Did you know that The Little Mermaid
was going to be one of Disney's first animated films? Originally, it was planned that this film be released during the decade of the 30, taking advantage of the resounding success obtained by Snow White and The Seven Dwarfts (1937)
. But the production was postponed for several reasons and this project would not see the light until years later.
After the death of Walt Disney in 1966 and under a new administration, the company went through a severe financial and personnel crisis because its new classics did haven´t the same success as their predecessors, causing great losses of money and many animators leave the company. Fortunately, the studio began to recover from 1986 with the launch of The Great Mouse Detective
that did get a better acceptance among the public, but the best was yet to come.At that time, the animator, scriptwriter and producer, Ron Clements, found the Andersen's book of stories in a bookstore and he was particularly interested in the story of the mythical mermaid, as in making a animated film set under the sea.
In this way, he created a two-page sketch with his own interpretation of the story he presented to company executives. Although the project was almost rejected because at that time was produced a sequel to the Splash movie whose protagonist is also a mermaid, so the executives felt that both films would be very similar. In the end, the project was accepted and production began.
The Little Mermaid was very successful and began a new golden age for Disney named Disney Renaissance (1989-1999), resuming the trend of adapting fairy tales about princesses to animated films.
At that time, Disney animators used the traditional method of hand-painted animation in all their animated films. The Little Mermaid was made through this method, since Pixar developed a new digital drawing system, CAPS / ink & paint, to color and combine the scanned drawings, and to create images by computer. This made the work of animating much easier and an experimental prototype of this system was used to make some of the scenes in this film, such as the final scene of Ariel and Eric's wedding sailing on the boat under rainbow.
The animators involved were Glen Keane and Mark Henn for Ariel, Duncan Marjoribanks in Sebastian, Andreas Deja for King Triton and Ruben Akino to Ursula. Originally, Keane wanted to draw Ursula because he got a good reputation for his work to draw large and powerful figures such as Professor Ratigan (The Geat Mouse Detective
) and others, but he was assigned to be one of Ariel's main artists and to oversee the song Part of your world
. While the music was created by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman.About the design of the characters
, several actors and actresses were used to shoot live scenes as a reference material of movement for the animators, a recurrent practice of Disney in their animated films. In this way, the animators could draw the characters with greater precision, realism and with a great variety of poses. The actress Alyssa Milano
was the model to define the personality and appearance of Ariel, while for the effect of her hair under water was used as reference some images of Sally Rider
in the space and some scenes were recorded with Sherri Lynn Stoner
in a swimming pool as a guide to animate the Ariel's swimming. Joshua Finkel, actor from Broadway, performed scenes for Prince Eric.
The actors for the voices were Jodi Benson (Ariel and Vanessa), Christopher Daniel Barnes (Prince Eric), Pat Carroll (Ursula), Samuel E. Wright (Sebastian), Jason Marin (Flounder) and Kenneth Mars (King Triton).
Other curious facts about the movie
- Initially, Sebastian was created as an English crab called "Clarence", but Ashman suggested changing it to a Jamaican Rastafarian crab with his current name. He also was going to have a Jamaican accent, but Wright interpreted it with an accent from a friend from Trinidad and Tobago.
- The color green for Ariel's tail was a color created especially for the film in Disney's color labs and named as the character. In addition, it was decided that she was a redhead to distinguish her from the blonde mermaid of "Splash".
- Ursula's appearance is based on the American actor of drag queen, Divine. In addition, her original design was a tall and thin sea witch of regal appearance, based on blankets, scorpion fish and the thorn fish. Then it was changed to be an octopus with six tentacles instead of eight, for economic reasons.
- Did you know that the song "Part of Your World" was going to be eliminated from the film? Through this song, Ariel expresses her desire to be human. However, during a test presentation, some of the children did not pay much attention to the scene and one of them threw his popcorn. One of the Disney executives felt that the song was going to be very boring for the children and considered withdrawing it. Fortunately, the others involved in the project insisted that the song should remain and that's how it is. Can you imagine the movie without this emblematic song?
- The initial scene of the film (with Eric sailing on his boat) was made with opaque colors as they wanted to reserve bright colors for scenes under the sea.
- Undoubtedly, the underwater context required more animation with special effects. The underwater scenes of the film Pinocchio (1940) were taken as references and various techniques were combined, such as xerography, background lighting, image overlay and computer animation. In addition, Disney had to order most of the bubbles under the sea from Pacific Rim Productions, a Chinese company located in Beijing. It is estimated that more than one million bubbles were drawn for the film.
- Breaker the Dolphin was a character created exclusively for the film and should be Ariel's friend, but was replaced by Flounder. When Sebastian sings "Under the Sea", we can see a dolphin that is supposed to be a Breaker's cameo.
- The shark that chases to Ariel and Flounder at the beginning is called "Glut" and was planned to have a rematch with Flounder later, but that scene was removed so as not to stretch the film too long.
- When King Triton appears in a chariot drawn by dolphins during the beginning of the film, we can see to Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy in the audience (zooming in on the image).
- In the scene after Ursula is destroyed, Ariel's stance as she looks at Eric with nostalgia resembles the famous statue of The Little Mermaid by Andersen in Copenhagen (sculpted by Edward Eriksen).
A sequel called The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea was released in the year 2000 and features Ariel and Eric's daughter, Melody, who feels a great fascination for the sea and she wants to be a mermaid, but she has to face to Morgana, Úrsula's sister. An animated television series was also made in 1992, focused a year before the events of the first film and follows the adventures of Ariel and her friends under the sea. And later in 2008, a prequel was released called The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning with a similar theme that shows the life of Ariel with her parents and sisters, before the death of her mother and that King Triton banned music in Atlantica
Some of the characters in the film appeared as "guests" in the House of Mouse
series and in the Mickey's Magical Christmas: Snowed in House of Mouse
film. And Ursula appeared as one of the main villains in Mickey's House of Villains
. On the other hand, Ariel had a cameo in Wifi Ralph
with the other Disney princesses, when Vanellope enters the website of Disney fans.
Finally, The Little Mermaid also has a playable world known as Atlantica in the video game series Kingdom Hearts
and includes the characters of the film such as Ariel, Sebastian, Flounder, King Triton, Ursula, Flotsam and Jetsam, Prince Eric and Glut the shark.
Share your thoughts on this film:
- Do you prefer the story of Andersen or the adaptation of Disney and its sequels?
- Would you like to see a live action version?
Thank you very much for following this article! . I hope to bring
more articles like this on other Disney classics in the future.