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(Best sung to “Under the Sea”)
When King Triton’s youngest daughter,
The curious Ariel,
Is sick of her life in water
And dreams of where humans dwell,
She angers and worries Father,
Who thinks humans all are bad.
Her interests are such a bother
That she always gets him mad.
She misbehaves
Above the waves;
Flouting the norm, during a storm,
A human she saves.
Prince Eric hears her lovely voice,
And she would surely be his first choice,
But Triton hears,
And, fueled by his fears,
Her stuff he destroys.
A sea witch provides assistance,
And Ariel makes a deal.
She threatens her whole existence
For legs and three days to feel.
She sells off her voice as payment
And hooks Eric on the beach,
Although she is lacking raiment
And can’t seem to manage speech.
Two days of bliss
He can’t dismiss.
Ursula’s fear makes her interfere
To stop true love’s kiss.
She enthralls Eric with a spell,
Deeply upsetting Ariel.
Soon it’s too late,
And Ariel’s fate
Is gloomy as well.
The king won’t oppose,
And Ursula grows,
Threatening all with one giant squall
And malice that shows.
Eric then skewers with a mast,
And Triton’s prejudices fade fast,
He lets his daughter
Walk from the water,
Happy at last.

Here we have the film that kicked off the Renaissance and revived Disney to its former glory. Compared with prior efforts in The Black Cauldron and Oliver & Company, The Little Mermaid was a bolt from the blue, a musical triumph that “brought Broadway into cartoons.” The detailed underwater world also blew away previous films in the animation department and was the last Disney film to use hand-painted cel animation. The digital animation of later films allowed for smoother lines and motion, but The Little Mermaid is still stunning, especially during the musical numbers.

It’s not perfect: King Triton is a now-familiar cliché of an overbearing authoritarian father, and his turnaround at the end, even though the danger at the end was ultimately Ariel’s fault, is not as well-explained as it could have been. Though it seems odd that Ariel, as a 16-year-old, would get married at the end, the film luckily avoids any suggestive content from her near-nudity and remains enjoyable family entertainment.

Though not his first musical (that was Little Shop of Horrors), this was the first film fully scored by Alan Menken and just the first example of his symphonic genius. “Under the Sea” is a fun, Oscar-winning song if I ever heard one, and “Kiss the Girl” continued the catchy Jamaican flavor of the soundtrack. The golden-voiced Jodi Benson was perfectly cast as Ariel and truly owns her central song “Part of Your World.” Pat Carroll’s scratchy, resonant voice is ideal for Ursula, and her “Poor Unfortunate Souls” is a great example of a Disney villain song, complete with excellent lyrics from Menken and Howard Ashman.

Though I’m a big fan of the Renaissance films, The Little Mermaid is not as high on my list as others simply because I don’t have as much nostalgia for it. I watched it religiously as a young kid, but then didn’t see it for many years. Watching it again, I was thoroughly entertained, but it’s not quite as much of a personal classic as other Disney films of the ‘90s. Nonetheless, Disney reforged its winning princess brand with this marvelous fantasy that is a whole lot happier than the Hans Christian Anderson tale on which it is based.

Best line: (Buddy Hackett as Scuttle the seagull, mistakenly explaining what a pipe is) “You see the snarfblatt dates back to pre-hysterical times when humans would sit around and stare at each other all day. [he demonstrates]  Got very boring.”

Artistry: 8
Characters/Actors: 9
Entertainment: 9
Visual Effects: 9
Originality: 8
Watchability: 9
Other (I just like other films better): -4
TOTAL: 48 out of 60

Next: #144 – Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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