'Aladdin' producer Dan Lin says sequel won't be a remake of 'The Return of Jafar' (exclusive)

Hanna Flint
Contributor
Dan Lin talks Aladdin with Yahoo Movies UK (Credit: Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)

Disney’s live action Aladdin remake has become one of the most successful films of the year since its release in May.

Earning over $1 billion at the box office (£839 million), it’s the sixth highest grossing movie of 2019 so far, making a sequel inevitable.

The original 1992 animation had its own sequel called The Return of Jafar, released in 1994. It was Disney’s first direct-to-video sequel and, despite it receiving mixed reviews, it became one of the best-selling films on VHS after selling 15 million tapes, grossing $300 million.

However, Aladdin producer Dan Lin says the live-action sequel won’t be a remake of the 1994 animated follow-up.

“We are talking about where the story can go but, without revealing too much, we're looking at doing it the same way as the first movie where we aren’t doing a straight remake,” Lin explained.

“We're exploring lots of different ways that we can go but certainly, fans are saying, ‘we want to see more of these characters,’ but they want to see the next adventure.

Read more: VFX secrets from Aladdin

“We're talking now about where that could go but I don't think it's going to be a straight remake of The Return of Jafar,” he added.

Read the full interview with Dan Lin about making Aladdin and the franchise’s future below...

Yahoo Movies UK: How brilliant did it feel after the monumental success of Aladdin especially when there was such a critical backlash online?

Dan Lin: It was just a relief, to be honest, because, before the opening weekend, we really felt a little beat up. We thought we had made a great movie and you can kind of second guess yourself.

Critics online were just killing it, especially, Will Smith. We thought he had an amazing performance in the movie but then the online trolls were really coming after us.

Do you think that's changed the way that you might market stuff in future because people are so ready to make a judgement about something before they've actually seen the final product?

It's hard to hold back too much because they don't know what the movie is about and what you're doing, especially when you're doing these remakes. We learned that sometimes things out of context, are really hard for a lot to understand. So when we first showed the Genie reveal in trailers, we were crushed. So lots of lessons were learned.

The producers will be looking to use the same VFX team for the sequel (Credit: Disney)

And will you be using the same VFX team for a sequel?

They did an amazing job and as much as we can, we want to bring our key crew and collaborators back for the next one.

Was it as difficult to cast the movie as reports suggested?

Will Smith was our top choice to play the Genie and we're very fortunate he chose to do it as there aren't many people who can do that role. Robin Williams set such a high bar for who that is and part of this is bringing your own interpretation of the Genie people will remember rather than one that is copying Robin. It's really difficult; you have to sing and dance, you have to be funny, you have to be charming, dramatic and sensitive.

Aladdin was a box office hit (Credit: Disney)

We also wanted authenticity in the casting overall and we're so proud that even a movie that's completely diverse and inclusive can make a billion dollars. Though those were tough roles to fill for both Aladdin and Jasmine.

Again, you have to sing, you have to act, and we want to be culturally authentic and really positive.

Did you find Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott pretty early on?

I would say we found them midway through the process. But we saw, literally a thousand people. So we certainly were excited when we first identified them. And they went through multiple auditions as we just wanted to make sure that they could pull it off.

So can we expect the sequel to follow the same plot as The Return of Jafar?

We are talking about where the story can go but, without revealing too much, we're looking at doing it the same way as the first movie where we aren’t doing a straight remake.

Read more: Disney sets new box office record

We're exploring lots of different ways that we can go but certainly, fans are saying, “we want to see more of these characters,” but they want to see the next adventure. And we're talking now about where that could go but I don't think it's going to be a straight remake of Return of Jafar.

Will you be involved in this as you have a lot of franchises on your plate?

I have a handful that I'm focusing on of which one of them is Aladdin franchise and it is very much a priority for me right now in my company.

The live action sequel will not be a remake of The Return of Jafar (Credit: Disney)

What are the things you’ve learned from making this movie that will inform your future live-action projects?

The first thing I’ve learned is that the director is important. What the director brings as far as visual style and approach. If you look at Disney making all the different animated movies, each of them has their own distinct personality. Dumbo is very different from Aladdin is very different from The Lion King, is very different from Mulan so for me, it's all about who your director is because the director sets the tone. The way Disney is approaching these remakes is that they are original approaches to classic animated movies and so the director’s personality and style is an important part of that.

Photo by: KGC-324-RC/STAR MAX/IPx 2019 5/11/19 Guy Ritchie, Will Smith, Naomi Scott and Mena Massoud at the premiere of 'Aladdin' in Berlin, Germany.

Number two is looking at each of the animated films and deciding what things you keep and what things you remake. You saw in Aladdin there were a lot of things we actually changed and there are some core concepts and character traits that we kept. That's a really important part and something that we spent a lot of time on. So those are the two most important things, as a producer, I'm looking at doing with an adaptation.

And then number three: how important music is. Alan Menken and Pasek and Paul played a key role in getting people to sing the songs including “Speechless”, which is a new classic coming out of Aladdin. So I know how important it is to honour the original songs but update them where necessary and also create new songs.

Disney’s Aladdin is available on Digital Download now & on Blu-ray™ and DVD from 23 September.