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Disney's The Little Mermaid Hans Christian Andersen Pop Culture

How The Little Mermaid rescued the Walt Disney Studio’s

Ariel (voiced by Jodi Benson) in Disney’s The Little Mermaid

On November 14th, 1989, Disney’s The Little Mermaid premiered and it was the hit that the Walt Disney Studio’s desperately needed.

In the 1980’s the Walt Disney Studios wasn’t what it was today. It was a sinking ship, on the verge of bankruptcy with tanked films such as The Black Cauldron (1985), The Great Mouse Detective (1986), and Oliver and Company (1988).

So, the Walt Disney Studio’s brought in the creative forces of Michael Eisner as the new CEO and Jeffrey Katzenburg in charge of the Animation Division. Their mission was to bring the Walt Disney Studio’s back to life!

The idea to make an animated film of The Little Mermaid was from Ron Clements, who went to a bookstore and read the classic fairy of the same name, written by Hans Christian Andersen in 1837. He pitched the idea at Jeffrey Katazeberg’s ‘gong show’ for the screenwriters to share their idea. Initially, The Little Mermaid was rejected for being too similar to Touchstone’s Splash. But that all changed, when Jeffrey read the two page treatment (synopsis) and wanted to expand on the story.

Ron Clements teamed with John Musker to write the script, but they knew they were missing an essential element to any Disney film: Music!

So, Disney recruited Howard Ashman and Alan Menken to write the music for The Little Mermaid. Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, both had a musical theatre background. They had written Little Shop of Horrors in 1982, which was a smash success!

Howard Ashman and Alan Menken started writing the music for The Little Mermaid in 1988. They wrote all the iconic music in the soundtrack and gave Disney a revitalized broadway-treatment to it’s music. Howard Ashman incorporated the “want song” for the Disney heroine, that is now a key-part of the Disney musical storytelling, conveying what the female lead wanted most in life and how the audience roots for her to get to happy ending!

The music, wasn’t Howard’s only forte when it came to storytelling. Upon Howard’s arrival to the Walt Disney Studio’s, he had a meeting with the animators about how musical theatre and the Disney film were very much alike. The animators were so energized and revitalized by Howard’s speech that they were ready to prove themselves.

It was Howard Ashman’s idea to change the Sebastian’s ethnicity from British to Pacific Islander. He collaborated with John Musker and Ron Clements on storytelling elements for The Little Mermaid, including the film’s ending.

Jodi Benson had worked with Howard on the Broadway musical, Smile in 1986. He thought that she would be perfect to voice The Little Mermaid‘s headstrong heroine, Ariel. She auditioned and got the iconic role of Ariel, a year later.

Shortly after hearing Jodi Benson sing Part of Your World, Glen Keane, went to the studio and demanded that he draw Ariel. At first, the studio was hesitant to give him the position, but after some pushing, the studio agreed.

During an early screening of The Little Mermaid, a child had spilled their popcorn during Part of Your World.  Jeffrey wanted to pull the song, thinking it would be a flop, Howard famously told him, “Over my dead body!” Yet, when Glen spoke to Jeffrey about keeping the song in the film,  Jeffrey listened to him and Part of Your World  stayed in the film.

The Little Mermaid tells the story of Ariel, a adventurous, strong-headed, fiercely independent mermaid whose fascinated with the human world. Her father, King Triton is the ruler of Atlantica. He has a deep hatred for the human world and is overly protective of his daughter, Ariel.

When Ariel goes to the surface and rescues the handsome Prince Eric from a terrible storm out at sea, she is more determined then ever before to be human, so she could be with him. She visits the conniving and sassy sea-witch Ursula, who makes a lofty deal with her, so she could be human. Ariel has three days on land to be with Prince Eric, but she must give Ursula her voice. The only way for Ariel to remain human and stay on land with Prince Eric is through the “kiss of true love”. Ariel agrees to the deal and becomes human.

Meanwhile, on land,  Eric is searching for the girl who rescued him and is disappointed that he hasn’t found her yet. Thankfully, his trusty dog, Max sniffs out Ariel in her human form and leads Eric to her.

Upon meeting Ariel, Eric is certain that’s met her before, but he can’t remember where. So, he invites her to his palace to stay. They have an instant connection and Eric is smitten with Ariel, despite the fact that she can’t speak.

Three days pass, and Ursula comes to land, disguised as Vanessa to collect Ariel and to steal her ever after. Eric is elated to discover that Ariel had rescued him and risks his life to save her. Ariel’s father, King Triton is alerted by Sebastian and Flounder of Ursula’s plan and he confronts her, demanding his daughter back. To save Ariel, King Triton trades his power to rescue his daughter. Ariel, Eric, Sebastian, and Flounder work together to try and defeat Ursula. With Eric’s quick-thinking, he impales Ursula.

Ariel (voiced by Jodi Benson) and Prince Eric (voiced by Christopher Daniel Barnes) in Disney’s The Little Mermaid

Shortly after the battle, King Triton is once again the ruler of the sea and he sees just how much Ariel and Eric love each other. So, he transforms Ariel into a human. Eric is elated that she’s returned him. They happy couple gets married and they lived happily ever after.

The Little Mermaid premiered in 1989 and was an instant success. It grossed $84 million dollars at the box office.The film went on to win two Academy Awards for Original Score and Original Song (Under the Sea) in 1990.

The Little Mermaid revitalized the Walt Disney Studio’s, bringing it back to life, and launching the Disney Renaissance! It’s astonishing to think, that if it wasn’t for The Little Mermaid, we wouldn’t be streaming Baby Yoda in The Mandalorian on Disney+ today!

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Disney's The Little Mermaid Pop Culture

Film Review: Howard on Disney+

Howard Documentary on Disney+

Howard was released on Disney+ on August 7th, 2020. For any fan of Disney, this film is a must watch.

The film opens, in the recording studio of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast with Howard Ashman and the cast recording the soundtrack. His passion for music, storytelling, and directing are evident in the footage.

From there, Sarah Ashman Gillespie (Howard’s sister) candidly talks about how some of her most fond memories of Howard, were of the world’s he created.

The film portrays Howard as a true creative at heart, who understood his purpose in life was storytelling through music. Like most creative personalities, Howard was both confident and self-conscious, seeing his vision crystal clear, yet struggling to make it happen. He was stubborn, yet passionate and in many cases, it’s that combination that innovators and visionaries are made of.

Howard founded the off-broadway company WPAwhich years later, which impressed Jeffrey Katzenburg, who years later, would beg Howard to work with him at the Walt Disney Studios. Howard eventually said yes and brought his friend and fellow composer Alan Menken on board for a little project called The Little Mermaid.

Howard Ashman Credit: Disney +

Alan Menken, Jodi Benson, Glen Keane, Ron Clements, John Musker, Roy Disney, and Jeffrey Katzenburg in the documentary talk about their experiences working with Howard on The Little Mermaid. Howard at the time of film’s production had learned that he had AIDS, yet continued to work in spite of that. He had worked on two other Walt Disney Studio films prior to his death in 1991 that included Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin.

For any fan of Disney or of The Little Mermaid, Howard is a must-watch. It explores the life, struggles, career, and untimely death of a man who changed the Walt Disney Studios and musical theatre forever.

Thank you Howard for giving a mermaid her voice and a Beast his soul. We you and will remember you for your contribution to musical theatre and Disney. 

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Disney's The Little Mermaid Pop Culture

Wonderful World of Disney: The Little Mermaid Live (Performance)

The Little Mermaid Live! debuted on November 5th, 2019, as a special film-hybrid anniversary concert. It was filmed on location at the Walt Disney Studios.

A glowing Jodi Benson (voice of Ariel) opened the show, sharing some of her memories of making The Little Mermaid 30 years ago and how much, the film has been apart of her life.

The Little Mermaid Live! was directed by Ron Clements, John Musker, and Hamish Hamilton.

John Musker and Ron Clements wrote the original script for The Little Mermaid for Disney in the 80s. Like Jodi Benson, anything regarding The Little Mermaid, they’ve written it, such as the The Little Mermaid TV Series, The Little Mermaid 2: Return to the Sea, and so much more. So, it’s no surprise, that they were involved in The Little Mermaid Live! as well as the new The Little Mermaid Live Action film starring Halle Bailey as Ariel.

The Little Mermaid Live! starred Auli’i Cravalho as Ariel, Shaggy as Sebastian, Graham Philips as Prince Eric, John Stamos as Chef Louis, and Queen Latifah as Ursula.

One of the best performances of the night, was Queen Latifah singing ‘Poor Unfortunate Souls’. She added her own spin to the classic song, for the villain Ursula. Queen Latifah owned the stage and personified Ursula in every way.

Another fan favorite moment of the night was Auli’i (Ariel) and Graham (Eric) singing ‘If Only’. ‘If Only’ first made it’s debut in 2008, for The Little Mermaid on Broadway. It was a wonderful opportunity for fans, who had never heard the song for the very first time.

The Little Mermaid Live! overall, was filled with many magical moments, including John Stamos (Chef Louis) forgetting Prince Eric’s name.

It was definitely a wonderful blend of screen and stage, that many fans will remember as a wonderful way to commemorate the 30th anniversary of The Little Mermaid.

 

 

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Disney's The Little Mermaid Pop Culture

WhatDoYouSuppose

Whatdoyousuppose
Whatdoyousuppse profile picture on Instagram

One of my favorite accounts on Instagram, is Whatdoyousuppose, founded by Logan in 2018.

Logan’s fans connected with him, for his raw honesty, love for all things Disney, and Disney’s The Little Mermaid. Logan has openly shared on Instagram, that his obsession with Disney’s The Little Mermaid and Ariel, started as a child.

Logan at the Walt Disney Studio’s, where he took a picture with Ariel’s handprints (Jodi Benson) on the Disney Legends wall.

Logan’s dream is to one day meet Jodi Benson (Original voice of Ariel).

Logan with animated Ariel at D23 in 2019 at the H2O Photo Booth
Logan with animated Ariel at D23 in 2019 at the H2O Photo Booth

Whatdoyousuppose is truly a unique, fun-loving fan account for Disney’s The Little Mermaid,  that I encourage all fans to follow.  You’ll have a fintastic time following Logan and his enthralling adventures of all things Ariel!