The Little Mermaid
Rated G; Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker; Starring the voice talents of Jodi Benson, Samuel Wright, Buddy Hackett, Pat Carroll, Kenneth Mars, Rene Auberjonois
It is a sad thing to be a middle-aged Disney freak, but I admit, that’s what I am. When most people think of Disney they think of the incredibly successful mass of children’s TV shows, videos and DVDs, and high school musicals. I think of the classic animation films – Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty. Or should I say, those are the films I thought of back in 1989.
Before 1989 the Disney studios were not having much luck in making classic animated films anymore. The Great Mouse Detective, The Fox and the Hound, and The Black Cauldron found a niche audience, including freaks like me, but most adults went to these films with their children in tow. Aimed right at children these films didn’t offer much for adult viewers. The Little Mermaid changed all that.
When The Little Mermaid opened in late 1989 the reviews were fantastic. I went to see it in the first week it opened and just fell in love. An adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s classic tale, but with a happier ending, the movie was a surprise. By the time the romantic song “Kiss the Girl” played on screen I was hooked. Going back several times (I’m a freak, right?) I found it wasn’t only children and their parents in the theater. The Little Mermaid tapped into a whole new audience for Disney: teenagers and adults. The catchy score by Howard Ashman and Alan Mencken was clever, tuneful, and fun to listen to. The plot was funny, sweet, touching, and romantic. The Little Mermaid kicked off a new golden age for Disney animation.
When I heard that The Little Mermaid would have a special DVD release, you know I was excited. The DVD offers more than just a good movie. A wonderful documentary on the making of the film, interviews with animators, an animated short of “The Little Match Girl” (get your hankies ready), and even a music video of “Kiss the Girl” by Ashley Tisdale (don’t get your hankies ready – this is definitely aimed at the pre-teen audience) the two-DVD set is a great offer.
The film still holds up even as it shows how limited some of the animation was at that time. By the time Beauty and the Beast was made the animation had improved dramatically, but it took “The Little Mermaid’s” success to kick off new animation techniques.
As we’ve seen The Little Mermaid time and again (well I saw it time and again) does it lose its luster? No, it still is an amazing movie, from plucky heroine Ariel (Jodi Benson) to the wonderfully evil Ursula (Pat Caroll), the characters are fully thought out, the story is still a strong one, and the Oscar-winning score is still delightful. The DVD made me a Disney freak all over again.