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Festivale online magazine
A Reel Life film section
The Little Mermaid movie review

Ariel, the little mermaid, (c) Disney, Festivale film review
Disney's Mermaid swims again

Disney is re-releasing The Little Mermaid, it's 1989 feature-length animation aimed primarily at the kiddie market. Based upon the story by Hans Christian Andersen, The Little Mermaid is the tale of a mermaid princess who falls in love with a human prince. The mermaid, Ariel, enters into a pact with the Sea Witch (named Ursula by Disney), who sells her voice in return for a pair of legs. If she fails to get a true lover's kiss within three days Ariel is doomed to return to Ursula and become part of her garden of lost souls.

The film has the beautiful colour and drawing that we expect from Disney. The animators spent considerable effort creating new effects for their underwater fairy tale. Instead of concentrating on giving their characters a sense of weight and of being 'grounded', in The Little Mermaid, their characters float in the sea.

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Flounder, (c) Disney, the little mermaid, Festivale film review
Flounder Sebastian, (c) Disney, the little mermaid, Festivale film review
Music is always a major part of these Disney productions, and the songs in The Little Mermaid are light, fun and catchy. Sebastian is a Carribean kind of crab whose Under the Sea is backed by a hot crustacean band. Composer Alan Menken and lyricist Howard Ashman worked closely with the directors from the beginning of the project, a return to the early Disney methods. "In the old days,", explains Menken, "the music was written before they began animating. Even some of the background music was written first. In many ways we went back to that tradition for this film by laying the songs out early in the storyboarding process. There are lots of places where they animated right to the music."

Disney being Disney, of course, the animators did not feel that they had to stick to the original story line. In the short story the mermaid sacrifices herself and is turned into a sea foam spirit. In Disney's Little Mermaid you know that it will all end with a white wedding. Fairy tales are an important part of childhood, teaching children about life and their impending separation from their parent's family as they move towards, perhaps, forming their own. Says Ron Clements, "We knew we needed a happier ending to really make it work for our purposes. We tried to come up with a way of doing that and somehow still remaining faithful to the basic themes of the story. Our ending retains a bittersweet quality of the original story, yet it is uplifting at the same time."

Analysts of myths and fairy tales would appreciate such an obvious acknowledgement of their theories, for Clements has simply removed the metaphor, that the death (and metamorphosis) of a daughter, and the marriage of a daughter are the same thing to a father. Sometimes the message in the fairy tale is also aimed at the parent who reads it.

The Little Mermaid is light, fun entertainment, not too saccharin, filled with the kind of cute characters who lend themselves to merchandising, of course, suitable for children and accompanying adults alike.

Ali Kayn

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Just the facts:

Title: The Little Mermaid (1989)
Written by: Based on the story by Hans Christian Andersen; screenplay by John Musker & Ron Clements
Directed by: John Musker & Ron Clements
Produced by: Howard Ashman, John Musker
Edited by: John Carnochan (supervising editor)
Director of Photography:

The Players: Rene Auberjonois, Kenneth Mars, Buddy Hackett
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Published in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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Filed: 9-Jun-1998 : Last updated: : Last tested: 3-Jul-2014: Last Compiled: 3-Jul-2014
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