The short story: hot prince (but totally down to hang out with his constituents) is on boat for some unexplained reason. Boat gets caught in storm, and he is saved by sassy youngest daughter. She’s your typical romantic lead – “daddy” and clumsy and quirky and falls in love at first sight. She sells her soul to the local witch to get some legs, forgetting to ask the important questions like “so how do you walk?” and “what is clothes?” but somehow, despite being mute, manages to charm her way into the palace. Sea witch gets PISSED and there is some other evil stuff. As per usual, the side characters are way more memorable. Songs are amazing.
Release date: November 17, 1989
Personal story – I remember standing in line for what felt like FOREVER with my aunt Carol and her boyfriend to see this at the movie theater that is now Lamps Plus in Pleasant Hill, California. I ate a lot of M&Ms during the movie and am pretty sure I threw up in the car on the way back out to our house in West Pittsburg. Good times.
Plot in one sentence or so: swimming girl and earthy boy fall in love based on sexual attraction and mayhem ensues, but like, happy ending.
- This movie is known for starting the Disney Renaissance (meaning we then got Aladdin, B&B, etc) , which I was blessed enough to live through as a child.
- One of the first films to use real actors to act out scenes in order to draw them more accurately in the cartoon version. Ariel’s character and body type were based on Alyssa Milano’s character from “Who’s the Boss” and her hair underwater was based on footage from Sally Ride in space!
- Controversy surrounded the film when people thought that part of the castle on the cover too closely resembled a penis (resulting in a lawsuit from an Alabama mama) and rumors that the priest was sporting an excited member among his robes.
- won Academy Awards
- live action version in the mix and Lin-Manuel Miranda is in the mix to help write the songs!
- Probably my favorite bit of trivia is that when they were planning to release it, obvious a-hole Jeffrey Katzenberg was worried that this wouldn’t make much money, because it was a “girls film” and the previously released ‘Oliver & Company’ had done so well. To test this theory, please start singing ANY song from either movie, and see which one kids today still know. also MILLIONS AND MILLIONS OF DOLLARS.
- THEY ALMOST CUT “PART OF YOUR WORLD” because the first test audience of little kids got antsy during it. omg can you imagine. that has been the little girls’ anthem for so long now!!!
Celebrity Voices: none, really. This was still using theater actors and professional voice actors. Jodi Benson is probably the most famous.
Song that will not leave your head: “Les Poissons” will stay with you forever, “Kiss the Girl” will come up many times in your life, and every girl from my generation has “Part of Your World” completely memorized. Excellent for pool parties when you take those dive rings and put them around your feet and butterfly kick your way through the water.
Noticeably absent : runny makeup, despite all the time in and out of the ocean. As per usual, there is no mother. There is no frizzy hair; it all moves as maybe three pieces. Also there are no anatomically correct young ladies. Eric has no parents (explanation?)
Romance: The romantic boat ride makes you want to make out in a lagoon at some point in your life, and I remember considering lagoons and waterfalls the height of romance as a young girl. I was also convinced that if I could splash out of the water just like Ariel in that iconic “Part of Your World” scene, I would be instantly married.
Memorable Lines: “You want thingamabobs? I got twenty!”
“You pitiful, insignificant fools!”
“I’m a very busy woman and I HAVENT GOT ALL DAY!”
Adult humor: “She’s better than I thought (eyeroll)”
Your fav is problematic: Here is where we talk about things that don’t make sense. IE no one says anything about Eric’s parents. Also, there is a lot of glass smashing under the sea, noise included, which just doesn’t make sense.
This movie also teaches kids you can fall in love in 1 – 3 days (no) and he has to kiss you for it to mean something (NO!).
As per ush, Ariel obviously presents an unrealistic version of the human body. But like, ummmmm she also doesn’t have individual teeth or strands of hair. Also, they just happened to have a dress her size laying around the palace? And if Eric is so obsessed with this girl from the sea, how is it that he can’t even recognize Ariel? And why do the washer women have New York accents?
Fav characters: honestly, the main characters are lame. Sebastian, the helpful, meddling, melodic Jamaican crab is the only real stand out.
Themes: teenage rebellion, bad decisions, consequences, parents coming through to rescue you last minute.
Scary parts: well that cray sea witch Ursula turns GIGANTIC and it was TERRIFYING in the theater. Her laugh will make you poop yourself. And the souls are pitiful and creepy.
Tic-Tac-Toe/Sipping Game Terms:
- “flippin your fins”
- sea witch
- flotsom and Jetsum
- Ariel costume change
- scuttleisms (whenever scuttle gives an incorrect name for an object)
Last line: “I love you daddy” eeeeeek
Things to watch out for: no real trigger warnings, except for the typical missing parents with no explanation, which is the usual for a Disney film. Oh, and soul-selling, which probably (hopefully) doesn’t come up too often in your daily.
But the thing that makes me laugh the most now is when Ariel tries telling her dad that she’s 16 now and not a child and should be able to make her own decisions and at 32 I spit out my wine and said “honey, no! no! go swing on the seaweed playground. Just. No.”
Halloween Costume Potential: maniac chef would be a win! Ursula is a good win, my roomie did it well. And I think all girls my age wanted beautiful purple shell boobs at one point.
Official rating: 8.5/10 for the lack of main character development and unrealistic expectations for mermaid bodies. Excellent soundtrack tho.