My opinion right after watching film
My opinion right after watching the film is that it is great. I like that there is more characterization in the characters and pretty much all of them serve a purpose, the plot is perfectly paced and full, and while the animation is not the best I have seen, it is a nice goodbye to Xerography, and the soundtrack speaks for itself. One issue that I do have is that Ariel learns nothing in the end, and is selfish and entitled, and her relationship with Eric is bleh.
This film started production in 1985; the same time Oliver and Company was, and they were both big projects for the studios, but Oliver and Company was seen as the one that will make more money, and was more important (as well as Who Framed Roger Rabbit). Directors Ron Clements and John Musker was interested in the idea of this project as The Great Mouse Detective was in development, and brought it to a “suggestion meeting”. Work was found in the old files that Walt Disney had, and were designs for a 1930’s adaption of The Little Mermaid, and used it for inspiration.
Alan Menken and Howard Ashamn joined the project in 1987, and the latter decided that it would be best to change the film into a broadway formula, and change Clarence the crab to Sebastian, which is why we have the style of music that is in the film.
This is the last film in the canon to have traditional celled animation and Xerography, as the rest would either be in CGI or use CAPS (which this film had a little of).
Jim Carey auditioned to be Prince Eric, Bea Arthur was first in mind to be Ursula, but she turned it down. Elaine Stritcch was cast as Ursula for a while, but she was removed from the project when she clashed with Ashman and his music style, leading to Pat Carroll getting the part.
So the film starts with Prince Eric (Christopher Daniel Barnes) and his sailors talking about King Triton and the mythical mermaids, as they are sailing the sea. A fish escapes the grasp of one of the sailors and swims back to sea, where we are seeing everyone going to Triton (Kenneth Mars)`s castle for a musical dedicated to him, and Ariel (Jodi Benson) is the star, but ends up missing it,which shocks everyone and angers Triton. She is instead dragging Flounder (Jason Marin) with her on adventures of capturing human artifacts, where they are almost killed by a shark. As they pay a visit to Scuttle (Buddy Hackett), she realizes that she missed the performance and gets into a yelling match with her father about her disobeying him and forgetting her responsibilities.
Triton says that she has done this before, so she had been disobedient for a while now. She runs off to her grotto with her
right hand bitch best friend Flounder following her, and she sings Part of Your World, and I will give credit where credit is due; this is a great song, and it establishes the theme of the movie perfectly. Take note that Ariel just wants more, right? This will set the stage for………..about a decade to 2 decades in animated film.
So it is Eric’s birthday and he is having a jam on the boat. What I find interesting is that there is absolutely no royalty there whatsoever. The studio (Word of God) confirmed that he is 18 years old, and it is his birthday. This means he is actually the youngest Disney Prince, since Aladdin was 18 for the entire film. Anyways, Ariel swims to shore and likes the hot piece of stud she sees. She goes on and on about how beautiful he is, only for his dog to run up to her.
His father figure Grimsby (Ben Wright) gives him an obnoxious present of a statue of Eric, and then mutters about him wanting to give it as a wedding present.
He goes on to explain that he will find his girl and fall in love when he is ready, and when he finds the girl, it will hit him like lightning, with lightning erupting, and causing a fire on the ship. They all escape except for Max, whom Eric goes after. Max is tossed in the sea, and the boat blows up with Eric on it. Ariel does something that is uncommon for Disney Princesses at the time; actually save someone. She brings Eric on the shore and asks Scuttle if he is dead. She sees Eric breathing, and she sings about wanting to be a Part of His World, and he opens his eyes to see a hot girl singing above him, and is now determined to get with the girl who saved him.
So the next morning, Ariel is humming like a lovesick mermaid, which grows curiosity from her 6 sisters and father. Sebastian (Samuel E. Wright) (who Triton deemed as her personal supervisor) goes to talk to Ariel, who is trying to meet with Eric. He tries to convince her about staying in the sea via Under The Sea. He brings up some good points; he TELLS HER that they eat fish and their kind, but she does not even listen. He is having too much fun to realize that Flounder got her ungrateful ass to leave. Flounder somehow gets Eric’s statue in her grotto, and she is happy with glee.
Sebastian accidentally spills the beans to Triton when he is asked about who Ariel likes, and he storms over there and gets into ANOTHER fight with her, which ends with him blowing Eric’s statue to pieces. She is crying, and lashes out at Sebastian when he sees her following the eels to go to Ursulas.
So the broad knows that the witch is trouble, but she goes anyways. Ursula convinces her to a deal of trading a voice for 3 days to get Eric to give her the Kiss of True Love, via the amazing Poor Unfortunate Souls. I guess this is to show Ariel’s riskiness and determination, and her being naive, but….I will get to it later. We are midway through the film, and we have action and good pacing.
So Eric is playing Part of Your World on his recorder, but is interrupted when his dog runs to a newly legged Ariel. Sebastian is flipping out, but decides to help her because she will be miserable for the rest of her life (insert eye roll). Eric follows his dog to automatically forget him for the hot tamale in front of him.
So it is time for lunch or dinner and when Ariel comes out in her pink dress, Eric’s jaw dropped and eyes widened. I am a guy, so I know EXACTLY what he was thinking. She is trying to fit in at the dinner, but fails when she combs her hair with a fork and blows a smoker. Eric is encouraged to take her out to town tomorrow, which she happily accepts.
On the second day, they go out to town. They dance, ride the horse, walk around town, and just have a good old time. He thinks she is a bit crazy, but he apparently likes it somehow. They are at the canoes, and Sebastian and the other animals decide to sing Kiss The Girl to get them in the mood. I never knew humans could understand crabs, birds, amphibians, and fish, but whatever. They got close to kissing many times, but Eric gets nervous. When they are finally about to smooch, they are pushed over by Jetsam and Floatsam (Paddi Edwards). Ursula decides that things got too close, and she needs to get dirty.
Grimsby convinces Eric that he need stop give up on the girl that saves him and go after Ariel (who is on the terrace blushing at him)
like falling for a girl that can’t talk and you only want to bone is any better. So on the third morning, Scuttle rushes to Ariel’s room congratulating her on getting married. She rushes downstairs to only see Eric (with Vanessa on his side) demanding things for their wedding that needs to be done for the wedding that will take place ASAP. Like it makes sense for you to rush downstairs for your wedding when he did not put a ring on it. #Dumbass.
Ariel runs off and cries at the dock as everyone goes on the ship to see Eric and Vanessa’s wedding. Scuttle sees Vanessa singing about crushing Ariel and seeing Ursula in the mirror, causing him to realize that Vanessa is Ursula. He swims over to Ariel and the other animals to tell them, and they all swim over the ship. The wedding is stopped and the amulet that holds Ariel’s voice is broken and her voice is hers again.
Her and Eric are about to kiss, but the deal is done, and she turns into a mermaid again. Ursula grabs Ariel and drags her ass to the sea, and then shit gets real when Triton sees them. Because she got caught, she apologized that all of this happened, NOT because of what she did. Ursula offers Triton to take Ariel’s place, and he does, making Ursula queen. So her, Eric, and Ariel gets into a heated battle, but when Ariel is about to get killed, Eric stabs Ursula to her death.
Because Triton feels bad, he turns Ariel into a human, and she rushes into Eric in her sexy silver metallic dress, and he scoops her up to kiss her. They get married with Ariel saying that she loves him and then hops right back to her husband. My issue on the ending is that Ariel never takes full responsibility for her actions or learned anything. They were building up to this, and they barely touch on it. She gets exactly what she wants, despite causing all of this trouble.
While I am not a fan of the main characters, they are not the worst, and I guess it is personal taste. The side characters are pretty good though, and most of the characters are developed enough.
The animation is pretty good. It definitely improved over the past Xerography films, but I also heard that the animators from Who Framed Roger Rabbit worked on this film after that film was finished. The colors were nice, and the animation is very fluid. I am still thankful that CAPS was created. I am praising the animation, but I have seen a lot better, and it does not stand out the most.
Do I even need to discuss the music? The only filler song I can say there is, is the Poissons song. Under the Sea describes the ocean life perfectly, Part of Your World is so emotional and explains the main theme about the movie. All the other songs are great, and Poor Unfortunate Souls explains Ursula`s motivation perfectly, and established the Villain Song more than World`s Greatest Criminal Mind did. The broadway, sea-like theme worked perfectly. The soundtrack charted to 32 on the Billboard charts in 1989.
Reception at Release
When the film was released on November 17, 1989, it made $84,355,863 in the North American box office. What I realized beforehand is that ALL of the predecessors box offices only counted the domestic sales. While initially, this film was seen by the studio to make less money than its immediate predecessor, things changed as the film was concluding production, with Katzenberg thinking it will be the first to make $100,000,000.
It was critically praised. Many said that it deserve to compete with the earliest releases in the canon, and it brought life back to Disney. Many liked that Ariel is the first
not true female to be proactive, as Aurora, Snow, and Cinderella were not proactive. The animal females are NEVER included, since Bianca kicked ass. It was automatically deemed a masterpiece.
It was nominated for 3 Academy Awards in 1990, and the first since The Rescuers to be nominated for an Academy Award, and won for Best Song (Under the sea), and Best Score. The soundtrack won a bunch of awards between 1990-1991, charted at 33 on the charts and the soundtrack was deemed as 2 times Platinum (6 times today)by September 1990, which was a record for animated films.
Well today, it is still as praised as it was in those days. It is the official start of the Disney Renaissance (though it did need help), and one of the first animated films to make $100 million (thanks to rereleases) overall. It broke some records, and it is given credit for bringing a new style of storytelling for animated films. There was a broadway show, many rides in Walt Disney theme parks, 2 sequels, and I am sure I am missing a lot more. This film does really well in merchandise.
= 32.5/40 = 81%
47 thoughts on “Walt Disney Animation Studios Review: The Little Mermaid”
Alright, it’s Renaissance time!
I love this movie, and I agree with some of this review. I disagree on Ariel, and would actually consider her a strong contender for my favorite Disney princess. I find Eric to be a bit more interesting/developed than the first three princes, but there are better male protagonists (as proved by BatB and Aladdin).
(Side note: I think Ursula is a slightly better villain than Scar.)
She is a base breaker. Either people love her or hate her. I just happen to be in the ladder. She is just too ridiculous for me to feel sorry for or to invest in a positive way.
Eric is a minor improvement over the first 3, but I do think Phillip was a bigger gap of development compared to his predecessor than Eric was.
My sister also happens to be in the haters group, for the point that you made that she’s a bit selfish and bratty. (Her favorite princess, at least the last time she’s mentioned is Pocahontas.) The rest of the girls I know are on the opposite end of the spectrum. It is RIDICULOUS how much they’re into Ariel and the movie as a whole (saying it’s their favorite Disney movie, Ariel being their favorite Princess, etc). It’s almost as crazy as the Frozen fandom.
Yeah. Some of the fans of the movie are aggressively defensive. Whenever I said my opinions, they would get so aggressive, and I am like “it is not that serious”.
The Frozen fandom has been irritating me. Now I just keep my distance.
Well, thankfully, it’s dying down a tad bit.
Fans can be aggressive if someone says something bad about something they love. I’d just be like, “It’s just someone else’s opinion. Just because he dislikes it doesn’t mean you should.”
Glad to hear that you liked The Little Mermaid even though you didn’t like Ariel!
Yeah. I don’t think I will ever get into Ariel, but as a movie, it is very good. Have to give props where props are due.
Excellent review. Yeah, I kind of agree about Ariel. I guess I just don’t have as hard feelings against her especially because Ariel has a beautiful singing voice and being a mermaid makes her memorable.
Ursula is AWESOME. Definitely one of Disney’s best villains. One thing I don’t like is how she waits until the THIRD day to change into a human, but it doesn’t bother me too much.
Spot-on about Eric, Triton and Sebastian. I liked Flounder, but found him to be a bit of a whiner (like you said, no backbone).
Keep up the good work.
Thank you. It will be 3 weeks (the day I publish Aladdin) where I will have my anniversary for this blog.
Ursula is definitely one of the best Disney villains to ever surface WDAS, and for good reason too. Eric is just a bit too generic and a plot point for me to really get into him that deeply. I think I dont care for Flounder because he has no backbone.
I don’t say that I dislike Ariel, but I do agree with you in that I see her as a bratty disobedient 16 year-old teenage girl whose backtalk and attitude I wouldn’t tolerate if she were my daughter.
On the other hand, I personally don’t see her as going on land JUST for a man. But even if she was, I honestly wouldn’t mind.
So basically I agree with half the arguments that the haters use to say they hate Ariel and I disagree with the other half of the arguments that the haters use to say they hate Ariel. Not sure where that puts me.
I think that one has to like Ariel to consider her a good character nevertheless. I am way past the age that I would be able to relate to her, but I certainly see the appeal and she is a really good character for a lot of reasons.
Question…because this is why I love the film, lol. I agree that Ariel really shouldn’t backtalk to her father, but at the same time, I think Ariel is learning how to speak for herself. Yes, it’s not the best way, but many teenagers get to a point where they want to start being treated like an adult and I think that’s hard for some parents to accept, to see their children get older. I think it’s a wonderful message on trying to communicate with children better.
Whoops, forgot to type my actual question, lol. But do you see her as a brat because she simply talks back or because she doesn’t listen to Triton, or maybe both?
I understand your POV. I guess I don’t fully agree with it because I guess I was raised with the statement that “the ends doesn’t justify the means”.
But to each his/her own. I’ll still be singing Ariel’s songs till I die 😛 !
That’s fine if you don’t agree, since it makes for a good discussion. 🙂 I guess I’m just curious (I get that from Ariel, haha) because I’ve been a 16 year old teenager, and I have a friend who teaches teenagers and another who counsels them (she’s more of a fan of Ariel than me). I think if parents get too caught up in trying to control their children/teens, they’ll naturally rebel, which is why I think it’s really important to talk with your children rather than simply get them to see their POV. And I guess that’s how I see Ariel and Triton’s relationship.
Commendation, I remember you saying that you were Guyanese or Trinidadian, and as someone who is from that type of upbringing and culture myself, I was taught that the parents words were final, and it is “end all or be all”. Personally, I was not raised in an atmosphere where I could backtalk an elder in general, and that we have to think with rationality, or our family and neighbors would not put up with us. I think with us, we are raised in a completely different way in certain aspects than Ariel.
Yeah, our upbringing is the main reason why you and me feel this way about Ariel.
And yes, I’m from a Guyanese culture. What culture are you from, may I ask?
Oh nice to meet a fellow West Indian!
Yes, yes it is.
OMG. Me too! Both sides Jamaican!
I think Ariel is very relatable if you are a teenager yourself. You think that the world is open for you and that nothing can destroy you – and you are wrong on both accounts, but that is a lesson you have to learn for yourself. I can understand Ariel, because what Triton is trying to do is not guiding her through this difficult time but trying to cage her in. He is naturally right, mostly, but he is basically the Disney equivalent to a parent who tells his daughter that trying to be an artist is idiotic and she should study law instead, if you get my drift.
I am a teenager myself, and while I do think that I have my whole life against me, I have been raised form the moment I have been born that recklessness is not gonna get you anywhere, and you need to plan and be considerate of what is around you.
I get that in a way, he is caging her in, but I think it is on a completely different side of the spectrum than “I am forcing you to be in law though you want to be a parent”. Biologically, it cannot happen. Society-wise, it is dangerous for the tribe. My point is that it is something so much bigger. She knew that Ursula was a sea witch, and knew humans eat people from Under the Sea.
I guess it is because my upbringing is completely different from hers as to why I cannot get into her. They were building up to her acknowledging that all of her reckless actions were stupid, and that she hurt her family and friends, but they did not focus on that in the falling resolution. They focused on her not being able to be with Eric.
Great review, but I have to rise to Ariel’s defense. 🙂 I actually think she does learn something by the end of the film. When Ursula takes her back to sea and Ariel apologizes to Triton, I think she doesn’t apologize because she got caught. I think she apologizes because she knew it was wrong in the first place and is trying to again take responsibility for her actions, like she did before when she forgot the concert. This was also the first time she saw Triton since he destroyed her grotto, and I think Ariel is trying to make amends for how she acted (although Triton was in the wrong too). When Ursula then turns Triton into a polyp, Ariel gets extremely angry because she realizes Ursula was after Triton all along. That wasn’t part of the deal, and Ariel realizes how her mistakes affected others. I think that’s why at the end we don’t see not next to Eric when he’s lying on the beach. She’s instead perched on the rock, and probably would return home once she knew he was ok and safe. But Triton learns something too in that he needs to allow Ariel to live the life she wants. And if that means Ariel being with Eric, then Triton will allow it because it’ll make her happy. That’s the way I see it at least. 🙂
Thank you. With the way it came off, and with the way Triton approached them in the sea, it seemed like she was scared, and was obviously caught, so she gave that small apology. It is like “I am sorry that all of the chaos that Ursula did led up to all of this” instead of “I am sorry that I went to Ursula, and was dishonest and disobedient to you for everything”. You see the difference?
About her on the rock after Ursula died, I think she thought that her father would not let her turn into a mermaid, so that is why she was heading back to sea, but was genuinely shocked when she was turning to a human.
I see the difference, and I agree that she was scared, but I don’t see it in that she was scared she got caught. For me, it felt like Ariel was scared because she’s now Ursula’s hostage. She now belongs to Ursula. She then apologizes to Triton after Ursula said that the two of them made a deal. So for me, her apology did feel like it was the “I’m sorry I went to Ursula although I knew it wasn’t right.” And the thing is Triton doesn’t respond to Ariel’s apology because he’s more concerned with freeing Ariel from Ursula’s clutches. It’s almost like he knows she’s sorry, but her safety is more important now. Parents know their children mess up and make mistakes, so Ariel’s apology is sort of not needed. But it’s there I think to show Ariel does understand how she wasn’t right when she made her deal with Ursula.
At the end, I agree that maybe Ariel didn’t think Triton would want her to turn into a human, since Triton’s always made it clear that he hates humans. So Ariel’s begins to accept that she’ll be a mermaid. But since the story’s about parents understanding their children, Triton learns to understand Ariel and what she wants, which is why Ariel just lights up when Triton gives her legs.
I’m with BTW97 on this one. I was Ariel once, with good intentions but always getting on the wrong side of my parents, and thus I will always sympathize with her. The original version of “Part of Your World” has her going, “Maybe there is something wrong with me” and it’s clear that Ariel loves her father, despite all their disagreements.
The problem is that the film doesn’t have time to develop the subtleties in showing how Eric and Ariel change and how, more importantly, Eric doesn’t act on his lust towards Ariel, and the beginning shows rather than tells that he’s a seafaring prince who wants to share adventures with the woman he loves. In his mind, he falls in love with a woman who saved his life during a thunderstorm, meaning a gutsy lady. And if you think about it, it’s not a coincidence that Ariel falls for Eric while he’s on a ship, on the ocean.
Hello! It’s been a long time since my last comment, or the last time I visited your blog. I’m a procrastinator…
Well, you know I disagree with you about Ariel and Eric, but it was a good review in general. Ursula is really a fantastic villain.
As you know, The Disney Odyssey is a co-written blog, so I will emphasise that this is solely the female of the co-writing pair writing at the moment 😉
Melissa: Great review! It is a long time before David and I reach this but we really look forward to it. I have to mention though that I am a massive Ariel and Eric fan, primarily due to the way in which they are both animated – both are so genuinely spirited and youthful. Although it is a short romance, their shyness and nervousness around each other is very realistic (this is coming from a woman who has been in love for many years with one man; the looks that they give each other brings back memories to those early days!). Plus this wonderful line from Grimsby: ‘Eric?… If I may say… far better than any dream girl is one of flesh and blood. One warm, and caring, and right before your eyes’. That moment when Eric smiles at this crazy girl who combs her hair with a fork, realising she truly is better than ‘a dream girl’, and he throws the instrument into the sea, is beautiful storytelling. The romantic in me is going wild. But of course, I can understand if people are not fond of the relationship; we all have our views 🙂
I know a lot of people have a bone to pick with Ariel for being bratty and defiant, but many also like her because she is active, curious and bold. Yes she makes stupid mistakes (VERY stupid mistakes), but around her age, that is when you’re incredibly vulnerable to making stupid mistakes about love (when it hits you like a ton of bricks!) and people continue to make mistakes for the rest of their lives. In a way, presenting Ariel with both major virtues and major flaws is probably why she is most incredibly liked and hated all at once. People frequently rant about Ariel not being the one that finishes off Ursula and that she had to be saved by the man. But do they forget that Ariel saved Eric’s life FIRST during the storm? Both of them show bravery: Eric rescues his dog from a fiery ship, Ariel saves a drowning Eric, Eric attacks Ursula when he sees her threatening Ariel, Ariel kills Flotsam and Jetsum to save Eric, and of course Eric stabs Ursula with his ship.
Oh my long post! Anyway great review and hope you’re enjoying where you are in the canon.
Yes, and I will definitely be eagerly waiting until you two reach this review.
I am touched that Ariel and Eric’s young live story reminds you of the early days with you and David, down to the looks they give one another, the shyness, and they spirit and youth they both have. That line from Grmisby is truly great, and it is a very touching moment, where I do believe that Eric got a bit more into reality. I think my issue is that they say they are in love with one another and marry really without having genuine conversations (though they could not both converse because of the circumstances, they get married soon after), and it comes off a lot more as lust/infatuation than true love. The movie is trying to make their relationship bigger than it is.
I definitely see why people like Ariel, but I cannot say that I relate to her, or does the things that she does. She is one of the biggest Base Breakers to ever exist. It is definitely true how a lot of people her age do crazy things (especially for love), but I am her age, and never was that reckless or disrespectful to my parents. I don’t have much of an issue with the men finishing off the climax in Disney movies, as being a kickass character is not going to make a character engaging or likable. Ariel is simply a matter of personal taste.
Thank you so much for your support Melissa (and David). I am enjoying where I am now in my reviews, but I am always in 2 stages at the same time. One stage is the reviews I publish, make final edits on before I publish it, and respond to commenters, while another stage is writing future reviews that are many films after the ones I published. I am sure you heard this more than once, but I write my reviews months ahead. So while I am publishing the Early Renaissance films, and getting reception off of those reviews, I am currently writing the worst moments in the Post Renaissance Era, that won’t be published until at least October (I finished Home on the Range tonight, and working on Chicken Little). I have no issue with long posts.
I think she learns that fighting for your dreams takes sacrifice and that listening to your heart is more important than anything else. She knows she doesn’t belong and is willing to do whatever it takes to find where she is meant to be. That’s a great message or lesson for girls. At least it was for me.
But I don’t think that is the main ‘lesson’ of the film. Triton learns the big lesson. He was wrong to hold his daughter back from who she is meant to be and where she belongs. What’s wrong with him doing more of the learning? It’s good for children to see that anyone, even a parent, can change and grow. Really the biggest problem of the movie is communicating. If both had done better at that all problems averted but then no movie. 😉
Did you know they animated a million bubbles? So fun. I agree with your praises of it. A great film.
I don’t hate Ariel like you do, but I get why you do. I greatly enjoyed you tearing Ariel and company apart in this review, in the same way Unshaved Mouse’s review of Brother Bear makes me roar with laughter, even though I actually really like that movie.
The animation in The Little Mermaid is beautiful, the soundtrack is so good I had to *own* it, but the plot is really shallow. It’s ambitious, make no mistake – that’s something else the movie has going for it – but it’s still shallow, and that shallowness gets more and more distracting every time I revisit this movie.