Aladdin and the King of Thieves appears in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. This was an unfortunate choice, as Thieves clearly cropped the original 1.33:1 material. I saw lots of heads chopped off at their tops and other weird framing. The most blatant example of the cropping came from a gag that echoed the opening of The Brady Bunch. Instead of the intended squares at the top and bottom, those slots became rectangles.
Why’d they crop Thieves? I have no idea. Jafar appeared in its original fullframe ratio, and the DVD’s case claimed that Thieves would be 1.33:1 as well. Someone messed up as they transferred the movie in the incorrect dimensions.
Picture quality was acceptable otherwise, but never anything special. Sharpness usually came across fairly well. Occasional examples of softness manifested themselves, but not too many of these interfered. The movie usually showed decent delineation. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering appeared, and I also noticed no signs of edge enhancement.
As for source flaws, poor clean-up animation seemed to be at the root of most of them. I saw sporadic examples of specks and marks, most of which looked like they stemmed from sloppy finishing. Moderate grain also occurred, and that made the flick appear less vivid than I’d expect.
Colors varied but usually prospered. The hues tended to be a little thick, though not badly so. Instead, the tones mostly came across as pretty vibrant and full. Blacks looked deep and tight, but shadows were a concern. Most of the low-light sequences appeared too dark, and it often became tough to make out elements in the shadows. This was a generally mediocre transfer marred mostly by a bad crop job.
No similar concerns affected the generally positive Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Aladdin and the King of Thieves. Unlike the restrained Jafar, this one featured a pretty lively soundfield - at least occasionally. The mix offered a good sense of stereo imaging for the music and also opened up the environment adequately. The movie used the action sequences to create some nice activity, and the surrounds kicked in with a smattering of good information. These led the movie to offer a fairly involving setting most of the time.
Audio quality also seemed fine for the most part. Speech came across as natural and clear, and I noticed no issues with intelligibility or edginess. Music needed more oomph and didn’t present great depth, but the score and songs were generally acceptable in their dynamics. Effects worked best. They sounded clean and accurate, and they also kicked in some nice bass when appropriate. The track brought the subwoofer to life and offered more than a few sequences with solid impact. There’s not enough material here to muster more than a “B”, but it’s a good mix.
Only a small set of extras shows up here. We start with the Bag the Bad Guys game. This is one of those tedious guessing contests found on many Disney DVDs. At least it’s forgiving and offers an actual reward. Once you locate eight thieves, you can check out brief files on the thieves. It’s not special, but it’s better than nothing.
Another feature of this sort pops up next with the Loot in the Lair Challenge. This one’s yet another guessing game without any skill required. Actually, it’s worse than that since it’s not as forgiving. It promises a reward, but I got too fed up with it to finish.
In a featurette entitled Behind the Microphone, we get a four-minute and 43-second glimpse at the flick’s voice talent. We see movie clips, shots from the studio, and interviews with actors Scott Weinger, Linda Larkin, Frank Welker, Jerry Orbach, John Rhys-Davies, Gilbert Gottfried and Robin Williams. It’s mostly a fluffy promotional bit, but the elements from the recording are fun to see and make it worth a look.
Disney’s Song Selection basically acts as an alternate form of chapter menu. It lets you jump to any of the film’s six song performances, and it also allows you to show on-screen lyrics.
Thieves opens with a collection of ads. These include promos for Bambi, The Incredibles, Mulan II, and the “Disney Princess” line. All of these also appear in the Sneak Peeks domain along with an ad for Growing Up With Winnie the Pooh.
Predictable and without much spark, Aladdin and the King of Thieves doesn’t threaten to entertain as well as the original Aladdin. However, I must admit I kind of enjoyed it, probably just because I watched it immediately after I viewed the atrocious Return of Jafar. Largely due to the returned presence of Robin Williams, Thieves presents a smattering of entertaining moments, though the flick never becomes anything special.
The DVD’s audio works pretty well, but the picture suffers from ugly cropping executed for no discernible reason. Disney made this a widescreen film via artificial methods that don’t make sense to me. The package also lacks substantial extras. If you happen to see Thieves playing somewhere, it’s not a bad way to pass a few minutes. I can’t recommend a purchase of this mediocre flick, however.
Note that Aladdin and the King of Thieves currently can’t be purchased on its own. Instead, it comes solely as part of a two-pack with The Return of Jafar, the second installment in the Aladdin series.