Hello it’s me, The Blog Complainer and welcome to the start of a brand new series. My third anniversary was coming up and I hadn’t really considered how to celebrate it this year. This was mainly due to other commitments, which is why I felt like rewarding long time readers of this blog by bringing back the most popular series on this website, The Disneyathon.
Just in case you don’t know about The Disneyathon it was a 22 part series where I reviewed various animated Disney films, starting with Snow White back in the late 1930’s, then going through each significant animation era of the company’s history until we reached the present. That’s the rough synopsis, but if you want the full picture then I recommend starting with The Disneyathon: Part 1 – Introduction.
This new Disneyathon series will be solely focused on the Disney direct to video/DVD sequels, with of course a sprinkling of bonuses that were all released during the mid to late 90’s and the 2000’s. We will be exploring the cynical reasoning as to why most of these films ended up being pretty terrible and the shortcuts that were employed to exploit the success of the original film they’re based on. For each sequel in this series, I have already covered it’s predecessor in the original Disneyathon, a link of which will be provided before I discuss the follow-up. Some of these later entries may come off as a bit of a stretch, but I’ll try to explain myself the best I can when the time comes.
To keep with the pun of ‘The Direct to Blog Sequel‘ we won’t be discussing three or four Disney movies a month, but one film a week. The goal is to have a new post every Thursday, but we’ll see as there are 30 movies to get through, most of which may be quite unpleasant viewing.
Also just like The Disneyathon all these reviews will contain spoilers!
Our pilot post takes us back to 1994 where Disney released their first ever animated direct to video sequel. The main reason for going this route was mainly due to the first animated theatrical Disney sequel, The Rescuers Down Under, was a flop in cinemas. So the upcoming sequel to the critically acclaimed Aladdin needed to be finished in half of the time that it took to make it’s predecessor and with a fraction of the budget. This film arrived in video stores on May 20th 1994 and it was called Aladdin: The Return of Jafar.
Link to my Aladdin (1992) Review: The Disneyathon Part 12: Original Classics
The Return of Jafar is a title and premise that immediately screams promise! Jafar is one of the few Disney villains that didn’t horribly die in the original movie, so his eventual return for vengeance against Aladdin and friends gives the writers a great opportunity to turn this into something epic.
I’m probably going to end up saying this a lot over the course of this series, but The Return of Jafar was definitely a movie that was much better back when I was little kid. It was surprising to find that years later I don’t really like this movie very much. The first thing you’ll notice is that the animation quality has really plummeted since the first Aladdin. Yes, I know Return of Jafar has a much smaller budget than the original Aladdin, but that still doesn’t give it any excuse to give us an inferior product. The reason I believe they did this is because Return of Jafar was meant to be the TV pilot for the short lived Aladdin TV series, so the film was made to mimic how most 90’s animated TV shows looked, none of which look like a Disney Renaissance movie. It’s just jarring to me and I would never recommend watching Aladdin then Return of Jafar back to back, which I remember experiencing the hard way one fatal night. Anyway, just be prepared for every scene to look flat and boring because they can’t get too crazy with the colours because it might upset the budget. Also be ready for plenty of copy and paste work on reusing the first movie’s assets because it saves time and also because you’ll remember it was in the first movie!! They couldn’t be bothered removing The Genie’s golden wrist chains even though he was free from the lamp in the last movie?
Why was this even called The Return of Jafar? It’s not a very accurate title as Jafar doesn’t actually return until the last quarter of the movie. Another title could be Aladdin: The Redemption of Iago, because Jafar’s faithful sidekick Iago has a much bigger role in the story than the main bad guy who’s name is in the actual title of this stupid movie!
The story is all over the place, as there are numerous plot lines going on, none of which are very good. First we have Aladdin prepping to get close to the Sultan so he can become his advisor. After which we see Iago ditching Jafar so he can return to Agrabah and infiltrate the palace with the sole goal of living it up. This leads to Aladdin believing that Iago has changed his ways and now he has to come up with an elaborate scheme to work Iago around his dinner with Jasmine and the Sultan. Then The Genie randomly returns to the picture. Then the terrible new character played by Jason Alexander finds Jafar’s lamp, so now Jafar can enact his convoluted plan for revenge. His plan is to use Iago to frame Aladdin for supposedly murdering the Sultan in the most elaborate contrived assassination attempt I’ve ever seen. This leads to Aladdin going to execution block. The movie is surprisingly only 70 minutes long, but the muddled plot just makes this a real drag to watch.
Every character is significantly worse than they were in the first movie. Aladdin is an incompetent idiot and is the butt of this movie’s convoluted story. I’m not that wrapped in Iago being a main character as he works better as the grumpy sidekick. Jafar isn’t too bad, but I hate that instead of being simply outsmarted because he was blinded by his lust for power, here he’s defeated by his own stupidity because he trapped his lamp in a lava pit along with the enemies he’s trying to kill. Jasmine and the Sultan are just there and then we get to The Genie, who is very noticeably not played by Robin Williams. At the time Williams was at war with Disney, so they had no choice, but to get reserve player Dan Castellaneta or Homer Simpson’s voice actor instead. Dan tries his best, but he can’t compete with Williams, and his version is just loud and wacky with a touch of being irritating. On the bright side, at least none of these guys were as horrible as Jason Alexander’s character who was generally unwatchable.
There are songs too, none of which can compete with the first film’s songs. The only one I liked (excluding reusing Arabian Nights for the opening) was Jafar’s song because Jonathan Freeman has a great voice which was never fully utilised in the original film. The other songs were absolutely horrible. New Genie got a song and Iago got two, despite being played by Gilbert Gottfried, the last person you want to hear burst into song, let alone twice in the same movie!
Overall Return of Jafar is watchable, I guess. Again, I have officially grown out of this movie, which is why for me it’s a below average movie. What this film is really good at is being an Aladdin movie, even if it is at bargain bin level. So if you have any interest in this or any of the other sequels I’ll be reviewing they’re all available on Disney+, if you want to follow along with this series.
I’ll add a ranking list for the new Disneyathon series in the next part, once we have something to compare against. Stay tuned as it’ll be another Aladdin sequel, so see you all next Thursday.