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
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
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
Digital-Only Content That Appeared on the Diamond Blu-ray
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.