As a kid, I always remember The Little Mermaid being one of my favorite Disney cartoons. It had just about everything a kid like me could want in a movie. The animation is great, characters a lot of fun, and the story an all around fantastic experience.
The Little Mermaid takes place in the underwater kingdom of what I presume to be Atlantis, where a young, rebellious mermaid named Ariel (Jodi Benson) is preoccupied with human life on land. One day Ariel swims to the ocean surface, where she immediately falls in love with a prince named Eric (Christopher Daniel Barnes). Since falling in love with a human is something her father King Triton (Kenneth Mars) strictly prohibits, Ariel is forced to make a deal with a witch named Ursula (Pat Carroll) in order to become a human. Now it is up to Ariel to get the prince to fall in love with her in just three days, or else she will reap the consequences of her dangerous deal with Ursula.
The main protagonist of Ariel is one that people either seem to love or hate. Some argue that her character is inquisitive and interesting, others argue she is just a whiny child with no development throughout the plot. While I do agree that she was flawed, I still seemed to enjoy her character. I thought she was kind, adventurous, and inquisitive of the world around her. She isn’t the strongest written Disney princess, but she is engaging enough with proper support.
And just about all the side characters in The Little Mermaid were exceedingly entertaining. Scuttle, a goofy seagull voiced by Buddy Hackett, was one of these entertaining characters. His expressions, mannerisms, and sense of humor are all a lot of fun to watch. One scene in particular, where he mistakes common items like a fork for a comb, always manages to get me laughing.
Ursula, the antagonist of The Little Mermaid, was another greatly written character. She has to be one of the most devious and meddling Disney villains I’ve ever seen. I noticed very quickly that she gets a lot more screen time than your typical Disney villain, and rightfully so. Her diabolical plan and sheer energy makes her my favorite character in the film.
The Little Mermaid‘s animation is of usual Disney quality, very fluent and visually appealing to watch. The backgrounds are all beautifully hand drawn, and the color palette chosen for the film was impeccable. This is a film that you could really get lost in just how nice everything looks.
The one minor issue I take with The Little Mermaid is the pacing of the third act, as it has always seemed hastily rushed. How quickly the film wraps all of its loose ends up is somewhat off-putting. I definitely think they could’ve let things play out a little more and given an even better ending to an already amazing story.
In all honesty, I love this film just as much now as I did when I was a kid. The Little Mermaid has all the great features that you’d expect from a highly regarded Disney flick. The animation is some of the best that Disney has to offer, the characters are nicely written, and the music (especially the song “Under the Sea”) is exceptionally enjoyable. I watched it as a kid, and I’m definitely going to continue watching it as an adult.
The Verdict: A-