Guy Ritchie on keeping the DNA of original Aladdin songs in new live-action film

Guy Ritchie never made a musical before Aladdin, but he knew just how important the songs were to fans of the original 1992 Disney animated classic.

“Clearly people are very attached to the original songs and clearly that’s part of the DNA, so we didn’t really want to stray from the original stuff, just an embellishment with a couple of new tracks,” the director told EW as part of an exclusive first look at his upcoming live-action film.

Earlier today, a new trailer for Ritchie’s anticipated take on Aladdin (in theaters May 24) gave audiences the first glimpse of Will Smith’s blue Genie singing “A Friend Like Me” and Aladdin (Mena Massoud) and Jasmine’s (Naomi Scott) iconic duet on “A Whole New World.”

Smith previously told EW that once he came on board, he was able to bring his hip-hop flavor to the music. “Friend Like Me” was the first song he recorded, even before his deal to join the film was formally closed, and he said it “fit so perfectly that we all really got inspired about the idea of me being Genie after listening to two hours’ of work in the studio with no preparation.”

He added, “I started to feel confident that I could deliver something that was an homage to Robin Williams but was musically different, and just the flavor of the character would be different enough and unique enough that it would be in a different lane versus trying to compete.”

Ritchie and the cast teased a couple of new songs being added into this film, composed by Alan Menken and featuring lyrics by La La Land songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. One will be a lullaby near the beginning of the movie, while another will be a solo song for Jasmine.

“The song that Jasmine sings connects to everything about her arc, about her finding her voice,” Scott told EW. “That’s what that song is about, it’s about not being shut down but being able to speak out.”

Ritchie added that the new songs are “marginally shifted” to reflect societal changes that have taken place in the two decades since the animated movie came out. “We’re 26 years later, the world moves on, so there is a shift, which is just an unavoidable aspect of time,” the filmmaker said. “But essentially the soundtrack’s the same, just somewhat embellished with a couple of new tunes in it.”

As he revamped the music of Aladdin for a new generation, Menken said Ritchie brought his very own distinct style to the film.

“It’s a Guy Richie musical,” Menken told EW. “It’s got a lot of his style of, as he puts it, he’ll take a moment and throw a hand grenade into it. It’s like he explodes it. And yet it’s very, very much Aladdin. It’s really been a push-and-pull to keep his style and yet also the Disney… what’s expected by the audience.”

Additional reporting by Marc Snetiker.

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