Ron Clements and John Musker direct Disney’s Oscar and Golden Globe-winning animated adaptation of the classic Hans Christian Andersen tale about a mermaid who defies her father and visits the surface of the sea, where she falls in love with a human prince.
Disney animated features The Fox and the Hound and Oliver & Company didn’t do particularly well when they were first released but now are regarded as classics and I can understand why. When The Little Mermaid was released, it was a huge critical and commercial hit – the first big success that Disney had since The Rescuers 12 years earlier.
The Little Mermaid is also credited with being the movie that started the Disney Renaissance and it is very easy to understand why. So successful, it spawned a direct-to-video sequel called The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea 11 years later and a direct-to-video prequel titled The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning 8 years after Return to the Sea.
The movie also inspired a television series of the same name, a prequel detailing the events of Ariel’s underwater adventures before she encountered a prince. It’s also possible that a live-action version will be made and this will be absolutely fascinating to view and look forward to.
The story of The Little Mermaid concerns Ariel (Jodi Benson), a 16-year-old mermaid who is struggling to get with her father King Triton (Kenneth Mars), who is the ruler of Atlantica. Triton strongly forbids her to go to the surface, because he strongly believes that humans are dangerous. However, one of her visits to the surface sees her meet a handsome prince and she falls in love with him.
Ariel believes that humans are not that dangerous, so she is determined to become human. She strikes a dangerous deal with a sea witch named Ursula (Pat Carroll) and she becomes human for three days. But the plans for the star-crossed lovers go badly wrong, leaving Triton to make the final decision for his daughter.
Jodi Benson gives a superb voice performance in her role as Ariel (what she is best known for) and she suits the role so well and also proves that she can sing very well too – she hits high notes to perfection. Jodi Benson is also good as Vanessa (Ursula’s alter-human ego).
There is a very good voice performance to be had from Kenneth Mars in his role as King Triton, the ruler of Atlantica who makes his feelings very, very clear towards his youngest daughter.
Samuel E. Wright is good as the crab Sebastian who has to keep an eye on Ariel’s every move, while Jason Marin is good as Ariel’s best friend Flounder the fish and Buddy Hackett suits his role as Scuttle very well – Scuttle provides the best moments of humour in the film, which is definitely a good thing because it means the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Pat Carroll voices the role of Ursula the sea witch to an excellent standard – she really does – giving the most memorable role of her career. Carroll said that she wanted to play a villain after playing a number of nice characters – this part was perfect for her.
The direction from Clements and Musker is very good because they allow the facial expressions to be seen to a very strong effect throughout, most notably on Ariel and King Triton with the scenes that they share together, while the script is very well written by the two directors as they make the movie very easy to follow.
The technical elements of the film are very impressive, with the set, cinematography, music, and visual effects standing out best – the set is very decent to look at; the camera makes very good use of the locations the movie uses and also captures the tense and dramatic moments well, getting the edge-of-the-seat status; the music is very enjoyable to listen to at all times – Alan Menken has done an absolutely terrific job with his score and he can be very proud of this; the visual effects are excellent, particularly with King Triton’s trident and the bubbles the movie uses (apparently over 100 bubbles were drawn – for an animated feature – this is very impressive).
In terms of the songs the movie has, Part of Your World (which very nearly didn’t make the final cut) stands out very well as Ariel keeps on believing that she wants to be a human girl and the audience now knows exactly what dream she wants to achieve. Kiss the Girl is very enjoyable to very listen to when Ariel and Prince Eric are having a boat ride, while Poor Unfortunate Souls is good and sung very well by Pat Carroll.
However, the best song in the movie, by a mile, is Under the Sea, sung brilliantly by Samuel E. Wright, where Sebastian desperately tries to convince Ariel that life is so much better for her Under the Sea (he does literally try everything to stop Ariel from getting into trouble from King Triton).
In terms of the major awards, The Little Mermaid deservedly won Academy Awards and Golden Globes for Best Original Score (Alan Menken) and Best Original Song (Under the Sea – music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman), while Kiss the Girl was nominated in the Original Song category at both ceremonies.
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association also nominated The Little Mermaid for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and this nomination was deserved and I do feel that this was unlucky not have to been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.
Overall, The Little Mermaid is one brilliant adaptation of the classic fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen that is guaranteed to bring a smile to your face.