Tuesday, 21 January 2014
The Little Mermaid (1989) - ★★★★★
Voice Actors: Jodi Benson, Pat Carroll, Samuel E. Wright, Jason Marin, Buddy Hackett, Christopher Daniel Barnes
The Little Mermaid was the beginning of the Disney Renaissance, a period between 1989 and 1999 which contains a large portion of the greatest films that Disney ever made. As the first of its era, this movie still stands as one of the most beautiful creations in the history of animated cinema. While Ariel longed to be part of our world, as a child I longed to be part of hers. This movie still captivates me to this day, with its sweeping score, groundbreaking animation, and wonderfully entertaining characters. I get emotional at many Disney movies, but The Little Mermaid manages to make me blubber in tears more than almost any other. While its message isn't a particularly admirable one for little girls, it's still a story that many young people can relate to. The longing to break free and discover new things. While many of my childhood favourites faded into mediocrity, The Little Mermaid still ranks as one of the best.
We follow the story of a 16-year-old mermaid, Ariel. She is the daughter of King Triton, ruler of the sea. She is absolutely obsessed with humans and life on land, so she collects trinkets and fantasises about exploring that part of the world. However, Triton forbids her to ever go near the humans. When she saves a Prince named Eric and falls in love with him, Triton practically crumbles her dreams by destroying her most cherished possessions. Ariel then turns to the evil sea-witch, Ursula, who turns her human for three days in exchange for her voice. If she fails to receive 'true love's kiss' from Prince Eric, then Ursula will keep her soul forever.
While the animation isn't as impressive as many 1990s Disney films, there are moments of unbelievable beauty that still leave me in awe. The main thing The Little Mermaid will always be remembered for is its soul-touching music. You cannot beat the score by Alan Menken, who has made so many other spine-chilling compositions for Disney. The opening sequence is unforgettable, all due to Menken's outstanding way with music. The music, along with the emotion of the film, brought me to tears. The songs are just as outstanding. One of my all time favourites is "Part of Your World," which I believe should have won the Oscar in 1989. The most memorable, and one of the most beloved, is "Under the Sea," which understandably won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. I also treasure the songs "Kiss the Girl," and the outstanding, "Poor Unfortunate Souls." The Little Mermaid is probably the pinnacle of Disney's music.
Sebastian the crab was Ariel's mentor, and a huge reason why this movie is so entertaining! His friendship with Ariel and the development of his character were two of the reasons why I got so emotional throughout the film. I adored Samuel E. Wrights caribbean voice, which mixed perfectly with the highly-strung antics of his character. Most importantly, he provides two of the greatest songs in the movie. Of all the Disney movies ever made, Sebastian would rank in the Top 10 greatest characters.
Ursula is arguably the greatest villain in the history of Disney, and I don't dispute that either. She is amazing. 100% head-to-tentacle perfection! She's just so devious, and just as charismatic! I wanted nothing more than for Ariel to succeed, yet I liked Ursula enough to wish she would stick around! I always get chills when she sings "Poor unfortunate souls." The perfect animation on her expressions and body language is a major reason why she's so amazing, but the main reason is the husky voice of Pat Carroll. Ursula represents everything a villain should be, which is one of the reasons this movie stands above almost every other.
Oh, and Scuttle the seagull is by far the funniest character in the whole film. Love him!
This is one of those movies that I adore so much, that I can't quite articulate all of my feelings towards it. All I can really say is this... it leaves me a shambled wreck of emotions. Alan Menken's haunting score, the ground-breaking animation, the loveable characters, and the extremely entertaining story makes The Little Mermaid a movie that has everything for me. It's definitely one of Disney's best.