After about a month of social distancing — and plenty more time in isolation to come — it wouldn’t be surprising if people are looking for a change of scenery. Thankfully, there’s a streaming service with the ultimate nostalgia content to show us all a whole new world even during quarantine. Aladdin: Return of Jafar is the one movie you need to watch on Disney+ this week because it has all of the nostalgia and musical fun that every ’90s kid needs in these very stressful time.
If you didn’t grow up watching the direct-to-video classic over and over again as a child, Return of Jafar is a 1994 sequel to the iconic Disney film, and picks up about a year after the events of Aladdin, with the title character happily dating Jasmine and becoming a part of the Sultan’s court. However, unbeknownst to them, Jafar and his parrot, Iago — who were trapped in a lamp at the end of Aladdin — have been set free by another thief, Abis Mal.
Naturally, the newly-free Jafar immediately embarks on a quest for revenge against Aladdin and Jasmine, assisted by Abis Mal, but when Iago ends up forming a bond with Aladdin, it leaves him torn between his new friends and his former master. Add in musical numbers and the return of the Genie (although he’s not voiced by Robin Williams this time), and it’s no wonder that Return of Jafar has become a cult favorite amongst Disney fans who grew up in the ’90s.
Return of Jafar was the first of many straight-to-video animated sequels to some of Disney’s biggest hits, but it was originally created as a pilot for the Aladdin animated series that aired from 1994 to 1995. Tad Stones, one of the show’s creators, pitched the concept of a follow-up movie to Disney when the series was in development, because he wanted to include Gilbert Gottfried’s fast-talking parrot in the show. The only problem? Iago had been trapped in the lamp alongside Jafar at the end of Aladdin and they needed to figure out a way to bring him back and redeem his character.
"I thought the best character in the movie was Gilbert Gottfried’s Iago," Stones told Polygon in a May 2019 interview. As a result, he and his collaborator, Alan Zaslove, "came up with a convoluted story that explained everything and that ended up being The Return of Jafar." And yes, that is why it Iago plays the biggest and most important role in the film, despite it ostensibly being about Jafar’s revenge on Aladdin.
While Return of Jafar didn’t get particularly good reviews — even Stones admitted to Polygon that he’s never seen the movie — it became a massive success for the studio, and a beloved favorite of ’90s kids everywhere. In fact, the film is so well-loved that Guy Ritchie, who directed the live-action Aladdin film in 2019, revealed that fans have requested a remake of Return of Jafar as well.
"People clearly loved the movie and watched it multiple times and we get lots of fan letters and people asking us to make Return [of] Jafar," Ritchie told IndieWire in August. However, he implied that while the direct-to-video sequel might inspire the upcoming live-action Aladdin sequel, "it will not be a straight remake of any movie that’s been made before." Either way, at least fans can relive all of the magic of their childhoods — and some of the catchy songs they’ve forgotten — by watching Return to Jafar on Disney+ whenever they want.
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