Despite being one of the key films of Disney’s original Renaissance period, I never considered Aladdin to be one of my all-time favourites. Don’t get me wrong; it’s a great movie but I could probably list off ten other Disney films that I like more. But I have recently found myself gradually falling in love with its musical numbers; particularly today’s focus.
So what makes this sequence so great? Well, first, the visuals. Disney sometimes don’t need reasons to have the musical numbers suddenly detach from the film’s reality for a bit but Friend Like Me does have the excuse of starring… well, a genie. Because of the near limitless possibilities, the animators were able to just go nuts with what could happen on screen and be completely justified.
Secondly is Robin Williams’ performance. I’ve always admired people who can sing and act at the same time and Williams pulled that off beautifully, keeping his mad-cap energy all the way through and just having fun with it. You can tell his performance probably inspired some of the aforementioned wacky visuals with how he sometimes randomly changes his voice.
Recently, I got to see the new Aladdin stage show, and its version of Friend Like Me was one of the highlights (and probably the bit they spent the most money on – it was seven minutes long!), but I don’t think it holds a candle to the original. It’s only a couple of minutes long but you remember and enjoy every second of it. I may be late saying this but there’s a reason this remains one of Disney’s most memorable and beloved songs.