At this year’s D23 Expo in Burbank, Calif., we learned the status of several Disney projects in the works. Among them is the upcoming live-action remake of the animated classic, Aladdin.
Details have trickled in since the film was first announced in 2016, but most of the cast was a mystery. Now, we’ve gathered a few more details about the movie, some of which have been met with controversy.
1. Mena Massoud is Aladdin
Disney has been feeling the heat surrounding Hollywood’s habitual whitewashing and clearly made an effort to separate their name from that effort. From the beginning, producer Dan Lin claimed that their plan was to “make a movie that’s authentic to that world.”
This was difficult because Agrabah, the city in which the movie is set, is fictional, though it is generally agreed upon that it takes place somewhere in the Middle East. So not everyone was happy when it was announced that newcomer Egyptian-Canadian actor Mena Massoud was cast in the title role.
2. Naomi Scott is Jasmine
If the choice for Aladdin raised some eyebrows, that of Jasmine is even more controversial. The casting of Naomi Scott, a British actress with Indian heritage, has faced quite a bit of backlash.
Aside from that, Scott is more recognizable than her costar. She recently appeared in another project that invoked ‘90s nostalgia, as Kimberly aka The Pink Ranger in this year’s Power Rangers film.
3. Will Smith is the Genie
It could be argued that the most vital role in Aladdin is that of Genie, who sets the events of the film in motion. The late Robin Williams was beloved as the voice of the character in the animated classic, and those shoes will undoubtedly be hard to fill.
So it was only natural that Disney went with a veteran actor: Will Smith. His wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, who is currently during promotional work for her new movie, Girls Trip, has expressed her joy surrounding her husband’s casting. She told telling Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show that she said to him, “You know, this is perfect for you because you’re always creating magic.”
4. It will be directed by Guy Ritchie
Rumors of the new Aladdin film first began in 2016, with Guy Ritchie almost immediately attached to the project. The Snatch director has had both hits and misses in his career, and not everyone is on board with his appointment.
But his supporting team has helped boost excitement. John August, writer of the screenplay for Big Fish, tackled the original script. His screenplay is now being edited by Vanessa Taylor, who has written for TV series, like Game of Thrones, and also co-wrote the upcoming Guillermo Del Toro project, The Shape of Water.
5. The songwriting team is a winning combo
Music is a very important part of any Disney film and Aladdin is no exception. When going the live-action route, the studio could have chosen to forgo the musical format, as Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book did. But Lin told Collider back in February that this would indeed be a musical in which the actors must sing.
While songs from the original, like “A Whole New World,” will likely make it into the adaptation in some fashion, a team is still necessary to marry the older lyrics and tunes with a new energy. Enter Pasek and Paul, the duo behind musicals such as Dear Evan Hansen (which just won the Tony for Best Original Score) and the Oscar-winning original song, “City of Stars,” from La La Land.
6. The film starts shooting in London in August
Little is known about production, and with only three cast members announced, it seems as though this flick is a long way off. However, shooting is scheduled to begin next month across the pond, so hopefully everything is squared away by then.
7. There’s no release date … yet
With a major production like this, the executives usually like to tease a release date or at least a year that they’re aiming for. But Disney has released its slate of films through 2020 and currently, Aladdin isn’t on there. We predict it will likely fall in one of the untitled spots in 2019 or 2020.