The Little Mermaid (1989) – Ron Clements and John Musker

Hans Christian Anderson’s classic fairy tale gets the Disney makeover in this the first recommendation from the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book following my screening of The Lion King.

While Lion King is undeniably more popular, The Little Mermaid was the film that more or less launched the Disney renaissance. Prior to that, the company had floundered with a series of less than stellar-performing films. A shake-up in management and creative teams revitalised the company, and The Little Mermaid was the first effort of the reborn animation department.

The story follows rebellious mermaid, Ariel (Jodi Benson) and her pals, Flounder (Jason Marin), Scuttle (Buddy Hackett) and Sebastian (Samuel E. Wright) as she goes against her father, Triton’s (Kenneth Mars) wishes, and goes to the surface where she falls in love with a human.

Not just any human, this is a Disney movie after all, he’s a a prince, Eric (Christopher Daniel Barnes).

Bartering her voice away to Ursula (Pat Carroll) the Sea Witch, for a pair of legs, she tries to win Eric’s heart, but she only has three days to do it.

Featuring songs by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, the music is filled with joy, emotion, and like the best songs in musicals, advance the plot. They also took two Oscars home at that year’s Academy Awards – one for Best Original Score, and one for the song, Under the Sea. That’s too bad, as I personally prefer Part of Your World. This is what would become known as the “I Want” song which would be introduced to subsequent Disney films, that lets the film’s lead character express their life’s desire early in the film through song.


There is humour, a fairly decent story, though Ariel is probably my least favourite character in the Disney princess catalogue (I was always more a fan of Belle).

Hard to believe this film is twenty-eight years old! It still captivates and entertains as the all the best Disney films have the ability to do.

Hand-drawn animation, the film is fluid, marvellous, and still wonderful to look at – wonderful colours, fantastic opticals for the underwater sequences, and well-realised characters.

It also features a spectacular cast, including Rene Auberjonois as the chef, Louis.

The film is a delight, and also brings back so many memories for me. I know where I was when I saw it, when I discovered the music for it, and how it got me back into sketching (something I’m struggling to get back into).

Disney inspires, and even if this film may not be the best of the revitalised Disney, it did launch it, and will always hold a spot in my heart. Heck, I’m a big enough softie to admit it.

And who doesn’t love Under the Sea or Kiss the Girl?





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