Monday, September 29, 2014

Aladdin (the series) 20th anniversary -- Episode 11: "Bad Mood Rising" (9/694)

I’m not sure how much I can bring myself to say about this episode. It’s well-animated – as it doesn’t have the stretchy, edgier, exaggerated look of “Never Say Nefir” and “Air Feather Friends”, but it also doesn’t have the occasionally sloppy, off-model work seen in “Raiders of the Lost Shark”; so I suspect a third studio to have had hands their hands on their episode. (I can’t actually verify this, because, arrgh, as I’ve lamented before, the versions that I’ve found online have omitted the credits); the characters are drawn in a more, er, well, not-so-much-rigid-as-composed style, but are consistently on-model and well-proportioned, and the movement is smooth, flowing ... well, it's just correct, anatomically (in as much as semi-full television animation should be. I don't have to always explain what I mean when I say that the animation is good, do I?)

But the plot … well, it’s not really a bad one. It has a certain charm in its simplicity. But it’s not very exciting or appealing, and leaves a lot to be desired. It’s about a bratty, spoiled, vindictive child … and who wants to watch THAT?! That this child happens to be a kingdom’s reining prince and that his volatile moods somehow bring, er, foul weather upon his subjects (again with the weather. Couldn’t Thundra take care of this?) seems to be going for the type of whimsy found in (the just-referenced) “Fowl Weather” and “Never Say Nefir”, but without the fantastical colorfulness and humorous characterizations of the former and without the surprisingly biting satire and unabashed silliness of the latter. Instead, we’re just stuck with a rotten, nasty little punk constantly throwing massive temper tantrums over not getting his way.  For some reason, they decided to expand on the series’ universe by arbitrarily setting this scenario in a part of what seems to vaguely be the equivalent of Africa. All of the premises’ (supposed) fantasy and whimsy lies in the temper tantrum-generated storms, which are your average thunder, rain, and wind storms – not a lot of imagination there. (Although some of the action-oriented “sfx” shots are noticeably slick, enough so to have earned a spot in the title/theme song sequence, where we’re quick to recognize them from.) The aesthetic motif of the kingdom’s structures (Quirkistan – see, this episode is supposed to be quirky!), while to the creators’ credit is distinct unto itself like each new setting incorporated into the show, is pretty non-descript (as is its scorched, dying land – the kind of thing which we’ve already seen variations of in several episodes anyway). All in all, there isn’t much exciting going on here. Much alike “Much Abu About Something”, we’re offered a bland world with a lifeless, defeated population. “Bad Mood” is only a notch or two above that episode because it’s a slightly better idea, a tighter production, and doesn’t have an incongruently-used dinosaur.

The episode does have one other thing (sort of) going for it: a decent role for Jasmine. (I think that for this reason, “Bad Mood” was purposely chosen to follow “Air Feather Friends”, which -- curiously for (what I guess was) a series premiere – was Jasmine-less, despite her being a major character.) That she has the patience, understanding, and, er woman’s intuition for relating to someone to be able to get through to Mamoud and entertain him with her storytelling is consistent enough with what we’ve seen of her level-headedness and compassion, and is a logical plot development. That the Quirkistanians then insist on holding her permanently captive to keep their juvenile king appeased seems a bit ridiculous for a people who had seemed so meek and helpless, and certainly a rashly-considered diplomatic disaster waiting to happen, but I accept this turn of events, as it was pretty much inevitable if we were going to have that essential ingredient to any plot: the good guys facing conflict and danger. I guess it also gives this episode a darker bent, that the seemingly innocuous Quirkistanians turn out to be so antagonizing. However, Aladdin and the gang’s means of rescuing Jasmine, changing the Quirkistanian’s minds, and appeasing Mamoud once and for all – by making him feel sympathy for all of Jasmine’s friends and family back home – seems forced, and I can’t really buy that his sociopathy would suddenly dissipate. I guess (while I don’t really find these incidents as funny as they’re intended to be) Genie posing as Jasmine’s frail, cane-using “saintly old grandfather”, transforming Abu and Iago into Jasmine’s meager, saddened “parents”, and producing a parade of  “orphans from the village” (their relation to Jasmine unaccounted for, just to take the absurdism up a notch) is meant to make the proceeding more cynical than ham-fisted. It still seems like the outcome is forced to me, though.

Genie Watch: Though he really should’ve been able to rescue Jasmine from her mortal and relatively powerless captors (come on, he can produce an umbrella), we just have to live with his plot-necessitated passivity sometimes, don’t we? Besides the above-descsribed show he puts on to sell Mamoud on releasing Jasmine, the hokey theatrics he tries to win over Mamoud with upon the gang’s arrival (when they’re still their voluntarily on what they expect to be a diplomatic mission – that’s why Aladdin is in his “Prince Ali” garb; I have to admit, a lot of logical thought went into the conception of this episode) are funny primarily because they ARE total duds (à la Fozzie Bear). 

-- Ryan

[Note: doesn't have a transcript up for this episode, thus I have no writer-director credits.]


  1. Years later, it occurred to me that this episode was possibly inspired by the "Twilight Zone" episode "It's a Great Life", with Bill Mumy as the telekinesis-powered brat - which inspired a very bleak sequel in the 2000's "Twilight Zone" remake on UPN. ...the sudden mood swing of the Quirkistanians might've been a nod to the desperation of the adults in the TZ episode.

  2. Nice to see you back here, 'rehab ... and sorry that I somehow totally missed your comment until now! (Clearly, this is the first time I've logged into blogger all October!) From your description, it sounds likely to me that "Bad Mood Rising" owes its existence to that Twilight Zone episode. I can picture the scenario working much better as part of the series, tonally -- the child's wrath and the adults being under his thumb would be depicted as nightmarish and dystopic. Aladdin softened it, I'm guessing. (Did the original even have a happy ending? I should watch it sometime.) -- Ryan