Hey Guys Gerawallstar, here. And I am here to review the 1989 Walt Disney 28th animated film The Little Mermaid. In my opinion, this was one of the best films I have seen from Disney in a long time. This is the film that felt like a Disney film, again. This film indeed brings us to a new era, known as the Disney Renaissance, after being in a darker period in Disney history, where they were releasing poor to mediocre films. This film brought back the Disney princess line that was missing for 30 years, after the box office bomb of Sleeping Beauty. This film also brought back the Disney Fairytale. On top of all of that, it was the most critically/financially successful film since The Rescuers, which meant that it finally beated a Don Bluth film. In this case, All Dogs go to Heaven.

Production/Development

After Walt Disney’s death in 1966, Disney was entering a darker period in Disney history known as the dark ages. During that time, they were producing films that were critical/financial failures such as The Aristocats, Robin Hood, The Fox and the Hound, etc. On top of all of that, in 1985, Disney released their expensive film called The Black Cauldron, which bombed at the box office, not making back its budget, almost leading the Walt Disney Animation Company to shut down. Thankfully, in 1986, when they released The Great Mouse Detective, while it was not financially successful, it made enough money to save the company from Bankruptcy. That film, and Oliver and Company were also the films that stepped Disney into the plate, preparing for a film that would lead them to the Disney Renaissance. In 1988, there was also a film that was released called Who framed Roger Rabbit, where it made a lot of people take animation seriously again, and resulting in Disney entering a new renaissance, with this film, The Little Mermaid.

Development:

The Little Mermaid was originally planned as part of Walt Disney’s earlier films, originally planned to be released two years after Snow White, but that was scrapped. In 1985, Ron Clements, and John Muscker were interested in the film adaptation while working on The Great Mouse Detective at the time. Clements wrote a two-page script, and retrieve it to Jeffery Katzenberg, but he put that on hold, because he thought that it would be similar to the plot of the upcoming 1984 live action film Splash. However, the next day, he approved of the project the following day, next to Oliver and Company. A lot of changes to the 1930’s writers of the Han’s Christian Anderson’s story were the same changes made by Disney Writers in the 1980s. During that year, Clements and Musker expanded the two-page idea into a 20-page script, and eliminated the role of the mermaid’s grandmother and expanding the roles of the Merman King and the sea witch. However, Katzenberg put that film on hold to work on Who Framed Roger Rabbit in 1988. Speaking of sea witch, the design of Ursula was based on a drag queen performer named Devine, and Bea Arthur from The Golden Girls, originally auditioned for the role of her. Unfortunately, she turned it down, so they gave the part to other actors such as Nancy Marchand, Charlotte Rae, Roseanne, etc. But in the end, they gave the role to Pat Carrol. Whats interesting about Jodi Benson’s role as Ariel in the beginning was that her recorded dialogue was used as a playback to guide through the live-action settings, which that was how they used the animation in the film. During that time, this film was Disney’s expensive film to date, next to The Black Cauldron, and they opened up a satellite feature animation facility in Lake Buena Vista, Florida within the Disney MGM Studios at Walt Disney World, to help contribute ink and paint support of the film. For the music, this film was one of the first films to feature Broadway musicals. One of the songs “Part of your World” was originally going to be cut from the film by Katzenberg, mainly because one of children during screening were getting rowdy when the song was playing, but in the end, they kept the song. So with all of that, The Little Mermaid was finally released in November 16, 1989.

Story:

The plot is about a 16 year old mermaid named Ariel who goes on land, which was forbidden to encounter a boy that she is in love with. On top of all of that, she makes a dangerous deal signing a contract to an evil sea witch by allowing to become human for three days to be with the boy she likes, but the price is that she had to lose her voice. Let me just say that I loved the plot here. This story is fantasitc and very exciting to see from Disney after 20 years. It tramples any plot from almost all of the Disney films from the dark ages. There’s a lot that I loved about the story. I loved the beginning scene where Ariel forgets the show that she’s supposed to sing, the storm at the sea scene, Ariel saving Eric during the storm, the romantic subplot between Ariel and Eric, the wedding scene the battle between Ursula, and Ariel/Eric, Eric saving the day by defeating Ursula, and even the ending. Everything that was presented in this movie was done amazingly. The beginning really reflects that Disney has finally made it to a new era of animation Not to mention that there’s also some pretty good humor, as well. I laughed at the scene where Ariel dropped her fork when she is having dinner with Eric. I also laughed when Ariel was having the time of her life while touring the kingdom with Eric. I also laughed at the scene where the chef tries to kill Sebastian the crab. My main problem with the movie is the ending. Don’t get me wrong, it is still a great ending, but I would have appreciated if the main character apologized to her father from the mistakes that she has made. They were originally going to show that in the deleted scenes, but Katzenberg took that out because he wanted the ending to look like Die Hard. Aside from my mixed thoughts of the ending, this is the best story I have seen from Disney in a long time. Superb job, writers. I give the story nine stars.

Animation:

Just like the story, the animation is also amazing. The animation really looks like a classic Disney film. They really took advantage of animating most of the human characters using xerography so well. The underwater environments, and the main characters were animated perfectly. I love all of the colors that they used in the animation. The little details like the bubbles were great too. Fun fact about the animation: The reason why the bubbles were animated like this was because Disney wanted to go all the way with the animation, so they animated the bubbles from China, since it was hard to animate underwater. There’s even a future animated style that will be used heavily in other Disney renaissance films called the CAPS System. It was showcased in the end, along with Ariel singing her final verse of her “I want” song on the rocks. There was also some interesting CGI in the film as well, like in the ship during the final battle with Ursula. I have to say its very innovative. If there’s one criticism I have with the animation is that most of the human characters, as well as most of the backgrounds do look kind of odd, and limited. With this being the last Disney movie to have Cel-animation and xerography, it’s obvious that there are still some sketchy human characters/backgrounds because of the xerography. But aside from that nitpick, the animation is amazing, and very beautiful. I give the animation nine stars.

Characters

The main problem I have with the movie are two of the main characters. Let’s start off with Ariel. In my opinion, she is a mixed bag. There are a couple of things that I liked about her. First off is Jodi Benson’s wonderful performance as her. Another thing I liked about her that is when she is not talking when she loses her voice(no offense to women), her singing voice,  her curiosity around humans, and objects, along with her motivations of getting what she wants, which I kind of criticize. Let’s get to the issues with the character. My main problem with Ariel is that she is very whiny, bratty, and that she goes out of her way of doing rebellious things. I get that she is a teenager, and that most teenagers often do rebellious things, but what I don’t like about her in particular is how despite being rebellious, she does some really dangerous things. Like selling her body to the devil in order to fall in love with the boy she loves, almost putting everyone who loves her, in danger. What’s worst is that she gets what she wants in the end with no consequences, and she never learns anything in the end. It creates a bad message by teaching a child that they can get rewarded without facing the consequences of the things they did wrong. I say this because even though this is a Disney film, and they cannot do a lot of darker themes, in the original novel, she dies, because she didn’t want to leave Eric, when she was giving a decision of killing the prince, to become a mermaid again. And as a Disney princess, I definitely don’t think that she is a good role model/image for children, especially since she is the first princess to start off a new era for Disney in over 30 years. As for Eric, he is kind of bland. I don’t why, but his design kind of reminds me of Dave Seville’s design from the 1980s cartoon series Alvin and the Chipmunks. He really doesn’t do anything in the movie that exciting, except for being with Ariel, and defeating Ursula in the end. Speaking of Ursula, she is hands down one of the best Disney villains. Her manipulation, design, and the way how villainous she acts is amazing. She is also very funny. Pat Carroll, did a wonderful job voicing her.  I guess one of the underrated characters in this movie in my opinion is King Triton: the father of Ariel. I get that a lot of people tune him off for being prejudice towards humans, and being strict/controlling with Ariel, but what I love about him is that he is very realistic, and he does everything he can to protect her daughter, and make her happy. One big example of this is when he sacrifices himself in order to save his daughters life from Ursula when she was captured. Oh, and he also learns to let go of Ariel, and accepts humans in the end. He is the character that gets the most development, instead of the main character, ironically. My favorite character in the movie is the side character Sebastian the crab, voiced by Samuel E. Wright. I crack up every time he is on screen, whenever he is trying to make sure he doesn’t get killed by the chef for example. I also loved how he gives fatherly advice to Ariel. His singing voice is good, too. Flounder is also a cool character. Scuttle the Bird is your typical comic relief, but he does serve some decent humor, especially for the kids. I give the characters eight stars.

Songs

The songs are the biggest highlight of the movie, besides the story. These songs in this movie are terrific. Alan Menken and Howard Ashman both did a wonderful job writing and composing the songs. Daughters of triton is short, but a fine song. “Part of your world” however is a revolutionary song. Jodi Benson’s singing voice is awesome. My favorite song of the movie is “Under the Sea.”  I know its childish and all, but I have a story about the song: When I heard this song the first time as a kid, I was so amazed by it. It was very catchy. But the reason why I loved that song a lot is because this song represents a hidden message stating that Disney is finally back into the animation world entering a new renaissance, after struggling through and through the past 20 years being in the dark ages making low quality/poor box office films. That is why I loved this song, a lot. It is so amazing. “Kiss your Girl” is a fun romantic song. It really puts you in a romantic mood. Another song worth mentioning is “Poor unfortunate Souls.” Its dark, upbeat, and it definitely shows how an awesome villain Ursula really is. The funniest line in the song is definitely the “Body language” line. “Les Poisson” is a very funny song with Sebastian dealing with running away from the chef, just so that he wouldn’t get killed. The music here is perfect, and memorable. Props to you Alan Menken, and Howard Ashman! I give the songs ten stars.

Verdict:

The little mermaid is an amazing movie, that has brilliant story, amazing animation, great characters, and exceptional songs. While I do have a few problems with the main characters like Ariel, and Eric, this film was an excellent comeback for Disney. It also helped paved the way for other hits such as Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King, ushering in a new era known as the Disney Renaissance. Thank you, Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, and John Musker/Ron Clements for making this film the legendary Disney classic that it is today. I give this movie nine stars out of ten.

9/10

 

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