REVIEW: The Little Mermaid
The Little Mermaid rekindled Walt Disney’s animation excellence, launching the current wave of films and fascination with the princesses. It remains a stunning piece of work, with excellent songs and vocal performances, that continues to hold up well with repeated viewings. Jodi Benson’s innocent, yearning Ariel is well matched by the scheming Pat Carroll as Ursula, one of the more frightening antagonists in the animated oeuvre.
For me, though, the film’s magical place in history is enhanced because it was the first film we took Kate to see. Snuggled between us, on a booster seat to see the screen, she was enchanted, eyes wide and riveted. I enjoyed it from a craft and entertainment standpoint, but she fell in love because of the Disney magic.
The 1989 release is out as part of their 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray Signature Collection line (number eight in the set, collect ‘em all).
The well-known story is nicely adapted from the original Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale. We have the sixteen-year-old mermaid wishing to experience a life of adventure, unaware of having to be careful for what one desires. After defying her father King Triton (Kenneth Mars), she discovers the shipwrecked Prince Eric (Christopher Daniel Barnes), and instantly falls in love. She makes a horrible deal with Ursula, who will grant her human form in exchange for her voice and we go from there.
Being a Disney film, there are several creature comrades, often the making or breaking of a film. Here, Sebastian the crab (Samuel E. Wright), Flounder (Jason Marin), and Scuttle (Buddy Hackett), more than fit the bill.
The Alan Menken and Howard Ashman score adds a dimension lacking in Disney animated fare going back to the last great musical, The Jungle Book. The music and songs are just a delight, with Caribbean themes and more traditional Broadway fare mixed in. The story actually follows the musical formula, complete with Bensons lovely ‘I want song’ “Part of your World’.
The Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD combo pack was reviewed and I can attest that the new high def transfer is superior to the Diamond Edition. The 4K is said to be even sharper, but the colors here just pop. The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 lossless soundtrack, though, is the Diamond Edition version, very good, but could be better.
There are some new bonus features with older ones reserved for the digital edition. One such addition is the Sing-Along mode, perfect for sleepovers.
New Blu-ray features:
Alan Menken and the Leading Ladies (15:45) as Benson, Paige O’Hara (Belle), Judy Kuhn (Pocahontas’ singing voice), Lillias White (Muse), and Donna Murphy (Mother Gothel) share what working with Menken has been like.
“What I Want from You Is… Your Voice” (5:47): Watch Wright, Hackett, Carroll, and Benson rehearse their parts and later discuss their roles.
Stories from Walt’s Office: Gadgets and Gizmos (6:01): Apparently, Walt collected tchotchkes and we tour his preserved collection.
#Treasuresuntold (5:40), “Part of Your World” Music Video (3:01), Deleted Character: Harold the Merman (2:05), Under the Scene: The Art of Live Action Reference (13:13), Howard’s Lecture (16:27), and Audio Commentary: Writers/Directors Ron Clements and John Musker and composer Alan Menken. Also available digitally.
Exclusive Digital Extra:
“Part of Your World” – A Look Back (5:50): Menken and Benson revisit “Part of Your World”, examining its impact beyond the film.
Digital-Only Content That Appeared on the Diamond Blu-ray Disc:
Fathoms Below – Alternate Version, Backstage with Sebastian, Advice from Sebastian, Fight with Ursula – Alternate Ending, The Little Mermaid – The Story Behind the Story, @Disney Animation, Part of Her World: Jodi Benson’s Voyage to New Fantasyland, Storm Warning: The Little Mermaid Special Effects Unit, “Part of Your World”, Ride the Attraction, Under the Sea Early Presentation Reel, Disneypedia: Life Under the Sea, Kiss the Girl Music Video Performed by Ashley Tisdale, Original Theatrical Trailer “Les Poissons”, Sebastian Lost in the Castle, Behind “The Ride that Almost Was”, Prologue: Flower Street, “Silence is Golden” Song Demo, “Poor Unfortunate Souls” Extended, “Under the Sea”, “Poor Unfortunate Souls”, “Kiss the Girl”, Act I: Renaissance Men, Act II: A Symphony of Talent, Act III: Broadway Comes to Burbank:, Act IV: Setting Sail, and Act V: A Mermaid Sings.
Missing from the Diamond Edition: The Little Match Girl, John & Ron Make Caricatures of Each Other, Animators Comment on their Characters, The Little Mermaid Handshake.