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How Tom Cruise Became the Inspiration for Disney's Aladdin

CBR 8/18/2022 Cassidy Stephenson
© Provided by CBR

People don't have to look hard to find Tom Cruise in films of every genre. From his breakthrough role in the 1983 comedy Risky Business to his highest-grossing performance in the 2022 sequel Top Gun: Maverick, the actor is hard to miss. And due to Cruise's mass popularity, it's no wonder Disney would model one of their princes after him.

Disney's 1992 film Aladdin has stood the test of time with its direct-to-video sequels, Broadway musical and the 2019 live-action film adaptation. Aladdin's lovable characters and entertaining soundtrack make fans want to watch the Disney classic over and over, even if it has been 30 years since its release. But somehow, Cruise managed to sneak his way into the film. So, let's explore what role the Mission Impossible star played in Aladdin.

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Aladdin is an 18-year-old of Middle Eastern descent living on the streets of Agrabah with his monkey companion Abu. He also falls in love with Princess Jasmine -- somebody way out of his tax bracket -- after the pair first meet in a crowded marketplace. With the help of everyone's favorite Genie, Aladdin and Jasmine finally get married in Aladdin and the King of Thieves. But while Aladdin loosely got adapted from the Middle Eastern folk tale The Thousand and One Nights, the stars who inspired the film's two protagonists are actually both from New York.

The Disney producers first took inspiration from Back to the Future's leading man, Michael J. Fox, to create their male protagonist. But according to a newspaper clipping from The Herald News, Disney's studio chief wasn't convinced by the sketches of Fox and ordered artists to make Aladdin more appealing to women. With Fox out of the equation, Disney had to find another muse.

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The documentary Diamond in the Rough: The Making of Aladdin was a behind-the-scenes look at the development of Aladdin. Along with exclusive interviews with the cast, the documentary also discussed how Aladdin was modeled after Cruise and Jasmine after Labyrinth actress Jennifer Connelly. Glen Keane, an animator for Aladdin, spoke to The Los Angeles Times about Cruise's influence on the titular character after watching Top Gun. "In all [Cruise’s] poses, I noticed there was a confidence, a look in the eyebrows, that gives him intensity and at the same time a smile that has kind of an impish look like he’s got something up his sleeve," he revealed.

Keane had to make Aladdin look around six inches taller after Cruise was chosen over Fox for the character model. And that artistic decision caused the animation process to be a little more costly. However, now that Disney fans know the inspiration behind Aladdin, it's hard not to picture Cruise singing on a flying carpet.

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