Aladdin – In Pantomime
Beyond the original tale and the Disney film, Aladdin is a popular story in its own right, and was long before Disney commercialised it.
Probably the biggest appreciators of Aladdin are those in the pantomime tradition, where it is one of the most popular stories to perform. Pantomimes are fun, exaggerated kinds of plays, with the emphasis very much on family entertainment and audience participation. All the men are played by women, and the women by men, and two people will generally dress up as an animal such as a cow or a horse. You can see pantos in Britain, Australia and Ireland, among other countries.
Aladdin has probably been performed in panto form since not long after the story arrived in Europe, with evidence all the way back to at least the early 1800s, although the tale is sometimes merged with that of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. It also includes some rather strange additions such as Widow Twanky and Wishy Washy, Aladdin’s mother and brother respectively.
Since 1966, there has been an Aladdin themed hotel and casino on the Las Vegas Strip, which also incorporates a very large shopping centre. The whole thing is decked out in cheesy but enjoyable cod-Arabic style. Unfortunately, it’s going to be re-themed as a Planet Hollywood resort and casino any year now, so go and see it while you can.
There are also numerous animated film versions of Aladdin, either pre-dating Disney’s version or shamelessly cashing in on it. While the newer ones are generally poorly-produced and can be safely ignored, some of the older ones are actually far superior to their more famous cousin.
From Disney themselves, of course, there is no end of Aladdin-related product even today, from colouring books to soft toys. If you’re ever at Disney World, you might take a ride on the inevitable Aladdin’s Magic Carpet ride.
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