Steve Daly
November 13, 1992 AT 05:00 AM EST

What’s wily and woolly but never lies? The cartoon costar that literally keeps Aladdin soaring — a voiceless, faceless, and limbless magic carpet that speaks volumes with only body language. Tiptoeing on two tassels and using the other two as fibery sets of fingers, the mimelike rug looks amazingly human as it cowers, shadow-boxes, and helps Aladdin romance Princess Jasmine.

”Three or four key folds (in the carpet) turned out to put across just about any attitude,” says Disney animator Randy Cartwright, whose earliest attempts to draw the character fell flat (”It looked like somebody walking around inside a robe”). Then story supervisor Ed Gombert sketched a series of poses emphasizing the carpet’s rectangularity, rather than trying to stretch his borders into a more humanoid frame, and the character came into its own.

Once Cartwright drew the rug’s gestures for a scene, these hand-crafted shapes were overlaid with an intricate, computer-generated surface design. ”All that detail would be impossible to paint by hand,” says Cartwright. Instead, a computer-software program twisted the rug’s complex motifs into exactly the right bent, puckered, or stretched configuration for each frame. As the fashion-conscious Genie might say, nice threads, dude.

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