Ten Things You May Not Know About Jafar
1. Maleficent may have grabbed all of the headlines when her live-action film came out, but there’s another Disney antagonist that rivals her for the title of the most sinister of all Disney Villains, Jafar from Aladdin. In the film, Jafar is the Grand Vizier of Agrabah and the Sultan’s chief advisor. But just what is a Grand Vizier? In the Ottoman Empire, the Grand Vizier was similar to a prime minister and had tremendous power second only to the king (or Sultan, in this case).
2. Speaking of powerful rulers, one of the early choices to play the part of Jafar was Patrick Stewart, better known as Captain Jean-Luc Picard from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Scheduling conflicts with the sci-fi series, then in production, forced Stewart to turn down the role of Jafar.
3. Jafar was animated by Andreas Deja. Deja came to Disney in 1980, with his first assignment coming on The Black Cauldron. Deja would go on to animate some of Disney’s most notorious villains, including Gaston from Beauty and the Beast and Scar from The Lion King. He also brought to life such characters as Hercules, Roger Rabbit, King Triton, Lilo, and Tigger from 2011’s Winnie the Pooh.
4. While the designs for most of the characters in Aladdin were based on the fluid drawings of legendary caricaturist Al Hirschfeld, (which production designer Richard Vander Wende felt mimicked the distinctive swoops and curves found in Arabic calligraphy), the character of Jafar was designed differently. Deja utilized strong vertical lines in order to contrast with the other characters, giving Jafar a harshness that reflected his villainous role.
5. Deja also based his design concepts for Jafar on the legendary work that animator Marc Davis did for Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty. In addition to their visional similarities, they both wield magical evil staffs, have bird sidekicks, and transform into fearsome beasts.
6. Curiously, Jafar’s refined, calm demeanor was originally meant for Iago, while Jafar was originally conceived of as being fiery and hot-tempered. However, as story development progressed, directors Ron Clements and John Musker realized that a calm, cool villain would be much scarier, so the two characters were switched, transforming Iago into Jafar’s irritable but zany comic sidekick.
7. Jafar was voiced by Jonathan Freeman, who had previously auditioned for Little Shop of Horrors, The Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast. Freeman was inspired to audition when he saw the concept art for the film, saying that “once I saw those heavy lidded eyes, that long narrow face, I knew that Jafar was going to be something really special.” Even though Freeman bore little physical resemblance to Jafar, Deja incorporated several of Freeman’s gestures into Jafar’s mannerisms.
8. The snake form of Jafar was animated by Kathy Zielinski, who also animated such characters as Mr. Digger from The Fox and the Hound and Judge Claude Frollo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame. After leaving Disney for a short time (while she worked on such films as The Road to El Dorado, The Prince of Egypt, Over the Hedge, Bee Movie, Kung Fu Panda, and The Croods), she returned to Disney in 2013 to work as an animator on the film Frozen.
9. The color scheme for Aladdin, developed by Production Designer Richard Vander Wende, was based on the desert setting of the film. Jafar, clad in black and red, symbolized the heat of the desert, which represented evil. Jasmine, wore blue, based on water and symbolizing good.
10. One of the inspirations for the Disney character was that of Jaffar from the 1940 film, The Thief of Bagdad, where he was played by Conrad Veidt (and yes, the two characters’ names are indeed spelled differently). Aladdin’s Jafar bears a striking similarity to Veidt, who also appeared in 1942’s Casablanca as Major Heinrich Strasser.