INTERVIEW WITH BRAD KANE ~ SINGING VOICE OF ALADDIN
Sitting down with a few of my fellow Movie Critics in St. Louis is always a great time, but when we are all gathered round to interview the Singing voice of Disney’s first “BAD BOY” ~ Aladdin ~ a.k.a. Brad Kane ~ things got even better.
This classic Disney film is slated for Diamond Blu Ray release tomorrow 10/13 – 23 years after it’s original release – so Brad is traveling “A WHOLE NEW WORLD” on it’s behalf, sharing how he got this life-changing role, and what it means to him so many years later:
Can you tell us the process of how you ended up becoming the singing voice of Aladdin?
Brad: It happened a long time after I first auditioned for it. I was a senior in high school when the first audition took place. The only Alan Menken movie out at this point was THE LITTLE MERMAID. And Beauty and the Beast wasn’t out yet either, so no one knew there was going to be this run of the golden age of DISNEY CLASSICS. I just thought I was auditioning for a “cool cartoon”, and it felt like just another audition. I sang PROUD OF YOUR BOY, which a lot of people know from the Broadway show, but they had cut it out of the original movie. I sang it for Alan Menken and the late great Howard Ashman. I sang it, they said thank you, and off I went. I had just graduated from High School, and went on to College. I headed off to the NYU Film School ~ I was a film geek ~ and even though it sounds a little pretentious, my heroes were Fellini, and the Cohen Brothers.Disney wasn’t really part of my conscience at this point – I put a band together at the time and we were traveling around playing music, and at this point in my life, all I was listening to was Nirvana and Pearl Jam. I got a call from my mom back in New York, and she said, “Remember that thing you auditioned for with Disney like 10 months ago, well they want to hear what you sound like with the girl that they have chosen for Jasmine”. I was pushing back, I didn’t want to do this anymore, I wanted to be Kurt Cobain! My mom shared that she realized I was 18 and it was my first year of freedom, but she knew for sure, if I didn’t do this, I would regret it. So I headed back from Chicago to New York and went to a little studio in Manhattan to sing for Alan Menken, and Lea Salonga was there. Alan sat at a piano and asked us to sing “A WHOLE NEW WORLD”. It was the first time I had heard the song, and we sounded really good together. But Menken didn’t give me the job right then and there either. I flew back to Chicago to do my gigs, and then they finally reached out again and gave me the job. Beauty and the Beast wasn’t released yet, so I didn’t know the significance of what this singing part could become…little did I know it would go on to become something this big…
Here is what I always tell people when I tell them this story ~ So my heroes are like I said Fellini, Clint Eastwood ~ Unforgiven had just come out at the time, and the song that I sang for Aladdin was nominated for the Oscars that year too, so I got to perform at the Oscars. I am sitting in the green room in my full Aladdin costume – and I hear Federico Fellini asking me for a bear claw, then I hear “friend, isn’t it great for us to be together like this”, and it’s Eastwood sitting right there in this tiny green room. So, here I am, I did this thing that I thought was for his small movie, and I got to meet my idols because of it.
So, whenever I’m talking to 18 & 19 year olds, who are first going into the industry, and they have their own ideas about what they want to do, and how they want to go about it I tell them, Trust me, say yes to everything, because you never know where a job is going to take you…it took me to getting that close to all my idols!!
And of course after that, Beauty and the Beast came out, and it was then that I realized “oh this is something special that I did” because I just finished recording Aladdin. I finally realized that I did this thing, and was a part of this Golden Age of Disney Animation, and the rest is history…and now 20+ years later, I have a 20 month old daughter hearing my voice on Radio Disney…who says “Dada singing”…and I call my mom and thank her for this happening in my life almost every day!
So, did you think this many years later you would be here?
Brad: At that time when you are 18 or 19, do you even think a year later? You don’t think about posterity. You can train to be a singer, and you can do the best you can to be a good singer, but there is no training to becoming a Disney Prince. It is pure luck, and I DID GET LUCKY!!!
Did you have many sessions with Williams?
Brad: No, I didn’t have a single session with Williams. If you talk to Scott, the voice of Aladdin, he will tell you he only had one session with him. They had Robin come in on his own~ they gave him boxes of stuff to improvise with ~ and they let him go. There are actually new documentaries on the new blu ray with Robin doing his thing, which is a nice addition to the film this time around. Sadly, I didn’t even get to see him at a premiere of the film, I was at the East Coast premiere, since I was also doing a Broadway show at the time, and he was on the West coast doing that premiere, so our paths never crossed.
Disney is making live remakes of the classic animated films now, are you involved in anything coming up live-action with ALADDIN?
Brad: I know they in the process of making a GENIE movie now, but I am not part of that. Primarily I am just the singing voice of the animated movie. Ironically, I just wrote a movie for the producers who just did the Beauty and the Beast live movie though. I am primarily involved in the writing and producing of things now; I don’t do much singing anymore.
A perk of doing stuff like this and promoting this new release of the film, is being able to sing with acapella groups like the ARISTOCATS, which I sang with on FOX this morning…they were thrilled, but I think I was even more thrilled…
You do a lot with Black Sails on STARZ too right?
Brad: Yes, I do that show for STARZ. I have been on it since the beginning ~ writing and producing. Our third season airs in January of 2016, and we are already working on season 4. You have to get that far ahead in order to be able to do all the special effects needed for a show of this caliber.
Has DISNEY asked you to do anything else at this point?
Brad: Not yet, but if they did, I would be there in a flash…I love Disney and what they put out. So many Hollywood movies are made for cynically and for a cash grab, you know, things like that. When you see what Disney does to make these types of movies ~ I mean they are made so lovingly and with one or two intentions in mind ~ to make people happy and to make things that people will love for generations. Like with Aladdin, putting in the message of being your best self, and all the great things that will come your way from doing that. And it’s a female empowerment story too; Jasmine won’t live the life that is set out for her by her father. They really do these things with specific intentions, with love and craft in creating the best, lasting product.
You did the sequels too right?
Brad: Yes, they were intended to be television sequels, but they broke it up to make them video sequels for everyone to view, but on a much smaller budget.
Another fun thing is that I have a buddy who is an animation nut, and now, 23 years later, he works for Disney and has created Penn Zero: Part-time hero, and he has asked me to do a parody of Aladdin for the show…Now, how cool is that!!
Have you ever thought of walking through the Parks and breaking out into song as Aladdin?
No, I have never thought about doing that, but I have thought about being on Jimmy Kimmel when he visits Grauman’s Chinese Theater, and have him stop by and I could be there dressed as Aladdin and break out into song…
Now I’m off to meet my family who is waiting for me under the arch…we just left Houston and love all there is to do here in St. Louis…We love your city!!!