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.
Miranda is a classic black and white mermaid film that was released in 1948. The film is based on the play based on the play Miranda: A Comedy in Three Acts by Peter Blackmore, the storyline closely resembles The Sea Lady by H.G. Wells.
Legendary actress, Glynis Johns plays the title role of Miranda.
The film opens when young married physician Paul Martin (Griffith Jones) wants to go on a fishing excursion, but his wife, Clare (Googie Withers) doesn’t want to go. So, Paul decides to go fishing alone on the Cornwall coast. He casts his fishing line and quickly catches something. It doesn’t take long for Paul to be pulled into the water.
Paul wakes up and finds himself in a cave, alongside the beautiful Miranda (Glynis Johns) a mermaid. Paul soon realizes that due to the nature of the cave, that he is unable to leave of his own free will. Miranda delightfully tells Paul that he is her prisoner. He glances around the cave and notices that it’s filled with various magazines and newspapers that Miranda has used to learn about humans and how they live their life. Sometime passes and Miranda decides to make a deal with Paul: She will release him as her prisoner if he takes her to London to see the sights and to experience the human world. Her plan is that since Paul is a physician, he can cover her tail and tell people that she is one of his patients and in need of his help.
At first, Paul is reluctant to agree to Miranda’s plan, but eventually agrees to Miranda’s plan. He orders Miranda’s dresses from a designer that he and his wife for her to wear while in London. The designer however is perplexed and confused as to why he needs dresses that go past a woman’s feet, but makes the dresses anyways.
When Paul returns to London with Miranda, he immediately sends her out on a drive with his house butler, Charles (David Tomlinson) to explore the city. While Charles and Miranda are out, Paul tells his wife Claire, that Miranda will be a guest in their home for a month and that he hired a woman named Carey (Margaret Rutherford) to watch over her.
While Miranda is a guest in Paul’s home, she begins to display some peculiar habits. She prefers to eat raw oysters and fish and sometimes in the evening, she sings in a beautiful, alluring voice.
Miranda manages to entrance Charles (whose engaged to Betty), as well as nearby artist named Nigel (whose also engaged). Miranda enjoys enticing the various men around her and making them falling in love with her. Miranda even enthralls Paul and he takes her on a late-night drive and are frolicking together in a pond.
The only other person who knows that Miranda is a mermaid is Nurse Carey, whose excited to take care of Miranda, since she’s believed in mermaids existing for years.
Tensions begin to rise, as Nigel and Charle’s fiancées believe that their men are being bewitched away from them. Nigel’s fiancé becomes extremely jealous, when she sees that he’s painted a portrait of Mirada.
Meanwhile, Clare begins to notice that her large fishbowl full of exotic fish has significantly decreased in size. Also, there are various reports from Betty there’s seaweed in Miranda’s bath and that they haven’t found any ladies panties in Miranda’s quarters at all. Clare begins to suspect that Miranda is a mermaid.
Then Nigel and Charles both come and surprise Miranda with marriage proposals. It’s also revealed that Miranda have given both men a lock of her hair and feel foolish that she had played with their emotions. Both men decide to go make amends with the women they had scorned and reconcile with them.
When Paul arrives home, Clare makes Miranda reveal that she’s in fact a mermaid. Miranda tells Clare that she’s leaving soon and will be traveling to warmer waters for the month of May. Miranda leaves for her room, promising Clare that she can see her tail when she bathes. A few minutes pass, Clare and Paul go into the bathroom to go check on her and notice that she is gone. When they look outside, they see Miranda wheeling her chair to a nearby river. They watch intently as Miranda dives into the water and makes her way into the sea.
As Paul wonders why Miranda said she’d choose a warmer climate for the month of May, Miranda appears on the screen, she’s sitting on a rock, holding a mer-child. A child whose father is never revealed.
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!
On July 16th, 2020 the Walt Disney Studios had announced that it would debut an original documentary on the life and music of Disney Legend, Howard Ashman titled Howard.
Howard is scheduled to be streamed on Disney+ on August 7th, 2020.
Howard Ashman’s influence on Disney is evident, even today. He used the storytelling formula, normally used in musical theater and Disneyfied it.
If it wasn’t for Howard Ashman, Ariel wouldn’t have her iconic “want song” of Part of Your World.
He was even referred as “Another Walt” by Roy E. Disney for his passion of music, drive for perfection, and love of storytelling.
The announcement of this documentary is very exciting for any Disney fan or fan of The Little Mermaid knowing that Howard’s contributions to The Walt Disney Studios goes beyond the storyboard and piano.
This documentary will give fans a chance to learn more about a man whose become nothing short of a Legend. Howard Ashman.
The Walt Disney Studios have always had a long time fascination with mermaids and Disneyland is no exception. The Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California opened it’s gates on July 17th, 1955. It was the only park to be designed and built to completion, with direct supervision, by the company’s founder Walt E. Disney.
In 1959, when the Submarine Voyage opened at the Disneyland, there were two attractions, there were eight mermaids selected to be apart of the festive celebration.
So how did Disney find such beautiful mermaids for their lagoon?
Prior, to the opening in June, there was an open casting call to find female swimmers with long hair. The auditions were held at the Disneyland Hotel swimming pool.
The lucky girls, who got hired as mermaids, practiced at the Disneyland Hotel pool, before they were given their tails and were allowed access to swim in the park. They were also paid $45 a week, which was a lot for that time.
A few weeks, prior to the June opening, the girls selected to be mermaids at the park, practiced in Submarine Lagoon. They were surrounded by construction, as the Matterhorn was being constructed, as well as the final touches for Submarine Lagoon. They were warned, to keep their distance from the submarine, since there was no barrier.
When the Submarine Lagoon did open in June, the mermaids would safely swim around the submarine, giving guests a jaw dropping and memorable experience underwater and above the surface. The mermaids would perform tricks, such as flips and turns with their tails. Their costumes consisted of a starfish top and a beautiful neoprene tail.
Guests, could also see the mermaids aboard the monorail, that transported park guests from the Disneyland Hotel to Disneyland.
As part of the design of the lagoon, there was rock, that would provide warmth for the mermaids, since the water was 55-degrees and was freezing cold. The rock, became the hangout spot for the mermaids to warm up in the sun and chat amongst themselves. It was also a great spot for guests to see a breathtaking scene of mermaids lounging in the sun.
Unfortunately, the mermaids at the lagoon, were shut down, due to ongoing safety concerns and regulations.
As someone, whose a Disney Parks enthusiasts and a lover of all things mermaids, it must’ve been so magical to witness those mermaids at Disneyland.
This particular article is dedicated to Disney Legend: Jodi Benson, whose changed and inspired the lives of many.
Jodi is best-known for providing the talking and singing voice of Ariel in Disney’s 1989 film, The Little Mermaid.
For many of us, growing up in the 90’s, Ariel was a part of our childhood’s and memories. We danced to the unforgettable soundtrack on a cassette tape, pretended to be mermaid’s in the pool, and begged our parent’s to take us to Disney Parks, just to catch a glimpse of Ariel or if we were lucky enough, to meet her.
Ariel was one of our earliest role models, before many of us knew, what a role model was. We desired Ariel’s life, the same way, Ariel desired to explore the human world and to be on land. Jodi’s influence has transcended for a lot of fans, beyond childhood. We see Jodi Benson as an icon, inspiration, friend, and mentor. She’s helped shape the lives of many, by being as vocal, strong, and determined as Ariel. We are forever blessed to have Jodi be a part of our world. There are many of us, who are eternally grateful to Jodi, in ways, that mere words cannot describe.
If it wasn’t for Jodi Benson voicing Ariel, this blog, wouldn’t exist. It’s because of Ariel, that I became interested in mermaid’s. Ariel was and forever will be, my favorite Disney Princess and will continue to inspire me in all aspects of my life. For me, no trip to any Disney Park is complete without visiting Ariel. And there are many other fans, who would say the exact same thing.
So, how did Jodi land the iconic role of Ariel?
Short answer. Howard Ashman.
Back in 1986, Jodi Benson starred in the ill-fated musical Smile at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, that only ran for 48 performances and closed January 1987. The lyrics and book for Smile were written by Howard Ashman.
After the show closed, Howard offered an audition to Jodi and the other girl’s in Smile for another project he was working on with Alan Menken. That film was Disney’s The Little Mermaid. He gave Jodi a snippet of the script and a cassette recording of him singing Part of Your World.
A year later, Jodi would get a phone call that would change her life forever. She got the part of Ariel.
The Little Mermaid would be Disney’s first fairy tale film in 30 years. The film is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s, The Little Mermaid that was published in 1837. Many fans, would consider Disney’s version of The Little Mermaid as their introduction to the classic fairy tale and to mermaids.
As we grew up, so did Disney’s The Little Mermaid franchise. Jodi voiced Ariel in video games, TV Shows, sequels and prequels, and so much more. The franchise itself, would be nothing without her.
Thanks Jodi for being Part of Our World! We love you!