The 28th film in the Walt Disney Animation Classics series, The Little Mermaid was released to theatres on November 17, 1989 to largely positive reviews, garnering 84 million dollars at the domestic box office during its initial release, and 211 million dollars in total lifetime gross worldwide. After the success of the 1988 Disney/Amblin film Who Frame Roger Rabbit, The Little Mermaid is given credit for breathing life back into the art of Disney animated feature films after a string of critical or commercial failures produced by Disney that dated back to the early 1970s. It also marked the start of the era known as the Disney Renaissance. It was followed by two direct-to-video sequels: The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea (2000) and The Little Mermaid III: Ariel's Beginning (2008).
Ariel, a sixteen-year-old mermaid princess, is dissatisfied with underwater life and is curious about the human world. With her best friend Flounder, Ariel collects human artifacts and goes to the surface of the ocean to visit Scuttle the seagull, who offers very inaccurate knowledge of human culture. She ignores the warnings of her father King Triton, the ruler of Atlantica, and his adviser and court composer Sebastian that contact between merpeople and humans is forbidden.
One night, Ariel, Flounder and an unwilling Sebastian travel to the ocean surface to watch a celebration for the birthday of Prince Eric on a ship. Ariel quickly becomes enamored with Eric. The birthday celebration is cut short by a violent storm which wrecks the ship and tosses Eric overboard. Ariel saves him from drowning and brings him to the shore. She sings to him, but quickly leaves as soon as he regains consciousness to avoid being discovered. Fascinated by the memory of her voice, Ariel vows to find a way to join him and his world. Noticing a change in Ariel's behaviour, Triton questions Sebastian about her behaviour and learns of her love for Eric. Furious, Triton confronts Ariel in her grotto, where she and Flounder store human artifacts, and destroys the objects with his trident to her dismay. After Triton leaves, two eels named Flotsam and Jetsam convince Ariel to visit Ursula the sea witch.
Ursula makes a deal with Ariel to transform her into a human for three days in exchange for Ariel's voice, which Ursula puts in a nautilus shell. Within these three days, Ariel must receive the ''kiss of true love'' from Eric. If Eric gets to kiss her, she will remain a human permanently, otherwise, she will transform back into a mermaid and belong to Ursula. Ariel agrees and is then given human legs and taken to the surface by Flounder and Sebastian. Eric finds Ariel on the beach and takes her to his castle, unaware that she is the one who had saved him earlier. Ariel spends time with Eric, and at the end of the second day, they almost kiss but are thwarted by Flotsam and Jetsam. Angered at their narrow escape, Ursula disguises herself as a beautiful young woman named Vanessa and appears onshore singing with Ariel's voice. Eric recognizes the song and, in her disguise, Ursula casts a hypnotic enchantment on Eric to make him forget about Ariel.
The next day, Ariel finds out that Eric will be married to the disguised Ursula. Scuttle discovers that Vanessa is actually Ursula in disguise, and informs Ariel who immediately pursues the wedding barge. Sebastian informs Triton, and Scuttle disrupts the wedding with the help of various animals. In the chaos, the nautilus shell around Ursula's neck is broken, restoring Ariel's voice and breaking Ursula's enchantment over Eric. Realizing that Ariel is the girl who saved his life, Eric rushes to kiss her, but the sun sets and Ariel transforms back into a mermaid. Ursula reveals herself and kidnaps Ariel. A furious Triton confronts Ursula's and demands Ariel's release, but the deal is inviolable. At Ursula's urging, Triton agrees to take Ariel's place as Ursula's prisoner, giving up his trident. Ariel is released as Triton transforms into a polyp and loses his authority over Atlantica. Ursula declares herself the new ruler, but before she can use the trident, Eric hits her with a harpoon. Ursula tries to strike down Eric, but Ariel interferes, causing Ursula to inadvertently kill Flotsam and Jetsam. Enraged, Ursula uses the trident to grow into monstrous proportions.
Ariel and Eric reunite on the surface just before Ursula grows past and towers over the two. She then gains full control of the entire ocean, creating a storm and bringing sunken shis to the surface. Just as Ursula attempts to kill Ariel, Eric steers a wrecked ship towards Ursula, impaling her with the ship's splintered bowsprit. With Ursula destroyed, Triton and the other polyps in Ursula's garden revert into their original forms. Realizing that Ariel truly loves Eric, Triton willingly changes her from a mermaid into a human and blesses her marriage to Eric. Ariel and Eric marry on a ship and depart.
- Jodi Benson as Ariel and Vanessa
- Christopher Daniel Barnes as Prince Eric
- Pat Carroll as Ursula
- Samuel E. Wright as Sebastian
- Jason Marin as Flounder
- Kenneth Mars as King Trition
- Buddy Hackett as Scuttle
- Ben Wright as Grimsby
- Paddi Edwards as Flotsam and Jetsam
- Edie McClurg as Carlotta
- Kimmy Robertson as Alana, Arista and Andrina
- Will Ryan as The Seahorse
- Frank Welker as Max
- René Auberjonois as Chef Louis
- Additional voices: Hamilton Camp, Robert Weil, Ed Gilbert, Charlie Adler, Jack Angel - Sailor #1, Steve Bulen, Nancy Cartwright, Philip L. Clarke - Sailor #3, Jennifer Darling - Female Mermaid #1, William A. Kanady, Anne Lockhart, Sherry Lynn - Adella, Lynn Dolin Mann, Arnold Markussen, Mickie McGowan - Female Mermaid #2, Kathleen O'Connor, Patrick Pinney - Sailor #2 & Robert S. Zwirn
- Chorus: Debbie Shapiro Gravitte, Susan Boyd, Allan Davies, Gail Farrell, Donny Gerrard, Mitch Gordon, Willie J. Greene Jr., Linda Harmon, Walter S. Harrah, Phillip Ingram, Luana Jackman, Edie Lehmann Boddicker, Melissa MacKay, Guy Maeda, Gene Merlino, Gene Morford, Marilyn Powell, Gloria Grace Prosper, Michael Redman, Sally Stevens, Robert Tebow, Rob Trow, Joe Turano, Jackie Ward & Bobbi Page
- Fathoms Below (performed by Ship's Chorus)
- Daughters of Triton (performed by Timmy Robertson and Caroline Vasicek)
- Part of Your World (performed by Jodi Benson)
- Part of Your World Reprise (performed by Jodi Benson)
- Under the Sea (performed by Samuel E. Wright) reprised by Wright during the end credits)
- Poor Unfortunate Souls (performed by Pat Carroll)
- Les Poissons (performed by René Auberjonois)
- Kiss the Girl (performed by Samuel E. Wright)
- Vanessa's Song (performed by Jodi Benson)
- Happy Ending (performed by Disney Chorus)
Differences between the fairy tale and the film Edit
- In the fairy tale, the little mermaid has a grandmother who is resident at the castle. However, this character does not participate in the film. Some characters that participate in the film, but not in the fairy tale, are Sebastian the crab (the king's advisor), Flounder the guppy fish (the mermaid's best friend) and Scuttle the seagull.
- In the fairy tale, the mermaid wants to marry a human being to obtain an immortal soul, otherwise she will live for 300 years and turn into sea foam at her death. In the film, however, she falls in love with the prince after seeing him on his ship for the first time.
- In the fairy tale, the mermaid and her sisters are free to explore the surface and human activities as soon as they have turned to 15 years. In the film, where the mermaid is 16 years, their father forbids them from ever doing it because he believes people are dangerous.
- In the fairy tale, the sea witch has no dedication that the mermaid will fail to get her prince. In the film, the mermaid writes on a contract indicating that she must kiss the prince before the sun sets on the third day after the transformation. If she fails, she will become a mermaid again and the sea witch's prisoner. However, the sea witch is willing to free her if she received the sea king's tridant.
- Both in the fairy tale and in the movie, the sea witch asks the mermaid's speech ability as a price for the transformation. In the fairy tale, she takes it by cutting her tongue while in the film she absorbs the mermaid's voice (in the form of a light globe) and holds it in a magic shell necklace.
- In the fairy tale, the mermaid receives a potion from the sea witch that turns her into a human. The transformation is then very painful and her feet become so sore that they bleed when she walks. She swims ashore to drink the potion and undergo the painful transformation. In the film, the transformation itself is not painful, but the sea witch turns her into human in her residence under the water, which means that the mermaid is about to drown before being rescued by Flounder and Sebastian.
- The fairy tale ends with the mermaid losing the prince to an another woman, and she turns into sea foam and dies. However, the film ends happily by winning the prince's heart and turning into a human by her father.
International releases Edit
For information about international dubs and releases, The Little Mermaid/International.