Without the success of “The Little Mermaid,” other Disney movies like “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Lion King” would have not existed. The 1989 animated adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale was the beginning of Disney’s resurrection in terms of creating memorable and unforgettable films after several years of failing to produce animated films that is universally loved.
Ariel (Jodi Benson) is a free-spirited teenage mermaid with a beautiful voice who is fascinated by the human world despite her father’s, King Triton (Kenneth Mars), objection. Triton enlists his advisor, Sebastian the Crab (Samuel E. Wright), to keep an eye on her daughter to make sure she doesn’t do anything foolish. Rebelling against her father’s wishes, Ariel goes to the surface and immediately falls in love with a human prince, Eric (Christopher Daniel Barnes).
When her father finds out about this, he destroys Ariel’s room full of human memorabilia. Desperately wanting to part of the human world, Ariel strikes a deal with sea-witch Ursula (Pat Carroll) by giving her voice to her so she can be human. However, Ursula has bigger plans in mind including getting her revenge on Triton.
“The Little Mermaid” has all the elements of a classic Disney movie: a princess falling in love with a prince, broad comedy and catchy songs. Coming off the heels of “The Great Mouse Detective,” filmmakers Ron Clements and John Musker used every tool in their disposal from computer effects to live action reference footage to create a film which was considered the most expensive Disney movie before the age of CGI animation. The only problem with this movie is that the character arc of Ariel is schizophrenic. She goes from being this heroic and bold character in the first half to being relegated to just reacting to the action in the scene in the second half. “The Little Mermaid” may not be the best Disney animated film, but the ambition and success of it would set the stages for things to come in Disney’s second Golden Age.
Despite coming out in theaters twenty four years ago, it looks like the animation of “The Little Mermaid” has not aged one day thanks to the Blu-ray’s excellent video transfer. There are no signs of damage or dirt on the animation. The video presentation also showcases bold colors and the fantastic details shown in the world of “The Little Mermaid” really showcases the craftsmanship of the animators.
While there are a ton of special features from the 2006 Platinum Edition DVD edition were ported over to the Blu-ray, there are a handful of new extras presented in high definition. Among the new bonus material, there are two of them that stand out the most. “@DisneyAnimation” is a fantastic ten-minute featurettes on current Disney animators whose work and motivations were mostly inspired by “The Little Mermaid.” “Under the Scene” is a fascinating extra that focuses on how the filmmakers of “The Little Mermaid” used a technique Walt Disney used when he made movies, which is shooting live action reference material to help the animators create realistic human performances.
Despite some flaws, “The Little Mermaid” is still a Disney animated classic that built the foundation for one of the greatest eras of modern animation. The near-flawless video transfer does make the movie look like it aged at all and the special features gives you a look at the making of a Disney classic that laid the groundwork for upcoming Disney films during the 1990s. This is a must-own for anybody who grew up watching the movie during their childhood and Disney animation fans.