Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios/Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Disney’s adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid is one of the most popular of all of its fairy tales. The story, which centers on the romance between a human and young mermaid, originally debuted in theaters almost twenty-four years ago. November 17th will mark the twenty-fourth anniversary of the film’s debut. And until this year, the last time that Disney had re-issued to the movie for home release was seven years ago in 2006. Considering all of this, it comes as a little bit of a surprise that Disney decided to go ahead and re-issue the classic story well over a year ahead of what will be the twenty-fifth anniversary of its big screen debut. That aside, it’s still a welcome addition for any fan of Disney’s princess franchise. The most important aspect of this movie’s success (as with any movie) is its script. Considering that well over thirty years had passed between the original debut of this movie and Disney’s last fairy tale feature before it, Sleeping Beauty, this movie actually has so much more depth than most viewers might see. It is more than just a romantic drama. It actually boasts plenty of comedy, too. It also has both a coming of age story of sorts within its bounds as well as an allegory about acceptance and tolerance. The movie’s new Blu-ray/DVD combo pack re-issue makes it even more interesting a watch. That’s because of a pair of bonus features included in the package. All of this together makes Disney’s adaptation of The Little Mermaid another of Disney’s most memorable movies in its modern era.
When Disney’s adaptation of The Little Mermaid premiered on November 17th, 1989, well over thirty years had passed between that premiere and the premiere of Disney’s last fairy tale feature, Sleeping Beauty. Disney established its reputation on the back of not only that movie, but also the likes of Cinderella and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Those features made Disney a leader in the movie business. So much time having passed, it would have been easy for the people at Disney to slip up with The Little Mermaid. But as the final product revealed, the studio did anything but slip up. The script behind the movie is on the surface, a standard fairy tale story. On a much deeper level though, it also includes a strong coming of age storyline. Princess Ariel is a teenager. She is sixteen years-old to be exact. So it could be argued that her youth and naivety is what feeds the romantic drama that is to follow. It also is what leads to her personal growth and love and respect for her father. To that extent, it actually makes The Little Mermaid more than just another one of Disney’s princess movies. It gives the story a certain amount of depth.
Ariel’s coming of age story is only part of what gives The Little Mermaid depth. It could also be argued that the feature’s script hides in plain sight, an allegory about acceptance and understanding. The allegory works in more than one way, too. The allegory about acceptance and understanding comes in the form of King Triton having to learn to accept that his preconceived notions about humans are not entirely right. Prince Eric proves that. He eventually has to come to accept that despite being from another world of sorts, humans are not as bad as he had always led himself and his people to believe. If viewers can allow themselves to take into consideration both of these story elements, they will see that The Little Mermaid in fact has more going for it than being just another princess movie. It becomes even more worth watching at least once if not adding to one’s home library.
The subtle story elements tied into The Little Mermaid’s primary romantic drama storyline add a whole new depth and appreciation for the classic adaptation. Now that the movie has been re-issued on Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, viewers have even more reason to appreciate it. That’s thanks to the inclusion of a pair of bonus features included in the new Blu-ray disc. One of those features centers on producer/songwriter Howard Ashman. “Howard’s Lecture” focuses on Ashman and how his experience with and love for musical theater helped make The Little Mermaid a *ahem* splash with audiences (bad pun fully intended). The vintage footage of Ashman discussing the film’s different aspect add to the movie’s value because of the figure it portrayed. Audiences see in Ashman someone who is the total antithesis of the stereotypical Hollywood type. He comes across as having been down to earth and entirely humble. Those that knew Ashman best also share their insights into the type of person he was. And it corresponds perfectly with the figure presented in the lecture. The fact that one of his friends would tear up in speaking about him shows just how valued he was not just to the movie but as a person. That emotion and the feature as a whole make “Howard’s Speech” an invaluable addition to this new re-issue. It makes the presentation in whole that much more impressive.
“Howard’s Lecture” is an invaluable addition to the bonus features included in this latest re-issue of The Little Mermaid. There is one other feature included in this re-issue that audiences will agree makes the movie even more worth watching. The feature in question explains in depth how those behind the movie maintained Disney’s long standing tradition of basing its animated features on live action actors. It explains how just as with Alice In Wonderland, Snow White, and others those behind this movie based their storyboards on live action “models.” This was done to get the most realism possible out of the animation. This is something used to this day by Disney’s partner studio, Pixar. Add in the fact that the movie was crafted entirely via hand drawn animation instead of computers makes this an even more important addition for viewers to check out. And together with “Howard’s Lecture” and the subtle extra story elements tied into the story, it all comes together to make this twenty-fourth anniversary re-issue of The Little Mermaid that much more worth adding to any family’s home library or that of any true film buff. It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct via Disney’s online store at http://movies.disney.com/the-little-mermaid and http://www.disneystore.com/disney-princess/little-mermaid/mn/1000031/?searchRedirect=1&searchTerm=the+little+mermaid&catalogFromSearch=10002. More information on this and other Disney releases is available via both websites, too. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.