When she falls in love, a young mermaid makes a deal with
a sea witch to become human in exchange for her voice.
The Little Mermaid (1989)
Written and Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker
Starring Jodi Benson, Kenneth Mars, Pat Carroll, Samuel E. Wright, Christopher Daniel Barnes, Buddy Hackett, Jason Marin
Based on the fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen
Oscar Wins - Best Original Score (Alan Menken),
Best Original Song (Under the Sea)
Oscar Nominations - Best Original Song (Kiss the Girl)
The Little Mermaid is the Disney flick that's credited for starting the epic comeback that Disney would enjoy throughout the 90's. After a string of bombs such as The Black Cauldron, The Great Mouse Detective, and Oliver & Company, Disney finally succeeded in making box office magic once again with this timeless fairy tale. It's got all the elements of a Disney hit. Catchy songs, beautiful animation, memorable characters, and just enough darkness to give the parents something to enjoy too. Granted, the overall plot of "a teenage girl gives up everything she's ever known for a guy she just met and hasn't spoken to yet" has not aged very well. But like most of Disney's animated classics, it's still delightful and charming.
Meet one of Disney's most famous princess, Ariel (Benson) of Atlantica. She's the youngest daughter of King Triton (Mars), and she's curious about the surface world. Curiosity turns to infatuation after she catches a glimpse of the dashing Prince Eric (Barnes), but when her father reacts emotionally and hurts her feelings, Ariel turns to the evil sea witch Ursula (Carroll) for a solution. Ursula agrees to make Ariel human for three days in exchange for Ariel's voice. But if Ariel can't make Eric fall in love with her in three days, her soul will belong to Ursula. Now, Ariel must adapt to life as a human and a mute, as well as seduce Eric. It's a wacky adventure with just enough heart to stand out amongst Disney's other work.
Compared to what came after, The Little Mermaid isn't as strong. But compared to what came before, it's a masterpiece. This one's animation and songs still hold up, but the character motivations are questionable nowadays. A lot of Disney's work is under much heavier scrutiny these days, be it for racial insensitivity or sexist writing. I wouldn't count The Little Mermaid among their worst offenses (apart from that shocking blackfish), but I would argue that Disney has made significantly stronger female characters since Ariel. Still, it's a good movie.