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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

Disney Legend: Alan Menken

Howard Ashman and Alan Menken

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!

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Hans Christian Andersen Myths and Legends

The Myth of Ondine

Undine illustration by Arthur Rackham. The illustration is featured in Baro Friedrich De La Motte Fouque romance novella “Undine” that was published in 1811.

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.

 

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Disney's The Little Mermaid Hans Christian Andersen Pop Culture

The Little Mermaid Statue in Copenhagen, Denmark

 

The Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen, Denmark by Edvard Erichsen

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 Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen, Denmark by Edvard Erichsen

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, Denmark by Edvard Erichsen

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.

Screenshot from Disney’s The Little Mermaid beside The Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen, Denmark

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!

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Hans Christian Andersen Myths and Legends

Tiffany Turrill


Mermaid illustration by Tiffany Turrill

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” by Tiffany Turrill

‘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.

“Amphitrite” by Tiffany Turrill

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.

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Hans Christian Andersen Pop Culture

Ashly Lovett


“Rescue” by Ashly Lovett

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.


“New Legs” by Ashly Lovett

Ashly’s Kickstarter campaign was so well-received by the public, that it surpassed it’s goal, and earned $25k to fund her book.

"Intrigue" by Ashly Lovett
“Intrigue” by Ashly Lovett

 

 

 

 

"Ambition" by Ashly Lovett
“Ambition” by Ashly Lovett

 

 

 

 

"Dealings" by Ashly Lovett
“Dealings” by Ashly Lovett

Ashly will release her book of “The Little Mermaid” on February 1st, 2020 on her online store. It’s definitely worth adding to your mermaid collection!