treated like toddlers. They are likewise 'protected' from the world in a manner far younger than their ages.

Which results in 'children's movies' that are really more aimed at toddlers.

Take OLD YELLER. Great 'children's movie' of a by-gone age. I guarantee you that if OLD YELLER were made today (and had not been made previously), it would be Fess Parker who pulled the trigger -- not Tommy Kirk (if Yeller died at all, that is).

Children's literature is full of dark edges -- but in modern children's movies, all those edges are knocked off and lightened, resulting in stories with no real drama or emotional impact (on ALADDIN, it actually took a bit of a fight to allow Aladdin to break his promise to the Genie -- to allow him to DO SOMETHING WRONG. There was real concern that this would be unnacceptable for children).

It used to be that the purpose of children's literature (and movies) was to prepare children for adulthood, by exposing them to the lessons and realities of the world in controlled and understandable ways. There was much more a feeling of being invited to join the adult world, with the promise that the already-adults would be there to teach and guide you.

Sadly, that no longer seems to be the case. Far more often children's movies seem to be adults LYING to children about the world. Good stories are not about lies. They are lies that tell truths. But kids can tell when they are being lied to, and adults know they're lies, so who exactly are these 'kids' movies' supposed to appeal to?

Answer: no one.


Re: A Song and a Dance

Posted by Ted Elliott on Tuesday, 30 November 1999, at 1:14 a.m., in response to A Song and a Dance, posted by T.L. Campbell on Monday, 29 November 1999, at 6:13 p.m.

In animation, all things are the product of the group mind. Terry and I suggested song placement and content in our original draft for EL DORADO, but once that got tossed, there seemed to be very little concern for where the songs would best serve the story, or even creating a story which demanded songs to tell. As far as I could tell, the main consideration was finding places to put songs since there had to be songs.

On ALADDIN, there were already several songs in place and written, but as the story shifted, a number of people suggested song placement (and I will mention again Ed Gombert, story artist extradinaire, who -- as far as I'm concerned -- did the greatest service for the movie by demonstrating that Aladdin's first song should be an up-tempo lark, instead of a ballad).

Just recently, a song which had been cut from EL DORADO was re-instated, in order to qualify it for Golden Globe consideration as Best Comedy or Musical.

Also: more than likely, for at least the near future, animated movies will employ song-score, as opposed to on-screen, synched songs.


Re: Regarding Race

Posted by Ted Elliott on Tuesday, 11 January 2000, at 1:37 p.m., in response to Re: Regarding Race, posted by Yakkity on Tuesday, 11 January 2000, at 11:06 a.m.


When Terry and I were working on ALADDIN, we were involved with some of the casting decisions (no, actually, we made some suggestions, the decisions belonged to others). While trying to find a voice for Aladdin himself, I suggested Will Smith.

(still in the first or second season of FRESH PRINCE OF BEL AIR; he was not yet *Will Smith*, if you see what I mean).

I thought he had the charm, humor and vocal range necessary to bring the character to life. That was the only reason I suggested him.

It was decided that he sounded too black.

Now, I know what you're thinking -- because I thought the exact same thing: it's a freakin' cartoon character! He won't look black, he will look Arabian! So that means audiences will perceive him as an Arabian named Aladdin -- not black, and not white.

But I gave it some more thought ... and I believe the phrase 'he sounds too black' was actuallt short hand for: his voice will be recognized as belonging to a black actor, and therefore identified as a black voice; it will be the only 'black voice' in the movie; and we must take into account that the love interest sound undeniably white, and that the character of Aladdin, despited being Arabian, the lead and the hero, is nonetheless an orphaned, homeless thief. Giving him a black voice may be perceived as a comment we did not intend to make.

(I believe this reasoning was sound, btw -- because when the movie came out, Arab-Americans protested becasue, despite the fact that ALL the characters were Arabian, the only characters which sounded Arab (English spoken with a Farsi accent) were non- or anti- sympathetic.)

Anyway, the point: I think the 'problem' re: Will Smith as Aladdin could have been offset if there had been at least one other 'black voice' in the movie.



Re: Answer to both

Posted by Ted Elliott on Tuesday, 9 May 2000, at 11:19 p.m., in response to Re: Answer to both, posted by Bill Marsilii on Tuesday, 9 May 2000, at 7:06 p.m.


> I mean come on. If "whatever he reads is what the writer has communicated," then you guys really WERE out to insult
> Arabs with ALADDIN --

No, it means the Arabs who were insulted by ALADDIN *were insulted.*

> you failed to communicate otherwise, no matter how many times you included positive portrayals in the same movie,
> right? Failure: writer.

Well, technically, they were insulted by a line in a song, the appearance of one of the characters, and the way some of the characters sounded, so if anything, you would have to say "Failure: Filmmakers."

*I* wouldn't, though -- even though I agreed with the complaint about the way some of the characters sounded. The reason?

The filmmakers did not pay the Arab Anti-Defamation League for their expert opinion as to whether or not the movie was insulting to Arabs.



Would have liked to see it ...

Posted by Terry on Monday, 19 June 2000, at 3:59 p.m., in response to Daniel, the contest was over, posted by Rick on Monday, 19 June 2000, at 1:45 p.m.

... and if I can get my copy of Navigator to run it, I'll take a look at it.

In answer to your other question, re: animation ... Aladdin was a much better experience than El Dorado -- experienced, smart, talented directors make quite a difference, as well as *not* having time to 'explore.'

You don't have to stay away from animation if that's the work you have. But I still don't think writing an animation spec feature script is the best choice -- see the column, INK & PAINT.

Re: Two Aladdin Questions

Posted by Ted Elliott on Monday, 3 July 2000, at 4:02 p.m., in response to Two Aladdin Questions, posted by Steven Sousa on Friday, 30 June 2000, at 2:23 p.m.

After Wish #1, everyone thinks Aladdin is a prince, except Aladdin, Genie, Abu and the Carpet -- they knew he was a guy who wished he was a prince.

When Jafar discovers that Prince Ali had the lamp, he knew he wasn't a prince -- he was a guy who wished he was a prince.

When Jafar publicly exposes Aladdin, everyone knows he isn't a prince -- he was a guy who wished he was a prince.

Jasmine has to marry a prince, not a guy who wished he was a prince.

Had Wish #3 been "Make me a prince," Genie's magic would have removed from everyone the knowledge that Aladdin was a guy who wished he was a prince (maybe even himself, Aladdin, Abu and the Carpet, this time).

Knowledge trumps magic thinking, every time.


Re: Wish #2 had to be made

Posted by Ted Elliott on Monday, 3 July 2000, at 10:29 p.m., in response to Wish #2 had to be made, posted by John Arnott on Monday, 3 July 2000, at 7:43 p.m.

> but never performed direct magic on his behalf without being beckoned with a wish, or at least having some evidence
> that a wish had been made, even if it were a "legal fiction" as happened with Aladdin's head-nod.

Actually, that bit worked better in the screenplay, on the boards, and in reels with scratch dialogue -- because the Genie says "I can't help you unless you make a wish! Do you wish for me to save you?" and *then* he shook Aladdin, and then Aladdin's head nodded, and then he said "I'll take that as a 'yes!' Problem was, when Robin Williams recorded the dialogue, he went off script a bit, and the question was lost. Despite a couple of notes (from Terry and I, from head of story Ed Gombert, some others), the line never got re-recorded.


If Wishes were Fishes

Posted by Terry on Thursday, 6 July 2000, at 1:13 p.m., in response to Two Aladdin Questions, posted by Steven Sousa on Friday, 30 June 2000, at 2:23 p.m.

> Wish #0: Aladdin tricks Genie into thinking he wished out of
> the cave. Genie takes Aladdin out of the
> cave, and then is told that Aladdin didn't wish it, so Genie
> "did that on his own".

As has been pointed out, the key is that the Genie is not supposed to help his master using magic unless it gets counted as a wish. But as long as the Genie thought it was a wish, he would do it, even if later he was convinced that it didn't count. Think of the genie constrained by a strict and severe morality code rather than a presence or lack of magical ability.

> The behavior exhibited by Genie
> would lead me to conclude that he's free to do mostly what he
> wants, but he MUST grant the 3 wishes of
> whoever holds the lamp. Genie should have been able to save
> Aladdin without making a wish, or at the
> very least, revived him so that he could have consciously made
> wish #2, which he clearly did not.

The Genie was constrained by the Genie rules of not using magic to help his master unless a wish was made, and magic was needed in that case. In the script and storyboards, it was clear that the Genie fudged this and pushed it as much as he could -- did Aladdin nod in answer to a question, or was the nod part of being shaken? No way to tell, but the Genie, liking Aladdin, chose to interpret it in such a way he could help.

> Wish #3: After Jafar is disposed of, Aladdin and Jasmine want
> to marry, but there's a problem since Al
> isn't really a prince. So Genie tells Al he has one wish left
> and he should wish to be a prince again.
> Why should he have to use his third wish for the same thing he
> already got by using wish #1?

This one is fairly straighforward. As we saw, the Genie did a fine job with wish number one. But it was undone by outside forces, rather significant outside forces. It would be the same if you wished for an ice cream sundae, it appeared ... and then someone stole it. You'd have to use another wish to get another sundae.

> If the
> Genie has the power to grant wishes, then Aladdin is STILL a
> prince. Basically, what Genie is admitting
> is that he never really granted wish #1. Rather than making
> Aladdin a prince, he merely fooled Agraba
> into thinking he was a prince.

No and yes. The Genie did a 'magical' job of making Aladdin into a Prince. But it says something about getting things like that magically ... not quite as good as the real thing.

> But he didn't do that with Jafar. Jafar wished for the Genie to
> make him the Sultan, Genie really made him
> Sultan. Jafar wished for the Genie to make him the world's most
> powerfel sorceror, Genie really made
> him the world's most powerful sorceror.

Wishes that Genies grant are subject to the interpretation and abilities of the Genie, of course, and that's part of the fun. It's like that joke that ends with the guy is standing there with the big ballpoint pen, saying, 'You think I really asked for a twelve inch Bic?'

There's really not much difference between what the Genie did for Aladdin -- enough to make him happy, to do the job of being a prince -- and what he did for Jafar, make people think he was sultan, and then give him magical powers.

> What was Genie going to do if Aladdin used wish #3 to become a
> prince? Everyone already knew that
> Prince Ali was really Aladdin, so how was he going to "make him
> a prince" again? Would he have erased
> everyone's memory of the events of the story?

Yes -- because this time, that was what would have been needed.

Actually, there was a structure that we promoted that I always thought was pretty good. Jafar wishes to be Sultan -- in fact, to always have been Sulten. So the entire land transforms into a place where Jafar has always been in charge ... and it's pretty terrible. But as the town is tranforming, the carpet rolls itself up around Aladdin, protecting him. He's the only one who knows how it used to be, and he alone has to go get the lamp back and restore order.

The real logic hole of the whole wish thing, to me, is this: why didn't Aladdin just make his wish at the end, then hand the lamp to Jasmine, and have her grant the genie his freedom with one of her free wishes? The way I figure it is that the lamp can only be taken, it can't be given away.

What's Up, Sister Lily?

Posted by Ted Elliott on Tuesday, 1 August 2000, at 4:23 p.m., in response to Re: Lexicon: One Person's Attempt, posted by Bill Marsilii on Tuesday, 1 August 2000, at 1:11 p.m.

I like the refinement of the TEXT and SUBTEXT definitions -- I might further refine it to:

TEXT - everything which is stated openly in the narrative
SUBTEXT - everything which is not stated openly, but is inferred from the Text, including THEME.


* * * * *

You know the problem with turning subtext into text?

It automatically means your narrative no longer has subtext, OR that your narrative has a *different* subtext than the one you created.

The only way I've found around this is to try to create a scene where the theme is stated in a context other than "Here's the moral lesson, kids." I don't know if we were successful in ALADDIN, but the idea there was that since the Genie was telling Aladdin how to successfully pull off his Prince Ali scam, "Be yourself" lands a bit differently than if he had taken Aladdin aside and said "You know, if you really want to have a good life, you should forget all the wishes and stuff, and just be yourself."

(Of course, "Be Yourself" was a simplistic statement of the actual theme: "Do not accept without question the role society thrusts on you; define your own role." Jasmine was the embodiment of the positive aspect of the theme, Jafar the negative, Aladdin the neutral. All the other characters ranged somewhere between the extremes of Jasmine and Jafar.).


Nice try!

Posted by Terry on Tuesday, 16 January 2001, at 2:16 p.m., in response to Re: Aladdin redux, posted by Iain on Tuesday, 16 January 2001, at 11:26 a.m.

Appreciate the effort, really ...

> Aladdin could have held off on the third wish, got Jasmine to
> wish he was a prince, taken back the lamp,
> wish the genie was free and he would have held up his bargain
> to the letter of the law. However, he wouldn't have held up to
> the spirit of the bargain. Neither would he have learned
> anything.

It's certianly true that Aladdin's character growth is important, and that the emotional legitimacy of the moment is important.

But the situation is presented as a plot dilemma. It should stand on its own account. The dilemma is this: one wish, two desires, both legitimate. A promise to free the genie, a need to be a Prince to get the girl.

Genie doesn't want Aladdin to lose the girl, *Aladdin* doesn't want to lose the girl, but Genie doesn't want to stay a slave, and Aladdin doesn't want him to stay a slave.

That really ought to be a legit situation. The fact that it's a good emotional issue, and a tough dilemma and good drama is the mortar, but not the bricks. And the bricks don't quite hold up, which is why I call it a plot hole.

Now, the question is, what to do with a plot hole?

You use visceral logic, cover it with character stuff, you hide it through misdirection ...

You're right -- Aladdin's character growth is the reason why the audience will be 'accepting' of the dramatic license of the story. (It's what Ted talks about when he brings up 'visceral logic.' There are some not-entirly logical moments an audience will let you have if the emotional logic is sound, if you're giving the audience something they want to be true.)

But that's not the same as saying there's no plot hole. You need to know the plot holes you're getting away with, even if others don't notice them.

> However, by not having anyone else make the wish, even if he
> knew it were possible, shows even greater growth of character
> - and anything else would be unfair to his true friendship with
> the genie ...

Yes, but it's dangerous to count on that in plotting -- essentially what you're saying is, 'it's good for the story this way and people will recognize that so it's okay.'

I remember reading THE TALISMAN (King/Straub), where several times they would say something like -- "He didn't know why he was going along, he just knew he had something important to do before the end." What I took from that was, "The writers can't figure out why this character would do that, except that it will make for a cool scene later on." They leaned on my good graces a little too hard, and it didn't work for me.

The plot hole in Aladdin was covered a little better ... through misdirection, the good graces of the audience, the emotional logic of the scene, hiding the hole in a character moment ... but I still think it's a hole.

Re: One more side comment...

Posted by Ted Elliott on Thursday, 25 January 2001, at 3:20 p.m., in response to One more side comment..., posted by 9Lanterns on Thursday, 25 January 2001, at 7:14 a.m.


You know, our experience on ALADDIN provides a pretty good example of what I was talking about re: writing the draft before exploring the concept as fully as possible.

In all of the versions of the screenplay/reels which were done prior to Terry and my involvement, Aladdin had unlimited wishes -- which is also true of the original story, btw (there's also two genies in that one, one in a lamp and one in a ring).

Terry and I insisted that, for the ending to work as well as possible (Aladding freeing the genie), Aladdin had to be making a clear choice: what he wanted v. what he had promised -- which meant limiting the number of wishes.

Now, you would think that this suggestion would be met with universal acceptance -- but it wasn't, for one reason primarily:

They had come up with a lot of great, funny scenes where Aladdin went on a wish-bender. The thought of losing those scenes -- particularly when nothing concrete had yet been created to replace them -- caused some resistance to what (I say humbly) was a better story point.


Re: Wouldn't that be lovely?

Posted by Ted Elliott on Thursday, 28 June 2001, at 11:09 p.m., in response to Wouldn't that be lovely?, posted by Daphne Charette on Thursday, 28 June 2001, at 12:08 p.m.

> That moment, okay, he has a job to do- to let Aladdin out of the handcuffs (though of course Jafar could have done this
> too)- but while doing it, he throws his coat over his head and chews Aladdin out for being such a romantic sap. It isn't,
> in point of fact, entirely neccessary.

> Where did that moment come from?

Actually, as you point out, it wasn't necessary for Abu to pick the lock on the shackles. What was necessary was for Abu to accompany Aladdin and Jafar to the Cave of Wonders ... and that's why Abu *really* shows up in the dungeon.

Everything else he does in the scene -- picking the lock, chewing Aladdin out for getting his ass arrested, imitating Jasmine -- was purely character. Why would Abut show up in the dungeon? To rescue Aladdin. How would he do it? Pick the locks (originally, he was going to do it with his tail, but the story artist came up with the ludicrous-but-somehow-reasonable 'lockpicks in the vest' idea). What would his attitude to be? Since his fundamental characterization was "kid brother who idolizes older brother and wants to be cool, just like him," and he was already jealous of Jasmine (the apple scene), it made sense he would chew out Aladdin for letting a crummy girl get him arrested, and mock her unmercifully.


Re: It's easy to embarrass these guys..

Posted by Ted Elliott on Wednesday, 22 August 2001, at 7:10 p.m., in response to Re: It's easy to embarrass these guys.., posted by Kit on Wednesday, 22 August 2001, at 12:28 p.m.


Re: ALADDIN -- Howard Ashman wrote the first draft of ALADDIN, which was abandoned save for the songs. Apparently, Linda Wolverton also wrote a draft. Roger Allers was a story artist on the movie, not a writer.


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