While Will Smith’s portrayal of the genie in Disney’s upcoming live-action remake of Aladdin—and whether or not his skin will be blue—has perhaps been the biggest talking point surrounding the film, other fans have been focusing on another potential controversy point: the fact that Aladdin himself seems to wear a shirt throughout most of the film. That detail has attracted so much attention that the movie’s costume designer is now speaking out.
It may be a little uncomfortable to think about in retrospect, but for a children’s movie, the main characters of the 1992 animated original were surprisingly scantily dressed. Jasmine was rocking the Coachella-ready crop trop trend 25 years before it was a thing; Aladdin’s pants may have been voluminous, but up top he only sported a small vest that barely contained his animated pecs; and Genie, well, the only thing he had on (in his true form) that could be charitably described as clothing was a red sash around his waist and two gold bracelets.
Apparently, those costume choices proved something of a problem for costume designer Michael Wilkinson when he went to work drawing up sketches for Guy Ritchie’s remake. It’s a Disney movie meant for a family audience, after all, not a remake for late-night Starz programming.
For the costumes Naomi Scott wears as Princess Jasmine, the solution was pretty simple: Wilkinson simply turned her two-piece outfit into a one-piece with a nude illusion middle.
“We wanted to, of course, refer to the iconic image from the animated film but within the context of the world we were creating around Jasmine, [such as] the way the courtiers dress and the way the people from the market town dress,” Wilkinson told Entertainment Weekly. “It really felt more appropriate to do something that referred to the crop top that we see in the animation but we extended the [top’s] line down, we had almost a flesh-colored fabric through the waist, but because it was more of a formal outfit for the palace court, it’s quite restrictive.”
When it came to Mena Massoud’s Aladdin, however, Wilkinson decided the only solution was some basic layering.
“For the same reason why we thought it wasn’t appropriate for Princess Jasmine to be flashing her belly button for half of the film, we also felt that once you make that leap from cartoon into live-action, you really have to make some adjustments,” Wilkinson told the magazine. “We thought having so much skin showing on Aladdin for the whole film would be quite distracting on a human actor as opposed to a cartoon character.”
We probably should have seen this coming. Though the Broadway version of Aladdin went shirtless, cast members who play Aladdin at Disney’s various theme parks do wear a shirt under that iconic purple vest (even if theme-park Jasmines still retain their crop tops), as do most skaters who portray Aladdin in the “Disney on Ice” productions.
Of course, this all makes us feel a little icky thinking back to watching the film as a child, but in Disney’s defense they were just coming off The Little Mermaid, whosee teenage protagonist wore a seashell bra and for which someone had to draw thousands and thousands of iterations of King Triton’s nipples by hand.
For those wondering, apparently Genie does remain sans human clothing for at least some parts of the film.