Building Agrabah: How Production Designer Gemma Jackson Created a Whole New World for ‘Aladdin’

With Disney’s continuing cycle of live-action remakes of animated classics, the question invariably becomes: Is this really justified? While it’s been very hit and miss, thus far, in the case of “Aladdin,” director Guy Ritchie has made a much more engaging remake than the previous live-action version of a Howard Ashman/Alan Menken musical fantasy, “Beauty and the Beast.”

The secret was providing greater relevance for today while staying true to the spirit of the original — and yet opening it up in a way that plays totally to the strengths of live action. Chief among them was encouraging production designer Gemma Jackson (“King Arthur”) to create “a whole new world” that was colorful and diverse, which allowed Will Smith to be Will Smith as the beloved Genie, and empowered Naomi Scott to be a more politically active and ambitious as Princess Jasmine.

The biggest decision was expanding the
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