In almost every musical ever written, there’s a place that’s usually about the third song of the evening – sometimes it’s the second, sometimes it’s the fourth, but it’s quite early – and the leading lady usually sits down on something; sometimes it’s a tree stump in Brigadoon, sometimes it’s under the pillars of Covent Garden in My Fair Lady, or it’s a trash can in Little Shop of Horrors… but the leading lady sits down on something and sings about what she wants in life. And the audience falls in love with her and then roots for her to get it for the rest of the night. ~ Howard Ashman.
For many Disney and musical theatre fans, Howard Ashman left an imprint in theatre, film, storytelling, and song that has withstood the test of time. His brilliant voice in storytelling has changed the way, we see music, film, and theatre.
Ashly Lovett is a very talented American artist, whose art and style is gaining a lot of attention. We asked Ashly a few questions about her art, career, and upcoming projects.
How long have you been a professional artist?
I graduated from Ringling College of Art and Design with a Bachelor’s degree in Illustration in 2010. Since then, I’ve been taking illustration jobs, but I didn’t start doing full-time freelancing until 2015.
What medium do you use for your art?
In 2015 I started working exclusively with soft chalk pastels on paper. And more recently, I’ve been taking those pastel pieces and coloring them digitally in Photoshop.
How would you describe your artistic style?
At the beginning of my career, I was never good at describing my style. It’s hard to step back and look at yourself from an outsider’s perspective. Fortunately, over the years, I’ve had others calling my work dark, ethereal, luminous, or haunting. My good friend Cory Godbey gave the best description with his Forward in The Little Mermaid. It was a feeling I always had about my artwork since I was a child. It is an almost therapeutic feeling that made me want to draw in the first place. I’ve never been able to put it into words. It was a warming surprise knowing others interpret my artwork the same way I always have deep down. Cory’s words were a gift. Here is a small excerpt of the Forward:
“Ashly’s work is transportive. With ease, she guides the viewer from the familiar world to one dappled in a strange light. That world is steeped in a kind of bewitched nostalgia. There’s nothing mawkish or wistful there, rather, Ashly’s haunting portraits feel like a pang of remembrance, the shudder which comes from recalling a forgotten memory at long last.”
What inspired you to illustrate Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid?
It took me a while to find a story intriguing enough to dedicate two years to its creation. What I loved about the story was the tenacity of the main character, the little mermaid. Although naïve, she pursued her deepest desire to know the lives of humans and have her own soul. In the original story, mermaids live for 300 years, but they become seafoam when they die. They don’t have a soul that lives on even after your body dies. But if a mermaid were to join in a union (marriage) with a human, they would become one sharing the soul.
Also, I knew the imagery would be right up my alley. I love drawing the flowing organic shapes of the mermaids and their long hair. The story is rather dark with a bittersweet ending, which appeals to my style. These are all visual narratives that played to my strengths. I went a step further and added my own elements. For example, I gave the mermaids bioluminescent hair to play up the luminosity. I gave the little mermaid a skull collection of creatures from the world above to make it more haunting.
Who is your favorite character in The Little Mermaid? And why?
The protagonist, the little mermaid, is my favorite character. She’s never apologetic about what she wants and remains kind. At the beginning of the story, I do think she may have been impulsive to give up so much in hopes of finding love and an eternal soul. And although the ending is sad, her journey only made her stronger. I admire the emotional and physical strength it took, and in the end, she sacrifices herself for someone she loves. She never became bitter when she had every right to be.
What scene was your favorite to illustrate in your book? And why?
That’s difficult to say since each illustration presented its own challenges and enjoyment. But if I have to pick one, it would be the moment when the little mermaid rescues the prince from the shipwreck. I’ve always had the illustration in my mind. It was also a type of scene I’ve never tried to illustrate before. It was a sea landscape with a burning ship during a severe storm. I drew a lot of inspiration from Howard Pyle, an American illustrator from the 1900s responsible for the classic illustrations of Treasure Island.
What lessons do you think people can learn from Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid?
The biggest takeaway from the story for me was to go big or go home. The Little Mermaid made some overwhelming choices and sacrifices, but she was bold and stayed true to herself. She grew from her pain and became something more remarkable in the end.
How did you find out about your publisher, Eye of Newt Books? And what’s been your experience working with them?
I met them at a convention through a mutual friend. Eye of Newt Books has been very agreeable to work with and believed in my project. They’ve been very respectful of the book and my creative choices. Their enthusiasm was just what I had hoped for when imagining the future for The Little Mermaid.
What was the biggest difference between having a book published through Kickstarter vs having a book published traditionally?
With a Kickstarter, you have to do everything. Not only do you have to have a finished high-quality product, but every Kickstarter campaign begins with budgeting. You have to find a manufacturer, choose materials (paper type, bookbinding, cover style, etc.), then work out the logistics of shipping, shipping materials, extra rewards, and then figure in how those rewards will affect said shipping and budget. Then you have to make a realistic funding goal.
On top of that, you have to create graphics, text describing your project, advertise for it, and there’s a considerable amount of customer service involved. Then there is shipping fulfillment and all your deadlines. I could go even further, but I think you get the idea. If you’re up for the challenge, it can be gratifying in the end. A funded campaign is always a source of pride and future income with the final product.
The steps with my publisher were much shorter. They purchased exclusive rights to publish the book after a detailed contract was drawn up and reviewed by my lawyer. Afterward, I provided the InDesign files, and they took care of the rest. They took care of the logistics of choosing materials, manufacturing, advertising, etc.
What advice do you have for fellow artists and illustrators who want their work to be published either through Kickstarter or with a traditional publisher?
Suppose you’re not someone who likes doing Excel sheets to work out a budget, logistics, schedules, customer service, shipping, etc., I would not suggest doing a largescale Kickstarter. It takes a lot of organizing and good budgeting skills to make sure you can have a profit at the end of it all. The most common mistake with a Kickstarter is underestimating the costs. I have a detailed article on MuddyColors.com titled “Check List for a Successful Kickstarter.” It goes over how to best prepare for a Kickstarter project.
Going with a publisher is undoubtedly easier, but it’s not always a straight path to getting your foot in the door. I was fortunate to ask the right questions and be introduced to an art director in person. This goes back to the advice I give to all emerging illustrators. It is all about networking and getting to know others in the industry. I highly suggest attending conventions and workshops when possible. Some of my favorite smaller, more intimate conventions are Spectrum Fantasy Art in Kansas City, MO, Lightbox in Pasadena, CA, and Illuxcon in Reading, PA. The bigger conventions aren’t bad either. These would be the comicons in Chicago, New York, Seattle, etc. Always have plenty of business cards with samples of your work on the back. I love Moo.com for my business cards.
Do you plan on illustrating more fairy tales in the near future?
I do. The one I’m currently working on is called The Book of Fairy Tales. It is a collection of fairy tale stories featuring famous and infamous fairies. There will be some well-known fairy tales like Beauty and the Beast and other lesser-known stories like The Water of Life. You can learn more about it at AshlyLovett.com/kickstarter. It’s been slow progress in finding stories I want to illustrate. I prefer illustrating tales with profound lessons and admirable characters. That can be difficult with older public domain stories.
My long-term goal is to create a collection of books centered around the theme of fantasy. The first has been The Little Mermaid. The second will be The Book of Fairy Tales. And the third will likely be about mythology. I like having long-term personal projects that I can really dive into and create something different with my own voice while also having others interested in my passion projects too.
Hans Christian Andersen captured the world’s attention, with his fairy tale of The Little Mermaid in 1837.
But who is Hans Christian Andersen?
Hans was born on April 2nd, 1805 in Odense, Denmark and was the only child. At an early age, Hans father exposed to literature as a child, most notably Arabian Nights. Which had a lifelong impact on him, considering Hans father had an elementary school education, while his mother was illiterate washerwoman.
His father passed away in 1816, when he was 11 years old. His mother, remarried in 1818 and sent Hans to the local elementary school, so he could receive a basic education and have a career.
Before he became an author, he was an weaver’s apprentice, and even became a tailor.
When Hans was fourteen years old, he moved to Copenhagen to become an actor. He was enrolled in the Royal Danish Theatre as a soprano, but had to stop, because his voice changed. A colleague at the theatre had advised Hans to become a poet. Hans took this advice seriously and started to write.
A director at the Royal Danish Theatre had sent Hans to a grammar school in Slagelse, and had persuaded King Frederick VI, to fund part of Hans education.
In 1822, Hans had published his first story titled The Ghost at Palnatoke’s Grave.
In 1829, he would publish his first successful short story, A Journey on Foot from Holmen’s Canal to the East Point of Amager. From there, Hans Christian Andersen, began to write for the local theatre and wrote, Love on St. Nicholas Church Tower.
Hans later went on to receive a small travel grant from the King in 1833. This allowed Hans to travel through Europe and meet some very prosperous and influential people of his day.
Between 1835-1837, Hans Christian Andersen had written his collection of fairy tales, titled Fairy Tales told for Children, that were published in three installments. The first installment that was released in May 1835 contained these stories: The Tinderbox, The Princess and the Pea, Little Claus and Big Claus, and Little Ida’s Flowers. Ida Thiele, was who Hans had created these stories for, she was the daughter of an early benefactor. Her father, folklorist Just Mathias Thiele, had paid Andersen thirty rixdollars for the manuscript, and the booklet was priced at twenty-three shillings.
His second installment, that was released in December 1835, contained the following fairy tales: Thumbelina, The Traveling Companion, and The Naughty Boy.Thumbelina was based off the story of Tom Thumb about miniature people.
The third and final booklet, which was released on April 7th, 1837, contained The Little Mermaid and The Emperor’s New Clothes. It would be The Little Mermaid that would propel Hans to stardom, cementing his career as a writer.
The Little Mermaid was written for his homosexual lover, Edvard Collin, who was the son of his benefactor and official guardian Jonas Collin. Hans was known to flirt with both males and females, and was known to fall in love quickly. He and Edvard had formed a fast friendship and Hans was smitten.
Unfortunately, Edvard didn’t feel the same romantic sentiments as Hans. When Edvard announced he was marrying a woman, Hans was devastated and felt utterly betrayed. So, he poured his heart into his work and wrote The Little Mermaid as a love letter for unrequited love for Edvard.
It is also known, that Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid was loosely based and inspired by De la Motte Fouqué‘s novella Undine that was released in 1811. Undine and The Little Mermaid have very similar themes. Most notably, a mermaid who must marry a human prince (knight) to retain a human soul.
The Little Mermaid wouldn’t be the only story, that Hans would write for an unrequited love. In 1843, he wrote The Nightingale for Jenny Lind, a famous singer, who was nicknamed ‘Swedish Nightingale’ to express his love for her.
In 1845, his folklores and fairy tales, were translated in English and his audience grew worldwide.
An interesting fact about Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales, is that they were originally published without any illustrations. That is until 1849, when Thomas Vilhelm Pedersen, a Danish artist became the first artist to illustrate the fairy tales.
In 1872, Hans Christian Andersen, would pass away, a lifelong bachelor, who yearned for nothing more in life than to be love and to be loved in return. In his lifetime, he had written over 100 children’s stories.
Over a century has passed, since the death of Hans Christian Andersen, and his life and his beloved fairy tales are immortalized in our culture. His classic children’s fairy tales have been adapted to films, ballets, operas, tv series, songs, etc.
His stories have withstood the test of time and will for centuries to come. We shall always remember the man who captured our hearts with The Little Mermaid.
“But a mermaid has no tears, and therefore she suffers so much more.” – Hans Christian Andersen
Fernl2606 is a very popular digital artist on Instagram, whose is best known for his digital illustrations of all things Disney. Most notably, The Little Mermaid.
His passion for Disney, mermaids, and digital art is prevalent in his work.
Fernl2606 describes himself as an amateur artist, but you would never know it, by looking at his work. His work is the epitome of professional and captures your heart and imagination instantaneously.
Fernl2606 use of color, contrast, saturation, and lighting brings his drawings to life. What is most impressive about his work, is without a doubt, his details. Fernl2606 use of details is exquisite, making sure that no detail is too small.
I highly recommend, that if you aren’t following Fernl2606 on Instagram or Facebook, that you should.
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.
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!
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 WPA, which 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.
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.
The songs in The Little Mermaid were written by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman and forever changed the Walt Disney Company and it’s contribution to music.
Alan Menken revolutionized Disney and the Disney musical by using the musical theater format in storytelling. They did this, by using storytelling techniques, typically used in musical theater and giving them a Disney twist.
Alan Menken and Howard Ashman as a team, wrote and composed all the songs for The Little Mermaid, staying true to their musical theater roots. Ariel’s iconic song of Part of Your World. Howard Ashman famously referred to this song as the “want song” and it is.
During Part of Your World, we learn about Ariel’s hopes and dreams of exploring land and asking humans questions about the human world.
Growing up in the 90s, the music in The Little Mermaid was a pivotal point in our childhood. Singing along to the soundtrack on cassette and watching the movie on VHS.
As children, we lived and breathed the soundtrack, knowing every song word for word from memory. We didn’t just listen to the music, we absorbed it and lived it every time we sang the memorable lyrics.
The music of The Little Mermaid has a voice that is completely it’s own and there is nothing like it.
And we can all thank Alan Menken and Howard Ashman for that! Thank you Alan, for making us Part of Your world!
The myth of Ondine or Undine has been around for centuries, as far back as the Ancient Greece. Unda is Latin for “wave” or “water”.
The story of Ondine has been adapted and changed throughout the centuries, yet, astonishingly, key elements of the story has remained the same.
The story is of a young water nymph named Ondine who is beautiful and has an enchanting singing voice. Ondine is immortal, but doesn’t have a soul. The only way for Ondine to obtain one, is to marry a human, which would then shorten her life, but she would gain a human soul.
Ondine falls in love with a human, and becomes human to be with him. If Ondine’s husband was to be unfaithful to her, he will die. She soon marries him, and bears him a mixed-breed child. Her child is born with a soul and has many aquatic attributes.
Ondine finds her husband with another woman and he soon dies.
This legendary story, would later inspire French author Baron Friedrich De La Motte Fouque and his novella of Undine that was published in 1811. Years later, his version of the story, would inspire the Danish author Hans Christian Andersen and his story, Den Lille Havfrue or The Little Mermaid and was published in 1837.
It’s truly incredible, that these mermaid myths and legends, never die. They adapt and change with the times. They are immortal and live on forever in our hearts and our minds.
The Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen, Denmark, pays homage to the story that put Copenhagen on the map. All thanks to fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen.
The idea for the statue, began in 1909, when Carl Jacobsen attended a a ballet performance of The Little Mermaid with prima ballerina, Ellen Prince in the title role. He was instantly inspired to sculpt a statue, using Ellen Prince as the model. So, he hired a little known sculptor, by the name Edvard Erichsen to do the job for him.
Ballerina, Ellen Price modeled the head of the statue, while Edvard Erichsen’s wife, modeled the nude body of the little mermaid.
The sculpture, Edvard Erichsen decided to depict the little mermaid with legs and a fish tail, overlooking the sea, as a way for the mermaid to recall that she was a mermaid from the sea.
The Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen is the cities biggest tourist attraction and attracts more then a million visitors per year. The statue is a little over 4-feet high and weighs 386 pounds. It is Copenhagen’s smallest attraction, yet the most popular. It’s made of bronze and had resided along the Langelinie Pier since August 23, 1913.
Every year, on August 23rd in Copenhagen, the city holds a huge celebration in honor of the statue at Langelinie Pier. People dress up in mermaid costumes and swim near the statue.
The Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen, also served as inspiration for Disney in the 1989 film of The Little Mermaid. In one of the final scenes of the film, after the final battle against Ursula, Ariel is sits on a rock, gazing the shore. This was the animators homage to the statue in Copenhagen and Hans Christian Andersen.
For over a century, this remarkable statue in Copenhagen has stood proudly on Langelinie Pier.
It is a must-see for any fan of The Little Mermaid!
Tiffany Turrill is an extremely talented illustrator, comic book cover artist, and concept artist. Her illustrations of mermaid’s are creepy, yet alluring. She captures the inner darkness of mermaid’s of the past.
Tiffany’s illustrations are unique, beautiful, and hauntingly sad. There’s no doubt, that Tiffany has excelled at depicting a darker, more vulnerable mermaid.
‘The Witch’s Knife’ is an illustration, that’s clearly inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid. The scene which the little mermaid’s sister’s sell their hair to the witch, in exchange for a knife, so the little mermaid can kill the prince and become a mermaid again.
Tiffany’s illustration of this poignant scene captures a range of mixed emotions from sadness, despair, desperation, hope, and unrequited love.
The movement and coloring in Tiffany’s waves, pulls you into her illustrations. Her attention to detail is exquisite.
Tiffany is a very talented artist. Definitely one that everyone should follow.
Ashly Lovett is an American artist, whose primary medium is chalk pastel. Her drawings are raw, dark, yet innocent.
In 2019, she launched a Kickstarter campaign, to produce her own version of Andersen’s classic tale of The Little Mermaid. Ashly’s twist on the project, was using her own sketches to depict the powerful and poignant scenes of the classic children’s fairy tale.
Ashly’s Kickstarter campaign was so well-received by the public, that it surpassed it’s goal, and earned $25k to fund her book.
Ashly released her book on her website and garnered immense success! Her book is definitely worth adding to your mermaid collection!