Will Smith & The Cast Talk Disney’s Aladdin!

Hey All!

I recently had the amazing opportunity to attend the press junket for Disney’s latest live action film Aladdin! I can’t tell you how excited I was to go to this event because Aladdin is my most favorite Disney animated movie of all time! I used to sing these songs all day and all night! My parents would have to tell me to be quiet and go to sleep because I wouldn’t stop singing. I was thrilled to see they were bringing it to life on the big screen in a live action movie.

In attendance at the press junket were Will Smith (“Genie”),  Mena Massoud (“Aladdin”), Naomi Scott (“Jasmine”), Nasim Pedrad (“Dalia”), Navid Negahban (“Sultan”), Director Guy Ritchie, Composer Alan Menken (Who created the music of my childhood), and Production Designer Gemma Jackson (Worked on Game of Thrones). Will Smith was the most animated and had a lot to say about the film. He’s truly the most energetic happy person I’ve ever seen. Before I get into what he and everyone in the cast and filmmakers had to say, let me tell you about what happened before the junket even started.

We got to check out some of the gorgeous costumes from the film that were on display.

They had Jasmine, Genie…

And Aladdin, when he’s Prince Ali, all on display. The costumes were beyond amazing to see in person. The amount of detail that went into them down to the shoes was incredible.

And then Alen Menken came out and did a full on 10 minute medley of almost all the songs he’s done for the numerous Disney films. I literally cried folks. I recorded the whole thing and you can check it out below. You can hear me scream and cry occasionally in the video and I did my best to hold the camera straight. I hand held this entire performance folks! Check it out below or on my Youtube Channel.

It’s such a once in a lifetime opportunity to get to see Alen Menken perform live. It’s always a dream come true for me! I can’t tell you how incredible it was to witness.

Now onto the press junket…

The junket was run like a Q&A with a moderator. Here are a little fun facts that were shared by the cast and filmmakers about the film.

Guy Ritchie and the cast were asked “What they were most excited for people to see in the film?”

WILL SMITH:

Guy.

GUY RITCHIE:

Thank you very much, Will. I suppose it’s the entire process that in the end, it’s what you’re left with in terms of a sensation by the end of the film. So I would say it’s how you leave the cinema. So it’s hard to be specific about exactly what it is that you’re supposed to derive from it other than a sensation which can only really be encapsulated by a very positive version of being un-cynical. That we want people to leave with a sense of positivity and hopefully a sense of freshness and all that sort of stuff. But really I think it’s a question of how it is that you leave the cinema.

MENA MASSOUD:

You know, I’m especially proud of the representation and the ethnically diverse casting that was put together for this. It’s not often you can go to a movie theater and see all people of color represented like this. It’s certainly something that I was missing in my childhood. So I’m proud of the cast and the casting that Guy and Disney put together. So I’m excited for little boys and girls to go see people that look like them on screen, man. That’s what I’m proud of.

WILL SMITH:

Yeah!

Naomi Scott was asked what it was like doing her scene with the new song written for Jasmine in the film called “Speechless” and also how she feels that song resonates today?

NAOMI SCOTT:

Oh gosh, where do I start? So Speechless, written by this guy over here, Alan Menken, Pasek, and Paul.

ALAN MENKEN:

Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.

NAOMI SCOTT:

Yes. Who, you know did La La Land and The Greatest Showman.

ALAN MENKEN:

And Dear Evan Hansen.

NAOMI SCOTT:

Exactly.

ALAN MENKEN:

Wonderful, wonderful work.

NAOMI SCOTT:

They are all such incredible writers. The fact that they wrote a song and I get to sing it, first of all, I was like wow. That’s already surreal. But also when I heard it and just the words and the lyrics and how timely it was, the message behind the song and the idea of not going speechless, that everyone has a voice, and doesn’t matter who you are, doesn’t matter what you look like, doesn’t matter what your gender, your voice matters. The song shows speaking out against injustice matters. Not just standing by and being a spectator. That day was very emotional, right, Guy?

MENA MASSOUD:

Back to Guy Ritchie, crying. (They called Guy Ritchie Cry Ritchie since he cried often on the set after a beautiful performance.)

NAOMI SCOTT:

But it was really emotional because I wanted it to feel raw.  I wanted it to feel like it’s what she’s going through in that moment. We did some of it live as well which was a different type of challenge. The song isn’t just for me, it’s like, it’s the world’s song. Like whatever it will be, it will be. And then whatever people take from it, they will take. I’m just obviously very blessed to be the person to kind of embody it in the movie.

Navid Negahban also touched on what he was most excited for people to see in the film.

NAVID NEGAHBAN:

I have to say something about Naomi. There is a princess inside her. I never forget, we were on the set and we were working. Some of the ladies, they were a little bit stressed and they were yelling in the background actors. And this girl took the mic, went over on the balcony, and said we can be nicer to each other, can’t we? So the princess is inside her. I never forget that day.

NAVID NEGAHBAN:

But truly, it’s just finding your inner magic, believing in yourself, who you are, and what you are is special. There is nobody else like you. And I think the film represents that. Mena, he discovered Aladdin inside him and it was beautiful, the whole journey was an amazing experience.

They asked Nasim Pedrad about her character Dalia (who is a completely new character the world has never seen before) and how did she go about bringing her to life?

NASIM PEDRAD:

It was so fun, because I get all the joy of creating something from scratch, but then watching that intersect with this story we all know and love.  I had so much respect for coming into it. I’m a 90’s kid. So for me, Aladdin was like golden age Disney. And to echo what Mena said, I’m so proud to be part of the most diversely cast Disney movie of all time I think. And it really was that film resonated with me as a child, because it was the first time I saw a Middle Eastern protagonist in a major motion picture. So to get to be a part of that and play a little fun role in being Jasmine’s friend and handmaiden and especially under the guidance of Guy, who is so collaborative and fun and every day, you’re like oh my gosh, like he puts the scene up on its feet, and it turns into a whole fun new thing that you wouldn’t have necessarily even seen on the page. It was just such a blast. We got to spend time together and a lot of my scenes were with Naomi. We got to spend time together before we started filming and there was such an instant camaraderie and friendship that I think hopefully translates into the dynamic of the characters.

They asked Gemma Jackson what was the most fun part of researching and designing this film?

GEMMA JACKSON:

The most fun part of researching I think was just throwing everything up in the air and letting it settle and thinking about the parts of world that we wanted to explore for our kingdom and our land and letting it all kind of gradually come together. And as the different demands of the film grew, then different parts of that set grew. And creating a world for this fantastic bunch of mad people I think was the best of my job.

Everyone was also asked if they kept anything from this set?

GEMMA JACKSON:

I’ve got a bat from the film. Well, in Jafar’s study, which actually was probably the least seen part of the film, I made these bats that went around and at one point, I had some mad idea that they would be floating around in some scene. And so I’ve got them in my garden.

GUY RITCHIE:

I’ve got more of that set than you can imagine actually.

GUY RITCHIE:

I’ve basically got the whole of Agrabah. I gradually clawed it off Disney as time went on.

WILL SMITH:

I always try to keep a little piece of wardrobe. Like for me, whatever reason, the wardrobe has a really great value. So I always, you know, I tucked a turban on the way out.

Guy shared something very sweet about Will Smith. 

GUY RITCHIE:

So working with them is a tremendous pleasure for me. Because it’s like you’re all kids still. And so from sort of Will’s point of view and from the actor’s point of view, they were all having a tremendous amount of fun. I’ll give most of the credit to you there Will. Will is not cynical. By the time you’ve been doing what we’ve been doing for 30 years, it’s very easy to become jaded and cynical. And actually no one on the set was cynical. So I mean, Will said it. But for me, it was the most fun, creative process I’ve ever been through.

Will spoke about his experience making the film.

WILL SMITH:

I was saying Disney Magic is real. This is my first Disney movie and there’s something that Walt Disney did in the design of these stories that at the core of these stories is something that shocks the inner child within you and forces it to come alive and smile and appreciate the moment. So for me, coming into this, first starting with fear, it definitely started with fear. What Robin Williams did with this character didn’t leave a lot of room to add to the genie. So I started off fearful. But then when I got with the music, it just started waking up that fun childlike silly part of me. And like Guy was saying. This was the most joyful experience of my career.

He also shared how the Genie came to life on the big screen.

WILL SMITH:

What was really great for me in terms of that is because the Genie and a lot of people don’t even recognize this, but the Genie is 100% CGI. People look at it and they think it’s my face blue and it’s my body. The Genie is 100% CGI. There is none of me in the Genie, right? So it’s like the work was so good that they don’t even get credit for it. But what happened for me, I would just be on set. We would run the scenes and everything and I could do it on set. So I would improv on set because I knew it wouldn’t be necessarily in the movie. Then we would do the first round of the CGI work and then we could go again and we could work it. Then Guy watched the whole movie and then I had another chance to go back and we could play with lines and make adjustments, because they were going to create it anyway. So for me, there was tons of improv and we got to the point where Guy was open. Anybody could throw something in and we were throwing it in. It would become a fun thing on set to try to find that number one answer.

Will was asked if there was any one particular song that resonated with him the most?

WILL SMITH:

The song that got me over the hump of yes, I can play Genie, was Friend Like Me. I went into the studio the first day and I really wanted to play with it to see if I could add something to it. And literally 30 minutes in the studio, I starting to play with it and finding that in that 94, 96 BPM range, we were playing around in there thinking ultimately it was a little bit faster than that. But that 94, 96 BPM range is right old school hip hop. So I grabbed the Honey Drippers Impeach The President, which is a really classic old school hip hop break beat, and I had them throw that break beat under there. I was like oh my God. I’m home, I’m home. And then I started playing with the hip hop flavor and then the Genie was really born in my mind from the music. And I understood once I played with Friend Like Me.

Alan Menken chimed in on how he loved what Will did with the song.

ALAN MENKEN:

It was great. Absolutely. I say this a lot. I liken myself to an architect. I design a house that others are going to live in. Will, you threw a hell of a party in that house. I just loved it. Once he did that, I just go, just back off and let him do what he does. Because it’s so good.

If Will Smith could have 3 wishes what would they be?

WILL SMITH:

I would have one wish. And my one wish would be divine understanding. And that’s the thing that I’ve been finding in, I just turned 50 this year. And that lack of understanding, confusion, is the mother of fear and violence. So for me, I would absolutely wish for divine understanding to be shared with all. I think that understanding is the seeds of peace.

And that’s all folks! I hope you enjoyed this look at the Aladdin Press Junket.

Be sure to follow ALADDIN on Instagram at: instagram.com/DisneyAladdin

And get your tickets for ALADDIN now! ALADDIN arrives in theatres everywhere on May 24th!

Stay tuned for my full review of the film this Friday!

 

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