The Animated Classic ‘The Little Mermaid’ Resurfaces on Blu-ray

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The Little Mermaid Blu-ray

It’s hard to believe that there was a time when Disney didn’t have a stranglehold over every aspect of the movie business. And yet that’s where they were 30 years ago. A string of flops and underperforming animated films weakened the stature of the entertainment giant. Meanwhile, Universal was having a string of hits with their animated features such as The Land Before Time and An American Tail. The revamped hierarchy of children’s films wouldn’t last long as the Mouse House was on the verge of reasserting their dominance that would continue to this very day. The Disney Renaissance began in 1989 with the release of the smash hit animated film The Little Mermaid, which has landed on Blu-ray with a new 30th anniversary edition.

The story of the iconic animated film is well-known: Ariel (voiced by Jodi Benson) is a teenage mermaid princess living below the surface of the ocean in Atlantica. She is fascinated by the surface world of the humans and collects various artifacts that find their way to the bottom of the ocean. Her father King Triton (Kenneth Mars) disapproves of this infatuation. On fateful evening, Ariel along with her close friend Flounder (Jason Martin) and Sebastian (Samuel E. Wright) embark on a voyage to the surface where they spy upon the birthday party for Prince Eric (Christopher Daniel Barnes) on a massive ship. But an unexpected storm rolls in and destroys Eric’s ship, flinging him overboard into the turbulent waters. Ariel plunges below the surface to save the drowning man, pulling him aboard and singing as he regains consciousness. Though he never saw her, Eric is haunted by the voice of the aquatic angel that saved his life.

Suddenly in love, Ariel yearns to be with Eric despite the difference of their two worlds. This leads Ariel to approach the nefarious Ursula (Pat Carroll). The innocent mermaid and the sea witch strike a deal – Ariel can become human for three days and all it will cost her is her voice. In those three days if Ariel receives a kiss of true love from Eric, she will retain the human form and live happily ever after. If not, she and her miraculous voice becomes the property of Ursula.  Washing upon the shore in human form, Ariel encounters her love without the aid of her voice, a voice that still haunts Eric. The evil Ursula transforms into Vanessa and uses her witchy ways to seduce Eric, thus tipping the scales of her wager with Ariel in her favor.

Like many animated Disney classics, there’s a timeless feel to The Little Mermaid. That’s in part to a number of factors. The Little Mermaid came at a time where animated films weren’t dominated by a voice cast of A-list actors, so there are no aspects of catering to fads with a cast whose most famous names include Buddy Hackett, Kenneth Mars, and Rene Auberjonois. The classical animation technique employed also gives the film a timeless quality as it’s 2D cel animation will never feel obsolete as does its modern computer animated counterparts. There’s a hand-crafted artistry on display in the animated classic directed by Ron Clements and John Musker that has become increasingly rare over the past 30 years.

There’s no aspect of The Little Mermaid that’s as timeless as the Academy Award-winning music by Alan Menken. He took home the Oscar for Original Score as well as the Oscar for Original Song (shared with lyricist Howard Ashman) for the hit song “Under the Sea,” which itself became the inspiration for numerous homages and parodies over the years. Disney is well aware that the music of The Little Mermaid is so vital to its enduring success that they’ve included a sing-a-long version of the film which will undoubtedly please many children and infuriate many more parents.

The Little Mermaid has enchanted audiences of all ages for 30 years and will continue to enchant them for another 30 years because it retains a timeless heart that can’t be found anywhere in the modern animated cinema. In recent years, Disney has found a new life to its stable of animated classics in the version of live-action (or somewhat live-action) remakes, including two big ones this year in Aladdin and The Lion King. But those two followed a trail that was set by The Little Mermaid, a movie that completely revitalized a studio and its storied animated history. It’s only a matter of time before The Little Mermaid is updated with a live-action remake, but no matter how much computer wizardry that Disney puts into its inevitable new version it could never recapture the animated majesty of The Little Mermaid in its original form.

The Little Mermaid
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The timeless animated classic that sparked the Disney Renaissance, The Little Mermaid lands on Blu-ray with a new deluxe 30th anniversary edition.

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