Disney Classics #28: The Little Mermaid

After a period of lesser efforts, this movie is regarded as being the start of Disney’s renaissance period, a run of well received and beloved films which would run from the end of the ’80s through most of the ’90s. And this film, which introduced the world to Ariel, one of the more popular princesses, is definitely a return to form for the animated films.

littlemermaid pos

As a kid I wasn’t massively fussed on this film, beyond rather liking some of the songs. I think I felt it was a bit too girly for a me at the time. Forgive that sexism, but I was under 5 at the time. Now, it’s definitely in the top tier of Disney movies for me, and a large part of this is down to the music which is probably, for me, the best Disney soundtrack.

During a recent shift at work I needed to go to a happy place inside my head and that place rang out with “Part of Your World” from this film, one of a series of crackers on display. There’s “Kiss the Girl” and the sublime, Oscar winning “Under the Sea”, but my other personal favourite is the villain song, from Ursula (Pat Carroll), “Poor Unfortunate Souls”. There’s a delightful campy, vampish quality to it and if I was ever going to do drag, this is what I’d lip synch too. The lyrics drip with insincerity, irony and cunning, and it’s just wonderful.

Ursula is a fantastic villain, scheming, manipulative and oddly charismatic. She plays poor Ariel (Jodi Benson) like a fiddle. Ursula is confident, conniving and swaggers about entertainingly.  You almost find yourself rooting for her.

littlemermaid ursula

With a great villain and wonderful songs, this movie should knock it out of the park but it’s hard not to regard Ariel as a bit of a fool. I know she’s young and all that, but it’s hard to fully get on board with someone so stupid. Ursula, as much as I like her, is clearly a bad egg and the deal she offers is awful. Three days? No voice? Even if she played fair it would be tricky, but why should she.

The woman keeps a cave of captive souls! For crying out loud, Ariel, how did you not twig she was the bad guy.

Ariel isn’t totally unlikable, she’s rather sweet and her interest in another culture is admirable. But she’s one of the dimmer princesses, I mean, Aurora was bewitched into pricking her finger, but Maleficent probably could have talked Ariel into it without magic.

It’s beautifully animated and wonderfully soundtracked, and signalled a turn in Disney’s fortunes. I’ve warmed to it a lot over the years, and while in Walt Disney World “The Journey of the Little Mermaid” is one of my favourite attractions. It’s a wonderfully done movie, and it cheers me up everytime I watch it, so I kinda think that as a kid my disavowal of this movie was more grounded in my fear of being mocked for liking “girly” stuff.

It’s a belter of a movie and, as I said, deserves a place high in the Disney rankings.

Disney Score: 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

2 thoughts on “Disney Classics #28: The Little Mermaid

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