Sunday, June 15, 2014

Aladdin (the series) 20th anniversary -- Episode 5: "Much Abu About Something" (3/27/94)

A confession: the reason that it's taken me so long to get around to this episode is that I just am not very enthusiastic about it. So, to quote Peter Griffin, "*exhales disdainfully* Okay -- let's just get through this."

In the same way that "Fowl Weather" was centered around Iago, this is basically an excuse for an Abu-centric episode; a contrived plot in which something arbitrarily happens to him, rather than a series of events "organically" arising because of him ... or, if you will, an integral phase of his character arc (of which there really isn't one in the first place). An obligatory attempt at character development is forced upon is in the form of Abu's resentment over never being listened to and Aladdin always speaking on his behalf. Um, okay ... it always seemed to me that the scrappy, self-sufficient Abu had no problem communicating with others what and when he wanted to just fine. The conditions that he "overcomes" in this episode had actually never existed before, and so the premise is actually a degradation of his character.

In this rare Abu-centric episode, Abu's 
portrayal allows him the dignity that he deserves.

"Fowl Weather" was still a likable episode because of its whimsical concept and visuals and the lively comic interplay between Iago and Thundra. But "Much Abu" really has nothing going for it. The mountaintop village, its resident prophet, and their generations-lasting predicament are bare-bones and sub-interesting in their under-development. There's nothing funny about Abu being heralded as a long-awaited savior and being crowned and given a throne. In fact, that this trite mockery is supposed to be funny is actually insulting.

That guy is a pale imitation of the gentle wise elder type.
And that mountain doesn't seem very natural, does it? 
And is that supposed to be its nose?

Tad Stones once again found that "the machine needed to be fed", and was unable to get around his aversion to big monsters. Having the obligatory monster be a Tyrannosaurus rex seems to be an attempt at doing something original and unique. But, like many of the series' incidental monsters, its design is ugly and rushed, and rather than coming off as a larger-than-life menace, it's presentation is completely under-whelming.

He's not very scary, is he?

Perhaps the production team had considered doing a "lost valley of dinosaurs" episode, but never fully-developed into it, and so decided to salvage what they could of it here. Though the "lost valley" idea is a tired trope, it still could've been an inspired episode, if the right inspiration hit the creators and some real effort were put into it. But it also could've been a total flop. In that case, or if they actually had never intended to do such an episode, I guess it's just as well, as the monster here had to be something...

But then, did the tribe's plight even have to involve a giant monster? How about for centuries, their mountain had been surrounded by, I don't know, a sea of lava, and no one else had ever even known they were there, and the prophecy was that Abu would find a way to open a floodway from the real ocean to their valley, washing away the lava? I mean, that's not the greatest idea ever, but as far as avoiding the old big monster fallback, it's a start!

Okay, I think that about covers it. *phew*, at least that's over with. What's up next? ...ugh, "My Fair Aladdin"? Hoo, boy, I'm gonna have to slog my way through a lot of this project, aren't I?

-- Ryan


  1. Ryan,

    I think you meant to use some word other than "aversion". That would mean that Stones shied AWAY from using monsters, which he certainly did not.


  2. Chris,

    It'd be probably be more accurate to say, "He had an aversion to them, but he caved to it."

    -- Ryan