(The Disneycember logo is shown, before showing clips from The Great Mouse Detective and Oliver and Company)
Doug (vo): After the disappointment of The Black Cauldron, Disney suddenly got on this huge kick. Not only were they gonna turn on better products, but they were gonna turn them out fast. The films went from coming out every five to seven to even 10 years to suddenly every year.
[Clips from The Little Mermaid are shown. The song "Under the Sea" plays throughout]
Doug (vo): And the film that sparked the Disney Golden Era, the revolutionary film that started hit after hit after hit again: The Little Mermaid. Yeah, you all know it, you’ve all seen it, and now we’re gonna talk about it. Is there any point in comparing it to the Hans Christian Andersen story? I mean, we all know she doesn’t die in the end. Disney wouldn’t do that. In fact, hell, I think they couldn’t do that. So, much like Oliver and Company, let’s just keep it to the content as it is. This is the first film in a long time where the animation was actually looking like Disney animation again. This was the return to the fairy tale, the smooth lines, the nice songs, the beautiful backgrounds, all the stuff that started with Snow White and most people think of when they hear the word Disney.
Doug (vo): The story is about Ariel, a 16-year-old girl who’s obsessed with being on dry land. Her father forbids it, but then she falls in love with a handsome prince. After saving his life, she decides that she absolutely wants to become human so that she can be with him. So she sells her voice to Ursula the Sea Witch and gets herself a pair of legs. The only downside is, she can’t tell the prince who she is, which means she has to start from scratch in order to win him over, of course, while the Sea Witch is plotting her way to get control of the underworld, or underwater world.
Doug (vo): The feedback I get from this movie is fascinating, and not actually from guys, believe it or not, but from women. I find they either love or hate this movie, and all of it centers around the main character, Ariel. But we’ll get to that in a second. Let’s look at the good stuff. The music, you know it in and out. It’s Alan Menken’s songs, and, man, are they memorable, catchy as hell. They’re bouncy, they’re fun, they’re slow, they’re romantic, they’re diabolical. He gets the tone just right. The comic relief, they’re also fun. There’s some fun tidbits with the crab, you have Buddy Hackett as the seagull, there’s that crazy-ass chef voiced by Odo. It’s pretty good. The animation, top-notch. This is the animation people wanted to see from Disney for a while, and, man, did it blow people away. It still blows me away. Watching it today, looking at these angles, looking at the colors, everything. It just pops. The villain is great. Much like Ratigan, she just so enjoys what she’s doing, although it’s much more of a revenge-fest than it is just to be evil. So maybe her plot has a little bit more motivation. And I like the fact that this was the first Disney film where the couple actually had to build their romance from something. They didn’t just meet and suddenly love each other. Well...okay, they meet and they love each other, but at the same time, they had to meet and they had to work at it again. It’s not like Snow White where they meet and they get married, or Sleeping Beauty where they meet, they sing, and suddenly, they’re in love. There is some development here, even though it did take, what? Three days? Well, okay, in the Disney-Verse, that was a long time.
[Various clips of the film's main character, Ariel, are shown]
Doug (vo): But let’s get to what most women either love or hate: the Little Mermaid herself, Ariel. Okay, so what’s bad about her? Well, she is whiny. Even her nice songs, when you get down to it, it’s just very pretty whiny. She certainly has all the typical 16-year-old clichés like hating her father, talking about boys, wanting to throw her life away for them. But let’s be honest, that’s kind of typical for a lot of girls. So maybe that’s why some women hate it. [An image of Bella Swan is shown] I mean, I guess Bella’s living out a lot of girls’ fantasies, too, but that doesn’t necessarily make her a good character. But she definitely has a passion and a drive that sets her apart from a lot of the other Disney women. She’s a hopeless romantic, but she’s also determined. When she wants something, she’ll go to whatever lengths it takes to get it. So, for the most part, I thought a lot of the backlash about the character was just sort of nitpicking. But then I watched Lindsey’s review and she brought this up.
Nostalgia Chick (vo): She doesn't really change. She doesn't learn anything. Ariel wants something, there are obstacles, she gets what she wants. The end.
Doug (vo): Yeah, that’s a really...good...point. Despite her causing all this trouble, she still gets exactly what she wants. She whines and complains, and in the end, she’s rewarded for it. But you could make a very slim argument that once they have her, she’s apologizing that she has acknowledged she made a mistake, and that admittedly, she shouldn’t have done it.
[A scene showing Ariel attempting to apologize to her father while being captured by Ursula and her pet eels is shown]
Ariel: Daddy, I'm sorry! I didn't mean to! I didn't know!
Doug (vo): But the scene is two seconds long and, I don’t know, she gets her way anyway at the end, so it doesn’t really matter. I guess there are some major character flaws with her. So, why do I still enjoy her? Well, horrible to say, I actually really like it when she can’t talk. Yeah, I know, make whatever "women should speak" joke if you want, but that’s not the reason I like it. I like it because her curiosity comes out in full blue. She isn’t complaining here, she’s enjoying, she’s in heaven, seeing all these new things. She’s a wanderer, she’s an explorer, she likes discovering things. And nowhere does that come out clearer in just the simple expressions and the great animation here.
[A scene where Ariel uses a fork to braid her hair is shown. A caption pops up saying, "This scene makes me piss my pants with laughter"]
Doug (vo): Even her songs, which are sing-complaining, I guess, actually really do show how she feels about a situation, and it’s very passionate. So I guess that’s what a lot of people really do get behind in this movie.
Doug (vo): So, yeah, deconstructing childhoods aside, how does this film hold up? Well, I guess it has the ethical flaws that a lot of people say are just ethical flaws in Disney films in general, you know, just meeting a person in a day, wanting to marry him, not always dealing with the consequences of your actions. But the stuff that’s good is really friggin' good. The music, like I said, outstanding, some of the best. The animation? Stellar. The comic relief? Memorable. The villain? Awesome. Even the father character, a character that usually gets tossed aside in most Disney movies, is actually pretty well-developed here. And our main characters, despite their flaws, still have a lot of things you can like about them. Personally, I still really enjoy it. It has its issues, but the good stuff is just too damn good, and this would only be the first monster hit that would send Disney on a roll.
[The ending to "Under the Sea" is shown]