Aladdin doesn’t just re-enact the animated movie in live-action form. It has, ahem, a whole new world of scenes to show you. One is a Bollywood style dance when Aladdin (Mena Massoud) arrives at the palace as Prince Ali of Ababwa.
For Massoud and his Jasmine, Naomi Scott, however, the choreography was secondary. This was the scene where Aladdin would win Jasmine over.
“Me and Naomi wanted to focus more on the connection in that piece,” Massoud said. “Getting the choreography down is one thing, but we wanted to focus on connecting.”
Part of the spell is that the Genie (Will Smith) makes Aladdin dance with his genie magic. At the beginning of the sequence, Aladdin moves like he’s not in control of his body.
“I had to learn that choreography at the beginning but then pretend like the Genie was manipulating me,” Massoud said. “So we tried doing it with mime and then [director] Guy [Ritchie] had this brilliant idea to actually attach these long puppeteering arms onto me and physically manipulate me.”
Massoud also gets to show off his moves in numbers like “One Jump Ahead.” Besides his sick dance moves, Massoud is most proud to be in an ensemble cast full of actors of color.
“I’m especially proud of the representation and the ethnically diverse casting that was put together for this,” Massoud said. “It’s not often you can go to a movie theater and see all people of color represented like this.”
It’s one thing for children of the ’90s to grow up with the animated renderings of the Middle East. It’s monumental to see them represented with actual people.
“It’s something I was missing in my childhood so I’m proud of the cast and the casting that Guy and Disney put together,” Massoud said. “So I’m excited for little boys and girls to go see people that look like them on screen.”
Aladdin is in theaters Friday, May 24.