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Monday, June 25, 2012

The Little Mermaid

Happy June!  Since it is my birth month, I am being self-indulgent and writing about all of my favourite movies.  For some of the more well-known movies out there, I will be mostly reflecting on the why it is one of my favourites, as opposed to the usual format of a plot rundown and a wee little bit of reflection.  Not all of my favourite movies are classics – some fall into the guilty pleasure category – but whatever.  It’s my birthday month, deal with it.  OK, disclaimer out of the way, let us begin...

#329: The Little Mermaid.  I saw this movie five times in the theatre when it first came out.  I sang “Part of Your World” at my eighth grade talent show.  I love this movie.  It was Disney’s return to greatness, and paved the way for Beauty and the Beast

The Players:

Ariel: Voiced by Jodi Benson.  Ariel is pretty much a spoiled mer-brat, who is obsessed with humans and falls in love with one.  OK, she’s got a good heart and isn’t really too bad, but let’s be real.  She’s a little bit of a brat.

Eric: Voiced by Christopher Daniel Barnes.  Eric isn’t too bright.  But he’s cute, and falls in love with Ariel (or, rather, her voice) after she saves him from drowning.  But really, he can’t put two and two together?  Oh, well, he’s cute and owns a castle.  That’s all you need, right?

Sebastian: Voiced by Samuel E. Wright.  Sebastian is a crab, and he is King Triton’s right hand man.  He is also the Mer-Kingdom’s official music director.  He usually tries to be the voice of reason, but no one really listens to him.

Flounder: Voiced by Jason Marin.  Flounder is Ariel’s best friend.  He’s kind of a whiner, but he means well most of the time.

Scuttle: Voiced by Buddy Hackett.  Scuttle is Ariel’s link to the surface world.  He can tell her about all of the things she finds in the ocean from the surface, but he’s usually wrong. 

King Triton: Voiced by Kenneth Mars.  King Triton is the ruler of the sea, and a very frustrated father.  He loves his daughter, and wants nothing more than to protect her, but has a hard time keeping her safe.  Like most fathers.

Ursula: Voiced by Pat Carroll.  Ursula is the sea witch, and the villain.  She’s part squid, and fabulous.  She was banished from the Kingdom, and wants control over the sea.  So she uses Ariel as leverage. 

So, I am assuming you’ve seen this or at least heard of it, and since I had to work insane amounts of hours the past two days, I am in no mood for a full-on rundown.  Ariel is obsessed with the human world, saves Prince Eric from a shipwreck, makes a deal with Ursula to become human (in exchange for her voice), gets Eric to fall in love with her, Ursula deceives Eric and almost marries him, big battle at sea, Eric kills Ursula, King Triton learns to let go of his daughter, and Ariel and Eric live happily ever after.

So, why do I love this?  I remember getting beyond excited for this before it came out – Ariel was unlike any Disney Princess I’d seen before (I think it was the red hair), Eric was a fine Prince, and the music sounded great.  I was in fifth/sixth grade, so everyone thought I was totally lame for being excited about this movie, but I was raised on old musicals and Disney movies, so this was right up my alley.  It was the beginning of the Renaissance Period for Disney, the first animated feature to feel like a Broadway musical, and a major reason for that is it was the first collaboration between Allen & Menkin and Disney. 

The music for this is fantastic.  There is not one bad song here, from the opener “Fathoms Below” to the recurring “Part of Your World”, even the little “throw-away” song “Les Poisson” is delightful.  The score also feels magical and fits with the under water theme perfectly.  Now, if you listen close to “Part of Your World” and “Somewhere That’s Green” from Little Shop of Horrors, you will find a lot of similarities, but really who cares?  They are both fantastic songs.  “Under the Sea” won the Oscar for Best Original Song that year, and it was well-deserved.  It is fun, it describes the beauty and excitement of sea life, and the visuals to go with it are stunning.

This whole movie is beautiful to look at, especially the under water stuff.  Ever since I was a little kid, I have been obsessed with the ocean, and marine life.  At one point I wanted to be a Marine Biologist and study whales.  I attribute the water obsession in part to my parents, who are from Rhode Island, and especially my dad who is also water-obsessed, and the fact that I am a Cancer, which is a water sign.  At any rate, I fell in love with the under water Kingdom, and wondered why Ariel couldn’t just ask her father to make Eric a merman so they could live together under the sea, because Sebastian was right- life is just better under the sea.

I also have to give serious credit to the animators.  Animating scenes under water is a major challenge, since there is constant movement.  Utilizing a the time new computer technology combined with the artistry and skill of the animators, they were able to create a believable under water world.  Hats off to you guys!

Ursula is a delightful villain, although not nearly as badass as Maleficent, but she’s still sufficiently creepy. 

The only downside to this movie, I think, is Ariel’s depth.  She is kind of one-note, but then again, so are most of the Princesses.  We didn’t really see a lot of character development until Beauty and the Beast.  So, it’s par for the course.  Although, I have to give a mad shout-out to Jodi Benson.  I adore her in everything she does, and she really nailed everything about Ariel.  She made her more sympathetic, because she really could have been a true brat if not voiced just right.

If you haven’t seen this, what is wrong with you?!  If you have, check it out again.  It’s amazing!

That’s a Wrap!  Up Next: get out your dancing shoes! 

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