Ariel is the rebellious teen daughter of King Triton. She falls in love with a human prince (whom she rescued from drowning), but her father will not hear of it. So she makes a bargain with the evil Ursula – she will be granted legs for three days (but no voice), and if she has not been kissed by then… well… you know how deals with Evil generally go.
After a long time in the dolldrums, this was a return to form for the Disney studios, and marked something of a second golden age…(which has since come crashing to an end). The Hans Christian Andersen story has, of course been bowdlerized (hello, happy ending), but it’s still plenty charming. And the animation, of course, is gorgeous.
So this is “5.1 Disney Enhanced Theater Surround Sound.” Now what is that supposed to mean, exactly? Who knows, and since it sounds this good, who cares. The environmental effects are outstanding. In the underwater scenes, bubbles percolate up from all sides, and the sense of being plunged into the ocean is well nigh perfect. The music mix is very energetic, with some sharp placement of cues going on. Terrific stuff all round.
The film has been digitally restored, and if one is to believe the sample frames on the back of the case, a lot of work was needed. Whatever the case, the result is very nice. There is a tiny bit of grain, but otherwise, the print is in wonderful condition (zero visible damage), the colours are vibrant, and the image is sharp.
Loads of them. On Disc 1, co-directors Ron Clements and John Musker get together with composer Alan Menken for an informative commentary track that is way to technical to be of interest to kids, but is pretty nice for the adults. There’s a music video of “Kiss the Girl” covered by Ashley Tisdale (yet another factory-produced blonde pop tart), and a jump-to-a-scene option for four songs, complete with optional lyric subtitling. And should you care, there’s a musical sneak peak of the second sequel, plus a raft of trailers.
Disc 2 is broken down into three sections. The first consists of 7 deleted scenes. The second, “Games and Activities” has no real games as such. It has a “DisneyPedia” (a short doc about sea life) and a ton of features about a proposed Little Mermaid ride that was never built. Viewers can take the virtual ride, however, and then there is an interactive exploration of the ride, and a featurette about how it almost came to be. The biggest section by far is “Backstage Disney.” Here one can find a 45-minute making-of documentary, a featurette about the special effects, SIX art galleries (Visual Development, Kay Nielson Artwork [for the unmade 40’s version of the story], Production Photos, Character Design, Storyboard Art, and Backgrounds), an early presentation reel (essentially an industry announcement for the film without any footage), and the theatrical trailer. Perhaps the best of the featurettes is “The Story Behind the Story,” which looks at Hans Christian Andersen. But the nicest feature of them all is “The Little Match Girl,” a new animated short that shows Disney can still work magic. This one does not sugar-coat the ending, and the result is heartbreaking.
One of Disney’s best latter day films in a sumptuous package. Score!
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- Deleted Scenes
- Song Selection
- Music Video
- Making-of Documentary
- “Storm Warning: The Little Mermaid Special Effects Unit” Feautrette
- “The Story Behind the Story” Featurette
- “The Little Match Girl” SHort
- Art Galleries
- “Under the Sea Adventure: A Virtual Ride”
- Behind “The Ride That Almost Was”
- and more