The Power of Wishing:
Honesty, Friendship, and the Potential to Change Natural Laws in Disney’s Aladdin
Author Notes: I specifically refer to jinn as genies in this essay since it is written about the world-created in the Disney animated film Aladdin and that’s the word they use. I recognize that proper jinn do not behave as they do in Aladdin, nor are they bound by the same rules.
In Disney animated canon, wishing can be a tricky business. Take, for instance, two cases of wishing - Gepetto from Pinocchio and Tiana from Princess and the Frog. One wishes to have a son; the other to be able to own a restaurant. They each get their wish - eventually. But that doesn’t come until the end of the movie. In other words, the wishing/evening star does not grant instantaneous gratification (or else we wouldn’t have much of a movie, would we?). It does starts the motion that finally accumulates into the fulfillment of their respective wishes, though.
With that in mind, while I was visiting Walt Disney World recently, I was struck by the sentiment of dreams and wishes that infused the park, along with the potential power of wishes and dreams. In particular (and what got me thinking about it) was Dream Along With Mickey, a stage-show in front of Cinderella’s Castle that advocates that dreams have the power to defeat evil (or Maleficent, anyway). This led me to wonder just how magic and wishes are connected, and in particular, how such themes are represented in Disney’s 1992 animated film Aladdin, famous for the wish-granting Genie.
To begin with wishes - I would say they are what people want; they are what we would like to have or to be. In Sleeping Beauty Aurora wishes to find her dream prince; in The Little Mermaid Ariel wishes to be human. Occasionally, a wish may double as someone’s dream, as in Tiana’s case. Her dream is to open her own restaurant and her wish is to realize this dream. (How turning into a frog achieve this, I don’t know, as she seems to just scare the Fenner Brothers into giving her the sugar mill.) Regardless, a wish is essentially what someone wants.
Furthermore, in Disney sentimentality, wishes seem linked to an expression of one’s deepest desires, which again correlates nicely to Tiana; her main goal and desire through most of Princess and the Frog is to open her restaurant. Supporting this is the fireworks performance called Wishes where various Disney characters speak about their wishes and what they thought of them (I’m thinking of Jiminy Cricket here). I only heard/saw some of it, as we were on our way to Under the Sea - Journey of the Little Mermaid, but the sense I got was that wishes were, again, what the characters wanted.
In contrast, in Aladdin wishes are unique in that, while they do give exactly what the wisher asks for and hence are what the characters want but without the legwork of the evening star, they are not portrayed positively in the film.