Aladdin Doesn’t Know How to Read

Perhaps one of the greatest commercials of all time, the Baltimore Sun’s literacy campaign, Reading by 9, reached out to real nine year olds, and filmed them running around Fort McHenry. They gave us a lot of candy.

The children were a mix of students from the Waldorf School of Baltimore, where I attended, and the exceptionally more basic institution of Roland Park Elementary. Upon the first day of filming, the lead role had not yet been assigned, so they shot footage with me and a kid from Roland Park switching out.

When they finally chose me to be the face of the campaign, they moved the other kid to the back of the group. You can’t really see him in the commercial.

On day two, I wore a pair of black sneakers, as opposed to the white ones we started with. It ruined the first quarter of the shoot and everyone was pissed. They probably shouldn’t have left continuity up to the nine year old, though.

A year and a half later, after I left Waldorf (too expensive, even for a TV star), I actually shadowed at Roland Park for a day. Everyone from the film shoot was there, and remembered me. My competitor explained to me that they only chose me because I was more believably illiterate.

I did not end up attending Roland Park Elementary.

Credits, from Adweek’s “Best of” 1998:

Charles Street Films…….. Production Statement
Crushing Underground…….. Music (Misc. Credits)
Allan Charles…….. Director
Rob Schnapp…….. Creative Director
Keith Quesenberry…….. Copywriter
Kenny Klompus…….. Editor