Poor Unfortunate Souls

movie version . demo version . on the record version . jonas brothers version . broadway demo version . broadway version

This is Ursula's song, I believe is one of the greatest and most well-used villain songs in animation. Ursula is a larger-than-life character who's not afraid to flaunt herself in this wicked cunning song that starts out quite calmly and then goes over-the-top. In this sequence, Ursula tries to trick Ariel into agreeing to a questionable contract, one that is designed to trap her no matter what she does. It is interesting to note that in Disney's version of the story, it is only at this moment that Ariel starts to realise just how much she'd have to give up if she wants to be with Eric.

The following lyrics include the dialogue snippet that's in the soundtrack recording. The movie, of course, has a longer exchange between Ursula and Ariel.

(printable version)


Ursula:
The only way to get what you want is to become a human yourself.

Ariel:
Can you do that?

Ursula:
My dear, sweet child, that's what I do. It's what I live for. To help unfortunate merfolk like yourself. Poor souls with no one else to turn to.

I admit that in the past I've been a nasty
They weren't kidding when they called me, well, a witch
But you'll find that nowadays, I've mended all my ways
Repented, seen the light and made a switch
True? Yes

And I fortunately know a little magic
It's a talent that I always have possessed
And here lately, please don't laugh, I use it on behalf
Of the miserable, the lonely and depressed (pathetic)

Poor unfortunate souls
In pain, in need
This one longing to be thinner
That one wants to get the girl
And do I help them? Yes, indeed

Those poor unfortunate souls
So sad, so true
They come flocking to my cauldron
Crying "spells, Ursula please!"
And I help them? Yes, I do

Now it's happened once or twice
Someone couldn't pay the price
And I'm afraid I had to rake 'em across the coals
Yes, I've had the odd complaint
But on the whole I've been a saint
To those poor unfortunate souls

Have we got a deal?

Ariel:
If I become human, I'll never be with my father or sisters again.

Ursula: That's right. But... you'll have your man. Life's full of tough choices, ain't it? Oh, and there is one more thing. We haven't discussed the subject of payment. You can't get something for nothing, you know.

Ariel:
But I don't have-

Ursula:
What I'm asking is just token really, a trifle. You'll never miss it. What I want from you is... your voice.

Ariel:
My voice?

Ursula:
You got it sweetcakes. No more talking, singing - zip.

Ariel:
But without my voice, how can I...?

Ursula:
You have your looks, your pretty face
And don't underestimate the importance of body language

The men up there don't like a lot of blabber
They think a girl who gossips is a bore
Yes, on land it's much preferred
For ladies not to say a word
And after all, dear, what is idle prattle for?

Come on
They're not all that impressed with conversation
True gentlemen avoid it when they can
But they dote and swoon and fawn
On the lady who's withdrawn
And she who holds her tongue who gets her man

Come on, you poor unfortunate soul
Go ahead, make your choice
I'm a very busy woman and I haven't got all day
It won't cost much, just your voice

You poor unfortunate soul
It's sad, but true

If you want to cross the bridge, my sweet
You've to pay the toll
Take a gulp and take a breath
And go ahead and sign the scroll
Flotsam, Jetsam, now I've got her boys
The boss is on a roll
This poor unfortunate soul

Beluga, sevruga
Come winds of the Caspian sea
Larynxes, glossitis
Et max laryngitis
La voce to me
Now sing...

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Poor Unfortunate Souls: Demo Version

In its earlier draft stages, Ursula's song was longer, containing an additional set of verses in the interlude when Ursula explains the "three days" agreement to Ariel. This verse is included in the demo version that's saved for posterity in The Music Behind the Magic and the Legacy Collection albums. Howard Ashman performed the role of Ursula in this track with such wonderful relish and theatricality.

(printable version)

I admit that in the past I've been a nasty
They weren't kidding when they called me, well, a witch
But you'll find that nowadays, I've mended all my ways
Repented, seen the light and made a switch
True? Yes

And I fortunately know a little magic
It's a talent that I always have possessed
And here lately, please don't laugh, I use it on behalf
Of the miserable, the lonely and depressed (pathetic)

Poor unfortunate souls
In pain, in need
This one longing to be thinner
That one wants to get the girl
Do I help them? Yes, indeed

Those poor unfortunate souls
So sad, so true
They come flocking to my cauldron
Crying "spells, Ursula please!"
And I help them? Yes, I do

Now it's happened once or twice
That someone couldn't pay the price
And I'm afraid I've had to rake 'em 'cross the coals
Yes, I've had the odd complaint
But on the whole I've been a saint
To those poor unfortunate souls

Here's the deal. I'll make you a potion that'll turn you into a human for three days. Got that? Three days. Now listen, this is important. Before the sun sets on the third day, you've got to get dear 'ol princey to fall in love with you. Specifically, he's got to kiss you. Not just any kiss, a special kiss, the kiss of true love. And if he does kiss you before the sun sets on the third day, you'll remain human permanently. If he doesn't, you turn back into a mermaid, and you belong to me.

Now Ariel, don't be stupid, don't listen to her, she'll...

Have we got a deal?

If I become human, I'll never be with my father or sisters again.

That's right. But you'll have your man. Life's full of tough choices, isn't it?

Come on, I know you need a little magic
And magic is my specialty du jour
Don't just stand there looking sick
Would I kid you, play a trick?
Like I told you, I don't do that anymore

So I think you ought to take my little bargain
Yes, I think you ought to make my little deal
Sure it's hard to leave your life, but you could be a prince's wife
Why don't you let me take that dream and make it real

Come on, you poor unfortunate soul
Poor child, poor fish
Aren't you glad you brought your problem to a lady you can trust
Won't you let me grant your wish

You poor unfortunate soul
Poor sweet, poor dear
Aren't you lucky that I'm ready with a potion and a plan
Aren't you glad you came and asked if I could help you, and I can
When a mermaid comes to Ursula, she always gets her man
You poor unfortunate soul

Oh oh oh, I almost forgot. We haven't discussed the subject of payment. You know, you can't get something for nothing.

But I don't have any-

I'm not asking much. Just token really, a trifle. You'll never even miss it. What I want from you... is your voice.

My voice?

You got it sweetcakes. No more talking, singing - zip.

But without my voice, how can I...?

You have your looks, your pretty face
And don't underestimate the importance of body language

The men up there don't like a lot of blabber
They think a girl who gossips is a bore
Yes, on land it's much preferred
For ladies not to say a word
And after all, dear, what is idle prattle for?

Come on
They're not all that impressed with conversation
True gentlemen avoid it when they can
But they dote and swoon and fawn
On a lady who's withdrawn
And she who holds her tongue, who gets her man

You poor unfortunate soul
Go ahead, make your choice
I'm a very busy woman and I haven't got all day
It won't cost much, just your voice

You poor unfortunate soul
It's sad, but true

If you want to cross a bridge, my sweet
You've to pay the toll
Take a gulp and take a breath
And go ahead and sign the scroll
Flotsam, Jetsam, now I've got her boys
The boss is on a roll
This poor unfortunate soul

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Poor Unfortunate Souls: On the Record

The musical review Disney: On the Record includes Ursula's song in its setlist, and their version is a cheeky, upbeat, melodramatic rendition that would make Ursula herself proud.

I admit that in the past I've been a nasty
They weren't kidding when they called me, well, a witch
But you'll find that nowadays, I've mended all my ways
Repented, seen the light and made a switch
True? Yes

And I fortunately know a little magic
It's a talent that I always have possessed
And here lately, please don't laugh, I use it on behalf
Of the miserable, lonely and depressed (pathetic)

Poor unfortunate souls
In pain, in need
This one longing to be thinner
That one wants to get the girl
And do I help them? Yes, indeed

You poor unfortunate soul
Go ahead, make your choice
I'm a very busy woman and I haven't got all day
It won't cost much, just your voice

You poor unfortunate soul
It's sad, but true

If you want to cross a bridge, my sweet
You've got to pay the toll
Take a gulp and take a breath
Go ahead, sign the scroll
Flotsam, Jetsam, now I've got her boys
The boss is on a roll
You poor unfortunate soul

Beluga, sevruga
Come winds of the Caspian sea
Larynxes, glossitis
Et max laryngitis
La voce to me
Now sing...

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Poor Unfortunate Souls: Jonas Brothers Version

While the other main songs of The Little Mermaid have been covered back to front by many artists, Poor Unfortunate Souls is a difficult song to cover because it's used as part of the storytelling and to advance the plot forward. However, pop rock band Jonas Brothers managed to do their own pop rock take of Ursula's villain song, changing the lyrics to give it completely new context. A nice (and even hilarious) touch is that they've changed the mention of "Flotsam, Jetsam" to "Nicky, Kevin".

This version was originally included in the 2-CD Special Edition re-release of the movie soundtrack.

(printable version)

I admit that in the past I've been a nasty
They weren't kidding when they called me kinda strange
But you'll find that nowadays, I've mended all my ways
Repented, seen the light and made a change

And I fortunately know a little secret
It's a talent that I always have possessed
And here lately, please don't laugh, I use it on behalf
Of the miserable, lonely and depressed
Pathetic!

Poor unfortunate souls
In pain, in need
This one longing to be thinner
This one wants to get the girl
And do I help them? Yes, indeed

Those poor unfortunate souls
So sad, so true
They come flocking to me, crying
"Will you help us, pretty please?"
And I help them? Yes, I do

The men up there don't like a lot of blabber
They think a girl who gossips is a bore
Yes, on land it's much preferred
For ladies not to say a word
And after all, dear, what is idle prattle for?

They're not all that impressed with conversation
True gentlemen avoid it when they can
But they dote and swoon and fawn
On ladies who're withdrawn
And she who holds her tongue who gets her man

Poor unfortunate souls
Go ahead, make your choice
I'm a very busy person and I haven't got all day
It won't cost much, just your voice

Those poor unfortunate souls
So sad, so true

If you want to cross a bridge, my sweet
You've to pay the toll
Take a gulp, take a breath
Go ahead, sign the scroll
Nicky, Kevin, now I've got her, boys
The boss is on a roll

You poor unfortunate souls
In pain, in need
This one longing to be thinner
This one wants to get the girl
And do I help them? Yes, indeed

Those poor unfortunate souls
So sad, so true
They come flocking to me, crying
"Will you help us, pretty please?"
And I help them? Yes, I do

Those poor unfortunate souls

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Poor Unfortunate Souls: Broadway Demo Version

The Broadway demo version of Ursula's villain song has almost the same lyrics, but a surprisingly different feel, which is all in the delivery. Emily Skinner presents a different sort of Ursula, and though she is just as conniving, she is not "seducing" Ariel to the dark side with false promises. This Ursula corners Ariel into a box, pressuring her to make an obviously ill decision at knife point.

(printable version)

I admit that in the past I've been a nasty
They weren't kidding when they called me, well, a witch
But you'll find that nowadays, I've mended all my ways
Repented, seen the light and made a switch
True? Yes

And I fortunately know a little magic
It's a talent that I always have possessed
And here lately, please don't laugh, I use it on behalf
Of the miserable, the lonely and depressed; pathetic

Poor unfortunate souls
In pain, in need
This one longing to be thinner
That one wants to get the girl
And do I help them? Yes, indeed

Those poor unfortunate souls
So sad, so true
They come flocking to my cauldron
Crying "spells, Ursula please!"
And do I help them? Yes, I do

Now it's happened once or twice
That someone couldn't pay the price
And I'm afraid I had to rake 'em 'cross the coals
Yes, I've had the odd complaint
But on the whole I've been a saint
To those poor unfortunate souls


Ooh, here's a thought. What if I turn you into a human for three days. A trial run, so to speak. But before the sun sets on the third day, you must get princey to fall in love with you, i.e. give you the kiss of true love. *muah* If he does, then bingo, you're home, you're his, you're happy ever after.

Ariel:
And if he doesn't?

Ursula:
Oh, I throw a little salt on your tail and gobble you up. (laughs) Or your daddy. (laughs) I'm jesting, child, jesting. So do we have we got a deal, darling? Oh snap my tentacle, one small thing. My fee.

Ariel:
But I don't have anything-

Ursula:
Oh, but you do. What about your voice?

Ariel:
But if I give you my voice, how could I...?

Ursula:
You have your looks, your pretty face
And don't underestimate the power of body language

The men up there don't like a lot of blabber
They think a girl who gossips is a bore
Yes, on land it's much preferred
For ladies not to say a word
And after all, dear, what is idle prattle for?

Come on then
They're not all that impressed with conversation
True gentlemen avoid it when they can
But they dote and swoon and fawn
On a lady who's withdrawn
And she who holds her tongue who gets her man

Come on, you poor unfortunate soul
Go ahead, make your choice
I'm a very busy woman and I haven't got all day
It won't cost much, just your voice

You poor unfortunate soul
It's sad, but true

If you want to cross a bridge, my sweet
You have to pay the toll
Take a gulp and take a breath
Go ahead and sign the scroll
Flotsam, Jetsam, now I've got her boys
The boss is on a roll
You poor unfortunate soul


It's a standard contract. Look it over carefully. Not that carefully.

Ariel:
But if I become human, I'll never see my father or my sisters again.

Ursula:
True. But you'll have your man. Life's full of tough choices, ain't it?

Ariel:
Give up my voice?

Ursula:
Oh, do you want your princey-poo or not? Five four three two-

Ariel:
Yes! Yes, I'll do it!

Ursula:
Beluga, sevruga
Come winds of the Caspian sea
Larynxes, glossitis
Et max laryngitis
La voce to me
Now sing
Sing your voice over to me!


Sing and keep singing! Now swim for your life! Swim before you drown, human child! (laughs)

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It's very clear that the Broadway stage version of Ursula is not the same character that we saw in the film. They've given her a make-over (kinda sorta), and Sherie Rene Scott is more glamorous and cheeky, and less a frightening demon-witch. That's reflected in this song, which has more dramatic music that make it a full-blown Broadway showstopper. It seems that Sherie Rene Scott has another thing in common with Pat Carroll (the original Ursula) in that she's singing in a lower range than what she's used to.

(printable version)

Ursula:
My dear sweet child, it's what I live for. To help unfortunate merfolk like yourself. Poor souls with no one else to turn to.

I admit that in the past I've been a nasty
They weren't kidding when they called me, well, a witch
But you'll find that nowadays, I've mended all my ways
Repented, seen the light and made a switch
True? Yes

And I fortunately know a little magic
It's a talent that I always have possessed
And here lately, please don't laugh, I use it on behalf
Of the miserable, lonely and depressed
Pathetic

Poor unfortunate souls
In pain, in need
This one longing to be thinner
That one wants to get the girl
And do I help them? Yes, indeed

Those poor unfortunate souls
So sad, so true
They come flocking to my cauldron
Crying "spells, Ursula please!"
And I help them? Yes, I do

Now it's happened once or twice
That someone couldn't pay the price
And I'm afraid I had to rake 'em 'cross the coals
Yes, I've had the odd complaint
But on the whole I've been a saint
To those poor unfortunate souls


Here's my best offer, babykins. I know a spell that will turn you into a human for three days. Now it's a got procedural clause, sort of a squid pro quo. Before the sun sets on the third day, you've got to get dear 'ol princey to kiss you. If you do, you'll stay human forever.

Ariel:
And if I don't?

Ursula:
Nothing drastic, darling, I'm sure. Oh look! Small print. Your soul is mine forever. And you're doomed to spend eternity in my watery hell-soaked lair. Lawyers, don't you just love 'em? Of course, there is one more thing. My fee.

Ariel:
But I don't have anything-

Ursula:
I'm not asking for much. Only... your voice.

Ariel:
My voice? If I give away my voice, how do I...?

Ursula:
You have your looks, your pretty face
And don't underestimate the power of body language

The men up there don't like a lot of blabber
They think a girl who gossips is a bore
Yes, on land it's much preferred
For ladies not to say a word
And after all, dear, what is idle prattle for?

Come on
They're not all that impressed with conversation
True gentlemen avoid it when they can
But they dote and swoon and fawn
On a lady who's withdrawn
And she who holds her tongue who gets her man

Come on, you poor unfortunate soul
Go ahead, make your choice
I'm a very busy woman and I haven't got all day
It won't cost much, just your voice

You poor unfortunate soul
It's sad, but true

If you want to cross a bridge, my sweet
You got to pay the toll
Take a gulp and take a breath
Go ahead and sign the scroll
Flotsam, Jetsam, now I've got her boys
The boss is on a roll
You poor unfortunate soul


Beluga, sevruga
Come winds of the Caspian sea
Larynxes, glossitis
Et max laryngitis
La voce to me


Now sing! Sing your voice over to me! Sing and keep singing! Now swim. Swim! Swim, swim for your life, human child!

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