Disney's version of The Little Mermaid was lauded and loved by millions when it first came out in 1989. It retold Hans Christian Andersen's tale, giving it the classic Disney spin on it. This movie was the very first of the Disney Renaissance period, arguably when some of the best animated films were made. I personally didn't really care for this movie, as I understood the real moral of the story faster than I probably should have. The music was great, though. Changing things a bit from the classic story, Disney's version includes a lot more songs, a lot less of Ariel's family and even a drastically different sea witch. All in all, it was a fun little undersea adventure when we all first saw it.
Unfortunately, it isn't a Disney film that has aged well. The moral of the story most likely was supposed to be somewhere along the lines of 'don't be afraid to follow your dreams' or 'the world is full of wonderful things. Get out of your comfort zone and learn about them'. Looking at the finished project though, the moral turned out a bit worse. The film seems to push the idea that breaking rules will get you what you want no problem and that women need to be married to be happy. The moral of the story wasn't the only thing people ignored, either. These are 25 things that we tend to forget when we put on our nostalgia goggles and watch The Little Mermaid.
25 Science Would Say No
Being part of the Disney Renaissance means that you probably have some iconic tunes. The Little Mermaid is no exception to that. Like I said earlier, the music is amazing and I still enjoy each one to this day. The problem here though is that it's hard to believe any of these creatures could use instruments of any kind. Basically the sound waves wouldn't travel very well through the water, so any kind of music wouldn't have nearly the same quality due to the way it moves.
24 Already King?
Being that Eric is the prince of the film and the person Ariel supposedly loves the most, you might think we would get to meet his family. From the time we spend with him though, we only get to meet Grimsby, the discount Alfred.
Eric's family doesn't get the royal treatment in the movie.
Not only does Eric never speak of his family, there is no indication they ever really existed. This IS a Disney film, so chances are Eric lost them when he was little, but we have no closure as to why Ariel is without in-laws.
23 The Oncoming Storm
For anyone who has sailed a bit or lives in a coastal town (such as Eric's ENTIRE kingdom), you'd think they'd learn how to read the sea. Anyone who fits the aforementioned categories can tell you storms don't just appear. Sailors can tell when they're coming way in advance and prepare for them. But, in Ariel and Eric's case, there wouldn't be quite the same movie if Ariel couldn't save Eric somehow. Easiest way to do it? Whip up a quick storm, of course!
22 An Awfully Large Rock
Okay, so we pointed out that a storm started the whole movie. But the most insane part of the whole thing is the reason the ship sank. The reason given in the movie is a giant rock.
In order for a rock to sink Eric's ship, they would have had to be closer to shore.
The waves moved the ship in the way of a rock and it opened a huge hole in the hull. But if that rock is connected to the floor some how, how close were they to shore? Probably close enough to swim back.
21 The Craziest Wedding
Ursula disguised as a woman named Vanessa (somehow) manages to get a wedding together in less than a day when she tricks him into thinking she is the girl who saved him. Right before the marriage was set, all heck broke loose and we got into the third act climax. But you have to wonder- what happened to the wedding boat with the guests on it? It's safe to say they returned to shore, but then how did they explain what the bride became?
20 The Iconic Dinglehopper
We can give Ariel a little bit of a pass when she first found out what a fork was because Scuttle really needs to work on his vocabulary. But she learned sooner than we tend to give her credit for what the fork is really used for. In the dinner scene, she can see that the forks are for eating, and Eric and Grimsby are using them as well. Sure it might have been a coping method to deal with all of the newness around her, but when in Rome...
19 Dawn Of The Third Day
When Ariel awakes the third morning, she finds out Eric is set to be wed that night to Ursula in disguise. Nearly the next shot is at sundown, when the climax of the story happens. But what exactly does Ariel do for the majority of the day?
We never get to find out how Ariel spent her last day as a human
Does she mope around, hoping that Eric will change his mind? Does she dream of the sea or dread the bargain she made? That could have made for some good character development.
18 It's Easy As 1, 2, 3
Ariel clearly understands how to write when she signs Ursula's contract. (Her penmanship is quite nice!) Yet amazingly, she doesn't think about it at all in the three days she's on land. Maybe Eric distracts her and she forgets. Maybe she doesn't think it's that easy. Maybe she doesn't because otherwise it'd be a very short movie. Whatever the case may be, Ariel could have saved herself a LOT of trouble had she used logic. At least she wins the day, right?
17 It's A Trap!
Ever since I first heard the song "Part of Your World" I was confused. One of the lines reads, "betcha on land/they understand/but they don't reprimand their daughters". (It makes a bit more sense if you're doing a case study on Ariel). Surely it had to be wishful thinking, because there isn't a place alive where there is no reprimanding for anyone. The line seemed out of place, and I could only imagine what she would think when she learned of the restraints on women in her day.
16 A Loving Family
King Triton certainly has it all. A loving and (seemingly) prosperous kingdom, seven beautiful daughters who love him and unconditional power in his trident. The one thing he can't seem to get though is Ariel to listen to him.
Triton's favorite daughter is also his most stressful.
And yet somehow she's the favorite. We see it through several parts of the movie, where she can butter him up in just the right way. She can get away with quite a bit. How one of his other daughters isn't his favorite is beyond me.
15 Those Poor Unfortunate Souls
Through both the movie and the Broadway musical, we know that King Triton knows about Ursula and may understand that she is still up to her old tricks. Certainly he would hear about a large number of his kingdom disappearing after a visit to the sea witch. I think he knew about Ursula's little garden. While his trident does eventually change the plants back into merpeople, you have to wonder why it takes so long. Surely the trident can find where Ursula is hiding.
14 You've Got A Friend In Me?
We all know that Ariel's right hand man is Flounder the fish. He's cautious and can occasionally be the voice of reason Ariel doesn't listen to. Flounder is Ariel's friend and how does she treat him? Honestly not very well.
Ariel isn't a very good friend to Flounder.
She tends to poke fun at him (calling him a guppy when they're about to break rules) and peer pressure him into doing things he doesn't want to do. We wouldn't want to be Ariel's friend at that rate either.
13 That's Gotta Be A Record
King Triton is royalty and therefore must have the best of everything. One of the biggest rides he has is a shell pulled by two dolphins. Now for close-to-shore excursions, that's believable. But to have dolphins, which are mammals who need oxygen to breathe pull your chariot near the ocean floor? You've got to be kidding me. There's no way dolphins are going to hold their breath and still be able to get to the bottom of the ocean and swim around. I don't even want to think about the pressure that must be in a place so far down.
12 A Small Detail
We know from the song she sings that Ursula is the movie's villain. Her deal to Ariel is to become human for three days in exchange for her voice. What Ariel doesn't realize the little trick Ursula put in the contract. No where in their deal does the sea witch promise a safe trip to shore. Ariel immediately gets her wish, making her a human under water without gear. Putting aside the difficulties that arise from getting to shore as quickly as Ariel does, she wouldn't have had the breath to make it to the shore without Flounder and Sebastian.
11 A Major Construction Problem
Ariel and Eric have quite the adventure while exploring the town around the castle. One part of their fun is a carriage ride, and Ariel even gets to take the reins for a bit. Which turns out its a good thing, too because they run into a huge hole in the ground.
How did Eric not see the giant hole in the road?
Ariel is reckless enough to drive over it, but you'd think a giant hole like that would have some sort of warning around it. Let's hope there was a back way to get home.
10 A Hidden Origin
Based on Ariel and Eric's clothing as well as the fact that Italian is used in the song "Poor Unfortunate Souls", it's estimated that the movie takes place in or near Italy. Even though the original story took place in Denmark one of the characters has quite a different accent than the rest. Sebastian the crab has a Jamaican accent, causing us to wonder how he crossed the pond. For the sake of science, we won't even start on the pressure that comes with being so far under the water as well. It IS after all, a cartoon.
9 Mermaid Hair, Don't Care
As the saying goes, Disney didn't give me unrealistic expectations about men... it gave me unrealistic expectations about hair. Most of the Princesses have fairly natural hair. Ariel's however, is sheer magic. It is almost never knotty when it's under water, and it is instantly dry whenever she surfaces from the water. Granted, animators looked at astronaut hair to make hers more lifelike, there's no explanation whatsoever about how it stays perfect all the time. That's what I'd talk to Ursula about.
8 An Attitude Of Gratitude?
With Thanksgiving just around the corner, we take time to appreciate the things we have. Ariel, however, doesn't seem to share that sentiment. She is the daughter of a king, never has to go without, has a fair amount of freedom and gets away with quite a bit.
Ariel has everything but isn't satisfied.
And yet one of the most famous lines she sings says, "I want more." I get that she wants to see the world and understand everything. But take a moment to appreciate what you have. Being a mermaid isn't all that bad.
7 Don't Skip Fin Day
Long story short, boy gets statue, statue sinks in a ship, tiny fish gets statue into girl's grotto as a surprise. But many fans wondered how the statue of Eric went from point A to B. Flounder can't even drag Ariel to the ship very quickly in the third act. The most logical explanation would be that he got some other larger fish to help. That would have given Triton more of an opportunity to find out about it though, so it's easy to rule out. Cartoon physics has beaten us this time.
6 Fish Out Of Water, In Luck
Eric is a prince and has a large amount of resources to help out the poor unfortunate souls of his kingdom. Giving room and board to a silent but beautiful woman shouldn't be too much of a strain on the coffers. It's just crazy to think that Eric is rather quick to extend and invite for her to live with him for a time. He is incredibly lucky that it was Ariel who washed up first, and not Ursula or some other ne'er do well.
5 By A Different Name
If you think too hard about The Little Mermaid, you might accidentally ruin your own childhood. For example, let's look at one of the very first scenes we see Ariel. She's skipped her own concert and is plundering a ship for human doodads.
Ariel takes trinkets from potential resting places.
Think about why that ship is there- it's sunken. The crew may not have made it off the ship in time, which means our plucky little heroine is no more than a thief of someone's final resting place.
4 Perpetuating The Myth
When you have a movie including talking animals, you have to understand that not all of them will be able to speak, and that's okay. But you'd also have to understand that it's because of movies like The Little Mermaid that they created Shark Week on Discovery channel. In the film the shark is merciless and vile. Whereas in real life, they aren't quite as relentless. Give the species a break! A shark's gotta eat, too. You can't deny it that.
3 A Golden Opportunity
During the climax of the battle against Ursula, Flotsam and Jetsam get the magic end of Triton's trident and are finished. While going to mourn for them, Ursula drops the trident, caught up in her grief and anger.
Ariel doesn't act when opportunity knocks.
This would have been the perfect time to grab the weapon and end the fight. Instead, we see Ariel flub it up and not do the practical thing. But, run time's got to be padded somehow, I guess. Anything to raise the stakes will do.
2 The Original End
As stated before, Hans Christian Andersen's original tale was quite a bit more harsh when it came to Ariel. She doesn't quite get the prince of her dreams, as he falls in love with and marries another girl. The Little Mermaid is given the opportunity to return to her family, but in order to do that, she must end the princess. Having a pure heart, she decides not to and turns into sea foam. Not the note Disney wanted to end on, and certainly not an ending that makes sense.
1 A More Comfortable Stay
In the movie, Ariel's only sacrifice for a human body is her voice. Looking back at the original story though, she gives up quite a bit more. Every time she steps, she has enormous pains in her feet. I have worked in a way that I know exactly how that feels, and so the story version of Ariel gets my respect. I have always wondered why the sea witch threw that part in though. I mean, she didn't really have anything to gain from the mermaid's feet hurting, so why do it?