- “I love the way your foul little mind works!”
- ―Jafar to Iago
Iago is the secondary antagonist in Disney's 1992 animated feature film, Aladdin. Appearing as a fairly minor character in the original film as the henchman of Jafar, Iago's role expanded significantly over the course of the franchise, the most notable example being the 1994 direct-to-video sequel The Return of Jafar, where Iago served as the foremost protagonist, reformed, and joined Aladdin and Jasmine as an antihero.
Before The Isle of the Lost
Iago's past is mostly shrouded in mystery. However, it has been hinted at a few times. In "Fowl Weather", he mentions that he moved to the desert from the rainforest due to the undesirably unpredictable weather in the latter. In The Return of Jafar, Jafar noted that he purchased Iago in the bazaar at some point in his life.
Screenwriter Terry Rossio shared a concept behind Iago on his website Wordplay, in that Jafar took all his emotions and transferred them into his parrot, leaving him free of distractions and thus more able to conjure magic. Rossio also mentioned, since Iago is too small for so many emotions to be bottled up inside, "you end up with a feathered Gilbert Gottfried."
He is part of a royal menagerie in Arabin city Agrabah and is named after the villain Iago in the play Othello by William Shakespeare, as evidenced by a mention in the TV series, revealing that he has a twin brother called Othello.
- “Conscience? Never had one. Never!”
Iago is amongst the most complex characters to originate from a Disney animated feature film. When first introduced as the loyal follower of Jafar, he appears to be just as evil and cruel as his superior, being selfish, uncaring, murderous, deceitful, and cunning. However, Iago is the more aggressive of the two, as well as the more vocal and easily-frustrated. He has a difficult time keeping his opinions to himself, lacking a collected demeanor, and can often fall into fits of rage, shouting and ranting on about his annoyances, when things don't go as planned.
Like Jafar, Iago craves power; the thought of having control over the city (and more specifically, the Sultan), is what seemingly drives his motivations throughout the original film. Despite being the second-in-command of Jafar's nefarious schemes, it was Iago's diligence that allowed the duo to succeed as far as they did, as it was he who concocted the idea of Jafar marrying Jasmine to assume the throne, and he who eventually stole the Genie's lamp from Aladdin—using his own unique abilities and wit to do so with relative ease. As mentioned above, he cared nothing for those they would have to battle against to obtain power, and openly admitted the desire to have both Jasmine and the Sultan killed once he and Jafar were in control of the city; sadistically cackling at the very idea.
He also seems to hate crackers (which is not what you would normally expect for a parrot), which the Sultan, apparently being completely unaware of Iago's distaste for them, often fed him directly to the mouth, which also acted as the main reason why he aided Jafar in his treacherous ambitions against the Sultan in the first film. Upon Jafar becoming both the Sultan and the most powerful sorcerer on the planet, one of Iago's first actions was exacting revenge against the Sultan by constantly force-feeding him the same crackers he was fed by the Sultan, with the Sultan unable to fight back due to being hung up like a marionette, showing a vengeful side to the parrot. It's implied in Return Of Jafar that his hatred of crackers stemmed from a particularly bad experience at a bazaar where he, ironically, did indeed squawk "Polly want a cracker!".
Despite his highly antagonistic nature in the original film, The Return of Jafar shows a different side to Iago; one capable of growth and reformation. The film implies that Iago's harsh attitude and villainous actions were partially displayed due to a lack of respect and appreciation over the course of his lifetime. Even as Jafar's partner, Iago faced abuse and neglect, which would eventually lead to the downfall of their relationship. As an opportunist, Iago cunningly used Aladdin's caring nature to weasel his way back into the palace, though it was the latter's genuine compassion that first sparked a change in Iago's character, as he was shocked, and notably touched by the fact that anyone would actually show care, and treat him with any form of compassion. Throughout the course of the film, events such as that would continuously take place, specifically with Aladdin and Jasmine who, over time, come to appreciate Iago's apparent goodness and officially welcome him back into the palace, despite his attacks against them previously. This would eventually result in Iago feeling guilt and reciprocated care for the couple, and their allies, prompting him to betray Jafar and risk his life for his new companions, despite coming dangerously close to death in the process.
Following the primary storyline of Return of Jafar, Iago has apparently come to understand what must be done to truly earn respect and love: giving it to others. From that moment on, he would remain a loyal ally to Aladdin and Jasmine. Throughout the series, his greed persists, but it is shown that he can, and will, do the right thing when necessary. He, deep down, appreciates his friendship with Aladdin, Abu, Genie, and Jasmine and shows he is loyal and will help them when the situation truly calls for his assistance, though he generally tries to avoid danger by any means necessary; often advising the others to do the same. In the episode "The Secret of Dagger Rock", he was given the opportunity to keep away from a potentially dangerous mission, which he accepts. However, he spends the entire time worrying for Aladdin and Jasmine, to the point where he willingly set out to rescue them.
Nevertheless, his villainous nature from the original film doesn't fade completely. Iago is still every bit aggressive, loud-mouthed, rude, and narcissistic, but in a more comedic light than anything, no longer willing to result to extreme measures such as murder to obtain his goals. Iago would instead become a mischievous schemer, retaining his flaw of constantly plotting by concocting various ways to cheat the citizens of Agrabah for their riches or any form of high value. This ties into his unhealthy obsession with wealth. In Aladdin and the King of Thieves, he was even willing to steal one of the valuable treasures given to Aladdin and Jasmine as a wedding gift, as it had the power to lead to a supposed "ultimate treasure". Now with a sense of moral, however, Iago ultimately sacrifices his greed for the greater good (such as the safety of others) in most, if not all occasions.
Unlike most animals, Iago is perfectly capable of human speech (though it remains to be known whether he was taught this or a magic spell was used). In addition, Iago is also capable of mimicking voices as shown in the first film, where he perfectly mimics both Jasmine and Jafar. He utilizes this ability several times in the series as well, either to be sarcastic and mock people behind their back, or during a sticky situation. Like all birds, he is also capable of flight and using his claws to pick up and carry stuff along the way. In turn, he can also use his feathers like prehensile fingers. He is also fairly intelligent, having come up with the plan to have Jasmine marry Jafar and then kill her and the sultan. He also devises plans to help himself and his friends out of jams in the series, and also comes up with various scams to earn easy money (which usually backfire on him). Also, due to his years with Jafar, he has vast knowledge of magic and mystical lore, rivaling that of even the Genie.
In the first film, Iago has a supporting role as Jafar's sidekick, and also served as his spy, disguising himself as Jafar's mindless pet parrot.
Iago is first seen during his and Jafar's confidential visit to the desert, in the middle of the night, where they are met by a thief, Gazeem. After forcefully handing over a stolen piece of a golden scarab, courtesy of Iago, Jafar is able to create one full, magical scarab, which reveals the location of the Cave of Wonders. Gazeem is ordered to enter in order to steal a magic lamp (as Jafar wishes to use the Genie to take control of Agrabah), but is killed in the process, as a result of being unworthy to enter. A frustrated Iago voices his annoyance, believing their mission to retrieve the lamp will forever be an impossible task to complete. Jafar, however, remains level-headed, and assures Iago that the lamp will be in their possession once they find the "Diamond in the Rough" that the cave's tiger head guardian spoke of.
After returning to Agrabah, Jafar and Iago visit the Sultan, needing his diamond ring to uncover the individual worthy to enter the cave. Here, Iago shows his disdain for the Sultan; specifically due to the ruler constantly shoving "moldy, disgusting crackers" down his throat. Jafar reassures Iago that they will no longer have to abide by the Sultan's reign in good time, with Iago gleefully plotting to extract revenge once that time has arrived.
After discovering a boy named Aladdin is the one worthy enough to enter the cave, he travels to the Cave of Wonders with Jafar, though the mission goes awry, resulting in both the lamp, and Aladdin, being lost. Afterward, at the palace, Iago concocts a new plan involving a rise to power. He advises Jafar to marry Jasmine, which would result in the vizier legally becoming the sultan. Once he holds such power, Iago continues, they'll kill Jasmine and her father. Jafar agrees, but their plot is interrupted by a new coming prince—Ali. Jafar and Iago soon discover that Ali is Aladdin, and holds ownership over the lamp. Iago is sent to retrieve it, doing so by cunningly disguising his voice as Jasmine to lure Aladdin away from the lamp.
With the lamp in his possession, Jafar takes over the kingdom, bestowing Iago with his own turban, to signify his leadership, as well as his own lounge area near the throne, with a throw pillow and plenty of fruit for his pleasure. After scarfing crackers down the dethroned Sultan's throat, Iago wallows in luxury before noticing Aladdin trying to steal back the lamp. Abu, Aladdin's monkey, tackles Iago to prevent him from alarming Jafar, which leads to a tussle. As a battle ensues between Jafar and Aladdin, Iago watches sadistically, rooting for Jafar to eliminate the threat, until Jafar wishes to become an all-powerful genie. Unfortunately for Jafar, this means an eternity of slavery and imprisonment, though his greed and lust for power made him oblivious to this.
As Jafar is quickly sucked into his lamp, Iago tries to flee, only to be grabbed by the villain, and dragged into the lamp, as well. Trapped and annoyed, Iago berates Jafar on his foolish decision, just as the two villains are sent to the Cave of Wonders to endure 10,000 years of imprisonment.
After spending some time in the sunken Cave of Wonders, Iago flies to the surface getting him and the trapped Jafar out. He is freed from Jafar's lamp and his master demands that he frees him too, but he becomes frustrated with Jafar's insults and being treated like a slave. After Iago claims (with a degree of accuracy) that he does most of the work and comes up with the schemes, Jafar retaliates by saying that without him, Iago would still be in a cage in the bazaar, squawking "Polly want a cracker!". With that remark, Iago dumps Jafar, still trapped in the lamp, into a well. He returns to Agrabah, claiming that he needs nobody's help and that he'll be running the town within a week.
After discovering Aladdin now lives in the palace, Iago decides to use Aladdin's good nature to return to the palace, but Aladdin is not taken in by his act. But as Aladdin and Abu chase after Iago, all three bump into Abis Mal and his gang, and a brawl ensues, ending with Aladdin and Abu cornered by the thieves. In a turn of events, Iago (unintentionally) saves Aladdin from Abis Mal and his thugs, by causing them to crash into a chicken cart, destroying the eggs. The upset egg merchant calls for the guards and Razoul and his goons recognize Abis Mal and his thieves and the guards chase the thieves into the distance. In gratitude, Aladdin brings him into the palace but locks him in a cage to give himself time to explain everything to the Sultan and Jasmine and convince him that Iago has turned over a new feather. Abu unintentionally lets Iago escape (he intended to open the cage to scare Iago for Rajah being nearby as a joke, but it backfired), resulting in Iago being chased by Rajah into the dining room, ruining an important dinner and blowing his cover. Aladdin protects Iago from the Sultan and his guards at the expense of losing the Sultan's favor and Jasmine's trust.
Genie talks Iago into persuading Jasmine to forgive Aladdin with the song "Forget About Love," in which he uses reverse-psychology to tell Jasmine that she's absolutely right about wanting to be alone, and that love is over-rated, while reminding her of how wonderful love really feels, and she realizes how much she still loves Aladdin despite their argument.
Soon enough, Iago is enjoying the Royal Treatment, planning his future, believing that Aladdin will become the Grand Vizier, and that when he becomes Sultan, Iago will become the Grand Vizier. He is however horrified when suddenly, the lights go out and Jafar (set free by Abis Mal) appears out of the darkness! Jafar subtly threatens Iago, who is intelligent enough to know he will suffer if he disobeys again, into luring Aladdin and the Sultan into a trap. Iago talks with Aladdin and Jasmine, and finds it surprisingly easy to persuade Aladdin into taking the Sultan on a carpet ride without Genie. Jasmine apologies to Iago for doubting him. Then Iago has a sudden flash of conscience to warn Aladdin and Jasmine of what danger they are in, but Jafar's evilly omniscient eyes suddenly appear on the curtain above Al and Jas, and fearful for his safety, Iago refrains from warning them. As soon as Aladdin and Jasmine leave, Jafar appears from nowhere and sadistically praises the ashamed parrot for following through on his evil plan.
Iago's guilt over how he has treated the trusting Aladdin increases visibly to a degree where he appears sickened by his own actions, especially during the Sultan's kidnap. He frees the captured Genie to save Aladdin from being beheaded when he's framed for murdering the Sultan through Jafar's schemes, in the process also freeing Jasmine, the Sultan, Carpet and Abu. Now that his debts are repaid, Iago leaves them to fight Jafar alone, somewhat surprised that they do not hold him to any further obligations. But in the struggle against Jafar, when all hope seems lost, Iago returns unexpectedly. He grabs the lamp and attempts to hand it to Aladdin, but is hit by an energy bolt by Jafar and horribly injured. Aladdin and the others believe that all is truly lost, but with his last ounce of strength Iago kicks Jafar's lamp into the boiling lava, destroying Jafar. Aladdin saves the helpless Iago from falling into the lava himself, but his injuries are so severe that for a moment everybody believes him dead. However this is not so, as since Genies lack the power to kill, Iago coughs "You'd be surprised what you can live through." The fully redeemed parrot officially turns from bad to good and is welcomed into the Palace, although he ends up upset when Aladdin decided to turn down the position of Grand Vizier.
In the final movie, Iago is more interested in the extravagant wedding gifts Aladdin and Jasmine are getting from guests. During the raid of the Forty Thieves, he tries to defend the gifts from the King of Thieves (for personal gain, of course) but is stuffed in a perfume bottle. He's freed and they learn the King of Thieves was most interested in a beautiful scepter. Thinking out loud, Iago asks why out of all the marvelous gifts this was the only thing that the King of Thieves really wanted. But his question is answered by the Oracle from the Scepter who explains the King of Thieves seeks her in order to find the Ultimate Treasure, which piques Iago's interest. He tries to discover where the Ultimate Treasure is from the Oracle, but she is bound by one rule "One question, one answer", and informs him that he already asked his question, regarding the scepter's worth.
He accompanies Aladdin, Abu, and Carpet to find the Forty Thieves to find Aladdin's father. They sneak into the Forty Thieves' hideout and are discovered, and their law demands they die. but Aladdin's father, Cassim, who is, in fact, the King of Thieves, gives Aladdin a chance to save their lives by defeating Saluk, one of the strongest members of the Thieves, in single combat, which he does. They learn from Cassim his past and his dreams and goals. That he desperately seeks the ultimate Treasure, the Hand of Midas, which can turn anything it touches into solid gold and has proof in the form of a ship of gold. This causes Iago to take an instant interest in Cassim. When Cassim agrees to come to Agrabah, Iago helps him to get the scepter, but Razoul, the Captain of the Palace Guard, and the guards catch them in the act and the Sultan has no choice but to imprison them.
Aladdin breaks them out and is forced to join them in their escape, but refuses to leave. Iago tries to convince Aladdin to come, not wanting him to get locked up, but Aladdin is prepared to face the consequences. Aladdin tells Iago to go with Cassim, much to his surprise. Iago wishes Aladdin luck and joins Cassim.
They return to the lair only to be betrayed by the Forty Thieves under the command of Saluk, who survived his fight with Aladdin. With the scepter in their possession, they sail off to find the Hand of Midas, but Iago escapes and returns to Agrabah to warn them. They go to Cassim's rescue, and during the whole thing, Aladdin and Cassim finally settle their differences aside and truly become father and son.
Returning to Agrabah, Cassim attends his son's wedding to his new daughter-in-law but decides to leave to make a fresh start and a new life. Iago decides to accompany him in his adventures. And with a wave of farewell to Aladdin and his new wife, Jasmine, they ride off into the night.
- Iago is notable for being the second most popular character in Aladdin. The first being Genie. His popularity particularly grew after The Return of Jafar, with many going on to call him the very star of the movie and tv show despite mixed or negative reviews.
- Iago was originally meant to be a snobbish parrot with a British accent. However, to further the comedy, his character was changed drastically to what animator Will Finn calls "Gilbert Gottfried as a parrot".
- Iago was originally to be voiced by Danny DeVito, but he was unavailable. Devito would be the voice of Phil in Hercules, also directed by John Musker and Ron Clements.
- According to actor Jonathan Freeman (Jafar), the original idea was that Iago would sound like Jafar, meaning that Jonathan would have to play the two characters. However, the people at Disney changed their mind.
- Jafar mentions that he bought Iago from the bazaar; it's never made fully clear whether Iago was capable of coherent speech before being purchased or whether magical experiments made him so.
- Iago is the first villain in Disney history to lastingly reform in a production other than his debut film. Among the few other characters to have this distinction are Anastasia Tremaine from Cinderella and Gantu from Lilo & Stitch.
- Iago claimed in Return of Jafar that he had a wife and three unhatched eggs. However, as this was meant to be a desperate plea to get Abu to unlock the cage, it's unknown if Iago was being honest about it or not. It's likely he was lying, as he later gets a love interest in the TV show.
- Iago is the first villain sidekick to turn on and kill his former partner, the only other case being Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed and the other hyenas, though only in Iago's case had he actively reformed and was doing it on behalf of the other protagonists.
- In the episode "When Chaos Comes Calling", Iago's head turns into that of his voice actor Gilbert Gottfried.
- While in service to Jafar, Iago proved to be one of the more competent henchman: he successfully retrieved the lamp for Jafar after easily tricking Aladdin by mimicking Jasmine's voice; he came up with a number of excellent schemes for Jafar to seize power; and despite his comedic demeanor, he did not display (at least in the first film) any signs of genuine stupidity, despite getting injured from time to time, and he can also be rather sadistic, as he suggested murdering the Sultan and Jasmine in the event that Jafar would manage to marry her, namely "drop [them] off a cliff."
- In the episode "Do the Rat Thing", when Iago was a lizard, his appearance resembled Frank the lizard from The Rescuers Down Under.
- In the Castillian Spanish version, he speaks with a Mexican accent because his voice actor was born in Mexico.
- In the Aladdin episode Moonlight Madness, Iago was said to have a cousin named Jeff.