Disney’s magic-lamp blockbuster, Aladdin, has been rubbing some Arab-Americans the wrong way because of its alleged racism. Now the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee has written to studio chief Jeffrey Katzenberg, asking Disney to replace a lyric from the movie’s opening song, ”Arabian Nights,” which refers to Aladdin’s hometown, the fictional Agrabah, as a place ”Where they cut off your ear/If they don’t like your face/It’s barbaric, , but hey, it’s home.”
”This is a family movie, yet I would not call those lyrics suitable for children,” says the committee’s spokeswoman, Leila Gorchev. ”It sets the tone for the whole movie, the idea that Arabs are somehow barbaric and brutal.” The group wants the change made before Aladdin, which has made $147.9 million at the box office in 11 weeks, enters the huge video market, where some industry observers predict it could eventually sell as many as 20 million copies.
What the committee (and, until a week ago, Disney) didn’t know is that cosongwriter Alan Menken was concerned enough about the lyric to have written and recorded an alternate line. ”We thought we could get nailed on this,” admits producer and director John Musker. According to a Disney spokesman, the studio has no plans to change the song for video release.