Walt Disney’s The Little Mermaid is the ‘happy ending’ take on Hans Christian Anderson’s cautionary tale on being careful what you wish for (in his version, Ariel dies).
The Disney take reworks the ending to make Ariel’s story a coming-of-age and following your dreams story.
Technically, The Little Mermaid is remarkable for several small bits of CGI (listen to the excellent audio commentary track for details), as well as its brilliant hand-drawn animation.
The story of Ariel’s reaching for her dreams (she has a cavern full of artifacts from the world above the ocean and yearns to explore that world) combines a hero’s journey (wanting and striving for a goal; having it taken out of her reach and then, achieving that goal) with culture clash (Ariel finds the world of humans to be very different from her aquatic realm) in ways that are perhaps a bit scary (Ursula is one of Disney’s best villains – and her price for helping Ariel is devastating).
While not a musical, per se, The Little Mermaid has some truly brilliant songs (Under the Sea won the Oscar for Best song) and a score that elegantly captures and enhances each of the film’s moods without ever calling attention to itself.
The Little Mermaid is well written and filled with terrific characters and more than a few moving moments.
Extras include: Alan Menken and the Leading Ladies; What I Want from You Is… Your Voice; Stories from Walt’s Office: Gadgets and Gizmos; #TreasuresUntold; DCapella Music Video – Part of Your World; Deleted Character: Harold the Merman; Under the Scene: The Art of Live-Action Reference; Howard’s Lecture; Audio commentary by Co-Writers/Directors Ron Clements and John Musker and composer Alan Menken; Classic Bonus Preview
Grade: The Little Mermaid – A
Grade: Extras – A+
Final Grade: A