The Little Mermaid (1989)

The Little Mermaid (1989)

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The exploding bidet caught her very much by surprise.
The exploding bidet caught her very much by surprise.

Twitter Plot Summary: Ariel is disenchanted with her life as a mermaid princess when she falls for a human prince.

Five Point Summary:

1. She’s a bit spoilt, by the looks of it.
2. Under Da Sea.
3. She’s willing to do a lot just to find a man. Use Tinder like everyone else.
4. Kiss De Girl.
5. Everything works out in the end. Of course it does.

As discussed extensively before, Disney had a bit of a rough time in the 1980s. The formula wasn’t quite gelling and efforts to do something a bit different were met with general disdain from the public. And so after a less than successful decade, Disney managed to get themselves back on the right track by combining a fun story with catchy songs and some enjoyable talking sea creatures thrown in for good measure. In many respects it’s a shame that Ariel doesn’t fit in with the traditional Disney Princess template by being totally drippy and willing to change herself wholesale in order to find true love with some guy she’s just met. In that respect she’s not so much a worthy status symbol for young girls, but more an indication as to how not to behave when searching for a prospective partner.

Ariel is disenchanted with her life under the sea as the mermaid daughter of King Triton. After a chance encounter with a sinking ship and Prince Eric, a typically dashing young man who is everything a girl could ever want – he even has a dog – she opts to give her voice away to the evil enchantress Ursula (for reasons that will become clear in the murky depths of the ocean) in exchange for legs so she can toddle onto land and woo Eric, albeit through sign language or something given that she can’t speak. It’s a little strange that Eric doesn’t find her lack of voice the least bit concerning, but then that would be adding an almost unnecessary level of detail to the story, wouldn’t it.

Crabs as headgear were all the rage in 1989.
Crabs as headgear were all the rage in 1989.

Thankfully despite the less than inspiring story the songs are great fun, with two of them – Under The Sea and Kiss The Girl – becoming Disney classics in the intervening years. The animated sequences accompanying the tracks are equally as good, and whereas Ariel isn’t as strong a character as you might hope, her lobster companion/advisor Sebastian is a worthwhile entry in the Disney catalogue of characters and despite his borderline racist dialogue is the best character to appear in this film by a long distance.

There are still elements of the darker edge that Disney have occasionally added to their films, most notably in an early sequence involving a very toothy shark. Suffice to say it may scare younger viewers, at least in these initial stages. The duo of Flotsam and Jetsam may also provide the odd nightmare, for their sinister voices and yellow eye apiece. Our villain of the piece is Ursula, half fat woman, half squid/octopus with a voice that could only come from smoking a hundred cigarettes a day. Given that she lives “under da sea” that is perhaps an unlikely sequence of events as the cigarettes would undoubtedly be a touch soggy. Her plan, to steal Ariel’s voice and steal Eric away from her, is Disney Villainy 101, but lacks the impact of the earlier classics. At least The Little Mermaid marked Disney’s return to form and led into their later dominance in the early 1990s, even if the film itself doesn’t quite reach the same levels as those later hits of the 90s.

Score: 3.5/5

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