The Little Mermaid
1989, G, 83 min. Directed by John Musker, Ron Clements. Voices by Rene Auberjonois, Christopher Daniel Barnes, Jodi Benson, Pat Carroll, Paddi Edwards, Buddy Hackett, Jason Marin, Kenneth Mars, Samuel E. Wright, Ben Wright.
REVIEWED By Warren Spector, Fri., Nov. 24, 1989
Forget Don Bluth. Forget Richard Williams. Forget Ralph Bakshi. The only name to remember, if animation's what you're after this holiday season, is Disney. Destined to join the ranks of Disney's earlier classics, The Little Mermaid follows the studio's old formula to the letter: A little music, a little action, and a scary scene or two followed by some physical humor; throw in a boy-meets-girl story, a healthy dose of sentimentality, a few bits of business sure to go over Junior's head but aimed straight at Mom and Dad… you've seen it all before. You'll meet Ariel, the 16-year-old mermaid of the title and daughter of King Triton. One day she encounters Prince Eric the (hu)man of her dreams, but their love seems doomed. Enter the evil sea witch Ursula, a half-octopus/half-human creature who transforms Ariel into a human girl, taking the mermaid's lovely voice in the process. The little mermaid has just three days to convince the human prince that she is his true love; if she fails she'll spend eternity in Ursula's garden of condemned souls. You can probably figure out what happens. What you can't figure out is how beautiful The Little Mermaid is in the telling of its story. All of the musical numbers are worthy of note. They utilize the simple melodies and lush orchestration of Disney films of old with just enough MTV influence to keep today's kids bouncing in their seats. The Little Mermaid marks the end of an era of good -- even very good -- Disney animated features, and the start (one hopes) of a new period of great ones.