Disney's The Little Mermaid had its premier in November 1989, and in its wake left a massive imprint on the collective mind of pop culture. The Little Mermaid kicked-off Disney's Rennaisance Years, making animation cool and relevant again, after the slump they faced during the 1980s. The movie was directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, a directing dynamic duo who were also behind The Great Mouse Detective, Aladdin, Hercules, Treasure Planet, The Princess and the Frog and Moana.

Disney's The Little Mermaid tells the tale of Ariel, the little mermaid who's more curious about the forbidden human world than is healthy for her. Despite the restraints set upon by her protective father, Ariel continues to visit the surface and one day sets eyes upon Prince Eric, who immediately steals her heart. She saves his life, and the bond brings forth love in the young mermaid's heart. She could have been content (for a while) as it were with her yearnings, but an ill-timed confrontation with her father sets Ariel's plan in motion: she'll make her love known to Eric. A deal with the wicked sea-witch Ursula has Ariel trading in her voice for legs and a chance to win Eric's heart within three days, or else all is lost.

The movie brought to prominence stage actress Jodi Benson as the voice of Ariel, as it did Pat Caroll as Ursula and Samuel E. Wright as Sebastian. The rest of the cast includes Christopher Daniel Barnes as Eric, Jason Marin as Founder, Kenneth Mars as King Triton, Buddy Hackett as Scuttle, Ben Wright as Grimsby, Paddi Edwards as Flotsam and Jetsam, Edie McClurg as Carlotta and Rene Auberjonois as Chef Louis.

The Music

The Little Mermaid has music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman, both of whom also played roles in the shaping of Ariel's story. The original soundtrack was released in 1989, and won that year's Academy Award for Best Original Score and Best Original Song (for Under the Sea).

Song List

  1. Fathoms Below [ lyrics ]
  2. Daughters Of Triton [ lyrics ]
  3. Part Of Your World [ lyrics ]
  4. Under The Sea [ lyrics ]
  5. Part Of Your World (reprise) [ lyrics ]
  6. Poor Unfortunate Souls [ lyrics ]
  7. Les Poissons [ lyrics ]
  8. Kiss The Girl [ lyrics ]
  9. Poor Unfortunate Souls (reprise) [ lyrics ]
  10. Happy Ending [ lyrics ]

For a complete tracklist and related albums, visit the music page.

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Home media releases

The Little Mermaid broke new ground with its initial release on VHS in 1990, a mere few months after the film was released in theatres, making it an unusual move for the relatively new home media industry. In 1998 there was another VHS release under the Masterpiece Collection.

The first DVD came along in 1999 in the Limited Issue DVD, which didn't have much in the way of extras. This was fixed in 2006 with the release of the 2-disc Platinum Edition DVD, which also had restored video and audio, and came with a whole bunch of extras including new restrospective featurettes, deleted scenes, and games (full list of extras below). In 2008, the film was released again in a The Little Mermaid Trilogy set that includes The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea and The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning.

In 2013 the film was released again as part of the Diamond Edition, with the DVD and Blu-Ray versions having different covers. The films were remastered for high-def, though sadly there were some errors in this remaster, in that a few seconds during "Part of Your World" were switched around (though people who traded in their DVDs/Blu-Rays could get a fixed version), plus a few seconds were shaved off from a number of scene transitions. This Diamond Edition DVD/Blu-Ray was also bundled together with its sequel and prequel in a The Little Mermaid Complete Collection.

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List of DVD/Blu-Ray extras

Platinum Edition (2006)

Diamond Edition (2013)

Plus the following extras which are all transferred from the Platinum Edition DVD:

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Video links
All the links below go to youtube videos uploaded by other people.
Disney Channel's Making of The Little Mermaid (1989)
This behind-the-scene feature was aired prior to the premiere of the film, and is hosted by Alyssa Milano, who introduces the various creators and cast involved in the making of the film. There's some great interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. The whole video is just under 30 minutes.
Recording Part of Your World (1989)
Some great footage of Jodi Benson recording "Part of Your World" in the studio, with Howard Ashman directing her. (6.31 mins)
Live-action references (2006)
This featurette from the Platinum Edition DVD has footage from the live-action references with Sherri Stoner as Ariel. (1.43 mins)
The Making of The Little Mermaid (1989)
This behind-the-scenes feature has some interviews and work-in-progress footage from the film. (6.43 mins)
Deleted/Alternate Scenes
These are some deleted/alternate scenes that didn't make the film, but were saved for the Platinum and Diamond DVD releases.
Trailer (1989)
One of the trailers used to promote the film. (2.15 mins)

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Hans Christian Andersen

Disney's film is based on "The Little Mermaid", a story written by Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen and published in 1837.

A classic fairytale, Andersen's story is melancholy and spiritual, following the actions of the little mermaid when she falls in love with a human and learns the cost and sacrifices that come with it. Central to this original story is the fact that merfolk live for hundreds of years but turn to sea foam when they die; in comparison, humans have shorter lifespans but have immortal souls that live on forever. It's through the little mermaid's selfless love that she gets to move on from her original fate and into a new one.

The themes of the original story are very different from Disney's adaptation, which turns it into a modern coming-of-age story with a father-daughter relationship at the centre of it, along with a Faustian plot courtesy of Ursula's manipulations.

I have a section elsewhere on this website for other adapations of Hans Christian Andersen's story.

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