Disney’s 2019 live-action remake of Aladdin included a redesigned Agrabah, and bringing this kingdom to life required some unique filming locations.
- Disney’s live-action adaptation of Aladdin created breathtaking sets for the city of Agrabah and filmed in real locations to make the scenes look organic and immerse the actors in their roles.
- Longcross Studios in Surrey, England, became the home of Agrabah’s streets, central square, and castle exterior, designed with real Middle Eastern cities in mind.
- The Wadi Rum Desert in Jordan was chosen as the filming location for the regions surrounding Agrabah, including the iconic scenes in the Cave of Wonders and unique rock formations, adding authenticity and visual beauty to the film.
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Disney’s live-action adaptation of Aladdin brought the animated film’s version of Agrabah to life, and this required a combination of on-site filming and creatively constructed sound stages. This is, of course, one of the trickier aspects of live-action movies. Beautiful Arabian-style cities and deserts can’t simply be drawn like they can with animation. The House of Mouse could have gone the CGI route, but this could have negatively impacted the actors’ performances—or the scenes might not have looked real enough. So, Disney went all out and created massive sets for the city of Agrabah and set out to location for those breathtaking desert scenes.
Aladdin is set in or around Agrabah, which, though fictional, takes heavy influence from Middle Eastern or Southeast Asian cities. Disney’s animated version included a relatively simple image of Agrabah, with a beautiful Taj Mahal-style palace and a predominantly brown surrounding city. The 2019 remake of Aladdin threw out this old, monotonous design and created a breathtakingly colorful coastal city filled with an array of cultural influences and surrounded by a golden desert. Ultimately, this was no easy task for Disney’s live-action remake, and filming locations had to be chosen with care.
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Longcross Studios In Surrey, England
Jasmine and Aladdin meet on the streets of Agrabah, and this setting is the location of the first big musical number of the film. Disney needed a set big enough for Aladdin to showcase his street-rat abilities—jumping off rooftops, rolling down alleyways, and keeping Jasmine from getting arrested in her own city. The studio hired production designer Gemma Jackson (Game of Thrones) to pull together a set that would allow for this, and Longcross Studios in Surrey, England, was ultimately chosen as the place to start.
Longcross Studios became the home of Agrabah’s streets, central square, and castle exterior, all constructed with real Middle Eastern cities in mind. Jackson wanted this version of Agrabah to be a port city, allowing it to remain connected with the rest of the world, exchanging culture daily. This is seen in the colorful streets and Ottoman-style architecture—streets that were so large and intertwined, according to actor Naomi Scott (Jasmine), that the Aladdin cast could easily get lost.
Arborfield Studios Near Wokingham, England
Arborfield Studios is run by Longcross Studios, so it was here that Disney built the sets for the castle interior scenes of Aladdin. This included the magnificent golden throne room and the various rooms where Jasmine, Aladdin, Jafar, and the Sultan lived. Like the streets of Agrabah, Jackson designed the inside of the palace with the help of consultants to reflect the various cultures of the Middle East. What’s more, the city’s connection with kingdoms around the world is seen in the many artifacts that look to be African or European in design.
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The Seven Pillars Of Wisdom, Wadi Rum Desert, Jordan
Though the city of Agrabah could be created and filmed in England, a real-life desert was necessary to bring to life the regions surrounding Aladdin and Jasmine’s home. Of course, the most notable scene outside Agrabah in the animated Aladdin included the Cave of Wonders, with an opening that resembled a tiger’s head protruding from the sand. The 2019 remake went about this differently, with a lion’s head coming out of a cliffside instead. The filming location of this scene was the Seven Pillars of Wisdom of the Wadi Rum Desert in Jordan, a rock formation noted for its seven porous turrets.
Rock Bridge At Jebel Kharazeh, Wadi Rum Desert, Jordan
Every other desert scene in Aladdin was also in the Wadi Rum desert, with other notable landforms seen throughout the movie. The rock bridge at Jebel Kharazeh is seen in the background as Jafar leads Aladdin to the Cave of Wonders and other unique rock formations are seen surrounding Genie’s magically made oasis. Wadi Rum is a nature preserve in Jordan, and the miles upon miles of golden sand have made it a popular filming location, seen also in a few of the Star Wars movies, Prometheus, and Dune.
Though special effects were necessary to bring these scenes to life, Aladdin wouldn’t have been the same had it not been filmed in a real desert. Green screens can only go so far, and taking the cast to a country like Jordan was the perfect way to get them into the feel of their roles. It’s a sign of how dedicated Disney was to bringing something organic and visually stunning to the screen—something that was certainly achieved with Aladdin.