This week Disney released one of its most celebrated films for the first time on Blu-ray: the 1989 hit movie “The Little Mermaid.” “The Little Mermaid” is based on the fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen about a water fairy who wants to be human. The film, which featured an Oscar-winning score and song (“Under the Sea”), was Disney’s first fairy tale-based animated feature in decades, and it launched an animation renaissance. “The Little Mermaid” was the starting point for a great boom in animated films that is still going on today.
“The Little Mermaid” was released on video several times before its appearance on Blu-ray: in 1990 and 1998 on VHS cassette tape, on DVD in 1999, and in 2006 in a special Platinum Edition DVD. The Platinum Edition DVD had been digitally restored and offered a much cleaner picture and better sound quality.
The current Blu-ray release goes a step beyond the Platinum Edition DVD. The Blu-ray format offers enhanced sound and picture quality, both of which are noticeable on today’s HD televisions. Because the Blu-ray packs more information into its disc, there’s also room for a lot more extra features beyond the main film.
While the new release includes the material that was bundled into the Platinum Edition, it also includes a series of interviews and featurettes hosted by “The Little Mermaid”’s directors Ron Clements and John Musker. One featurette, “@DisneyAnimation,” focuses on some next-generation animators telling how “The Little Mermaid” made them want to work in animation and gave them a goal of eventually working for Disney. Musker and Clements also introduce a segment about a character called Harold the Merman who was cut from the original film because of time constraints. Vocal artist Jodi Benson (the voice of Ariel) hosts a segment on the new “Little Mermaid” ride at Walt Disney World. In addition, Disney has inserted a series of singalong segments featuring the lyrics of the film’s seven songs that are automatically started whenever “Pause” is pressed while the film is playing.
Most interesting are two longer featurettes: “Howard’s Lecture,” starring the late lyricist and scriptwriter Howard Ashman explaining the theoretical basis of the movie-musical, and “Under the Scene: The Art of Live Action Reference.” “Under the Scene” demonstrates how live-action models Sheri Stoner and Joshua Finkel were brought in to help animators reproduce realistic movement in the film’s major characters. The segment also features an interview with Disney star Kathryn Beaumont (who voiced Wendy in “Peter Pan” and Alice in “Alice in Wonderland”) who had been the visual reference model for Alice.
For these extras alone the Blu-ray is worth getting. They put the classic Disney film in perspective, making clear how much thought and effort went into creating a masterpiece.
And it’s a wonderful family film. See it with your kids! If you don’t have kids, borrow some for the occasion! Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” Diamond Edition is available at stores throughout the U.S. and Canada, and at Amazon.com. This is a must have for fairy fans!
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