Disney Animated Marathon: The Little Mermaid (1989)

the little mermaid

Let’s take to the sea for movie #29 in the Disney Animated Marathon!

Written By: Howard Ashman, Ron Clements, Gerrit & Sam Graham, Chris Hubbell, & John Musker
Directed By: Ron Clements & John Musker

Lost amid all the hubbub that would accompany films such as Aladdin and The Lion King was The Little Mermaid, the film that signified a return to top form for the mouse. I can’t fault people for overlooking this film, the films that came after it were stellar efforts worthy of the accolades and attention they received. None of that however diminishes the wonder that is The Little Mermaid. When I say a return to top form I mean it, this film hearkens back to the zenith of Disney animation in such films as Alice In Wonderland and Bambi, for any number of reasons.

On the surface The Little Mermaid is a very simple story, but as is often the case there’s much more bubbling under the surface. Don’t worry, I’m not going to argue that The Little Mermaid is a film of immeasurable depth, but there is depth to be found on the meta level. A lot of this has to do with the minor backlash that sprouted up against The Little Mermaid and the character of Ariel in particular. Some people labeled Ariel as a terrible role model for women, a character that set back the feminist cause years. I find these claims to be foolish, even if I can see why that view would be taken. It really is a matter of how you interpret the material as well as what your personal views on equality are.

I don’t think equality means people shouldn’t be allowed to pursue what makes them happy. If a man or a woman is happiest in the workplace, then that is where they should be. Conversely if they are happiest seeking out love and living the family life then that is where they should be. I am a man and I fall into the latter category, I could care less about any career in the face of finding happiness with someone for the rest of my days. The fact that Ariel knows what she wants and is willing to go for it despite all the pressure against her doing so makes her a very good role model, not just for women, but for people the world over. See, I told you there was depth.

Drifting back from the meta realm, when watching The Little Mermaid you are watching a fantastic little film. There are movies that are fun and then there are movies that are a joy to watch. The Little Mermaid is a joy to watch, it is beautiful in every way that an animated film can be. The music is diverse, ranging from operatic to reggae, and the animation is lush and vibrant while offering images that are dark and haunting at the same time. The Little Mermaid has a sense of humor and the space of the film is full of interesting characters, even Eric who appears eternally bland has a moment near the end where he shows his worth.

It may have initially been lost amid the films that came after it, but do yourself a favor and rediscover The Little Mermaid. It’s a gem of a film that should ring universal for adult and child alike. Whether it is Ariel’s beautiful voice, the look of menace upon King Triton’s face as he destroys Ariel’s hiding place or the delicious evil that permeates Ursula there is something in The Little Mermaid for everyone. Maybe all you want is to have a fun time with characters you will like, whatever you want I don’t see how you can go wrong with The Little Mermaid.




8 responses to “Disney Animated Marathon: The Little Mermaid (1989)

  1. I liked this film. I think I used have the old VHS tape somewhere. My sister and I used to watch it a lot.

    Yet, I realize that there was a bit of controversy over the look of the castle. Some of it looked like penises and the priest had a boner.

    My favorite musical moment is “Under the Sea” and the way Sebastian the Crab danced. Oh, that takes me back.

  2. Nicely done, I completely agree with you on depth. It was only recently I heard someone refer to Ariel as a weak heroine because she gave up her one gift (her voice) for a man…but I always thought it was more than for a man. She just couldn’t function under the sea and as she said she really wanted to be part of that world – and that dedication is something brave I say.

    Love this movie (Kiss the Girl is just magical).

  3. Oh this brings back memories. I used to watch The Little Mermaid relentlessly as a child but haven’t seen it in years. Not sure how I’d take to it now but I recently watched the Wizard of Oz after having not seen it for ten years and was simply blown away. I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed it.

  4. hard to beat Under The Sea.

  5. mcarteratthemovies

    Good point about Ariel being a go-getter in her own way. I think people dismiss her as anti-feminist because she falls in love and goes against her values, but if you look closer she’s, well, she’s kind of a rebel.

    Ariel, however, is not my favorite character. That would be Ursula, one of the best female villains, cartoon or no, in movie history. She’s so relentlessly devious and clever I can’t help but love her.

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  8. Steven – My wife still has the VHS of this one because of the controversy.

    Encore – Thanks for the thoughts, it really is funny how differently people can interpret the themes of a film.

    Dan – I have a feeling that The Little Mermaid would still work for you.

    Ross – Indeed.

    M – I think the voice helps with Ursula, she has such a distinctive voice.

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