Ironically, in an atmosphere where there is tangible audience fatigue when it comes to franchises, reboots, and sequels, Disney has been making an absolute killing doing all three with: Star Wars, their live action movies, and The Marvel Cinematic Universe, respectively. When the first Alice in Wonderland opened up the door to the idea of live action remakes of their classics, Disney has essentially been pumping out more remakes than Star Wars films and that’s saying something.
They’ve nailed every remake thus far with their most recent being Beauty and the Beast, and it just so happened to be their most successful as well. That massive success is based on a combination of the original movie’s quality and nostalgia factor. Sure, everyone is aware of Alice in Wonderland or The Jungle Book, but the Disney movies that seem to be the most popular are the ones that Millenials, especially the older ones with children of their own, saw in theaters as children. Of those films, the top three happen to be Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King and Aladdin (not in that order, as Lion King is considered the best Disney cartoon ever by many). Both The Lion King and Aladdin are in pre-production and while The Lion King has been humming along (thanks to the return of soon to be Disney Legend himself, John Favreau, who gained a ton of experience working with CGI animals in The Jungle Book and the casting of Hugh Jackman as Scar), Aladdin has had an awful time attempting to find actors to play the two lead roles in Aladdin himself and Princess Jasmine.
Reports have said that Aladdin Director Guy Ritchie and his casting team scoured the planet for an actor to play Aladdin, especially, as they really wanted to go with an unknown quantity to go against the star power of Will Smith’s Genie and the known quantity they want to bring in to play the villain Jafar. What was also important was the chemistry between their Aladdin and Jasmine, which meant testing over 2,000 candidates in live reads for the part. Well, there’s good news to report as apparently, they’ve found their match!
According to multiple sources, Disney has cast Naomi Scott (from the recent Power Rangers movie) as Princess Jasmine and Mena Massoud (known mostly from Jack Ryan) as Aladdin. Part of the casting issue, outside of chemistry, was finding someone that could sing and dance and so apparently Massoud and Scott have the pipes and moves needed to pull off these parts. Disney was obviously also looking for characters that fit the bill ethnically and while Scott isn’t of Middle Eastern descent (she’s half Indian), Massoud is (he’s from Canada but is of Coptic Egyptian descent).
Now that the movie has cast its main two, it’ll be interesting to see who they go after for Jafar and Aladdin’s sidekick the monkey Abu. As for Jafar’s sidekick the parrot Iago, if they don’t go after Gilbert Gottfried people should revolt! Ben Kingsley seems like the safe pick as he’s played ambiguously ethnic characters before, otherwise, Al Pacino would be amazing as well. Stay tuned for more Aladdin casting news and let us know your thoughts on Disney’s new Aladdin and Princess Jasmine!