The Little Mermaid (1989)

littlemermaid1_1989_poster
The Little Mermaid (1989)
  • Time: 83 min
  • Genre: Animation | Family | Fantasy
  • Director: Ron Clements, John Musker
  • Cast: Jodi Benson, Christopher Daniel Barnes, Pat Carroll, Samuel E. Wright, Rene Auberjonois

Storyline:

Loosely based upon the story by Hans Christian Andersen. Ariel, youngest daughter of King Triton, is dissatisfied with life in the sea. She longs to be with the humans above the surface, and is often caught in arguments with her father over those “barbaric fish-eaters”. She goes to meet Ursula, the Sea Witch, to strike a deal, but Ursula has bigger plans for this mermaid and her father.

One review

  • Kicking off what is now known as the Disney Renaissance (following a brutal decade of flops and underachievers), The Little Mermaid reignited some of that old Disney magic, with some beautiful and lovingly-drawn animation and a good old-fashioned, yet familiar, story. Based on the fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, it’s a tale of a beautiful princess who falls in love with a dashing prince, with the snag being that the girl, Ariel (voiced by Jodi Benson) has a flipper, lives under the sea, and is best friends with a Rastafarian crab and a cowardly tropical fish.

    King of the sea Triton (Kenneth Mars) is obeyed by all in his realm, with the exception of the most important person in his life, his daughter Ariel. She has bigger dreams and is obsessed with the deadly world of ships and brutal men above the sea surface. One day, she swims to the world above and spots dashing prince Eric (Christopher Daniel Barnes), who she instantly falls in love with. Desperate to escape her father who forbids her wild adventures, she is taken by two eels, Flotsam and Jetsam (both voiced by Paddi Edwards) to Ursula (Pat Carroll), a sea witch with tentacles like an octopus. In exchange for Ariel’s beautiful voice, Ursula transforms her into a human, but she must receive true love’s kiss within three days or else she will turn back into a mermaid and belong to Ursula’s garden of creepy souls.

    The fact that The Little Mermaid is very much in the style of ‘classic’ Disney works both for and against the film. On one hand, it’s beautifully drawn with memorable songs (‘Under the Sea’ is a particular stand-out), but it also treads the overly familiar fairytale tropes of princes, princesses, witches and the kiss of ‘true love’. However, it brought Disney into the modern era. Ariel is not just a la-di-da maiden who enjoys cleaning whilst singing sickly tunes; she is independent and slightly wild, eager to explore the mysterious world she does not belong to. Her companions are also welcome, with crab Sebastian (Samuel E. Wright) providing many laughs, especially in his efforts to escape a pompous chef who wants to cook and serve him. It’s perfectly likeable throughout, but Disney wouldn’t find it’s true magic again until two years later.

    Rating: 3/5

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