Thirty years ago, Walt Disney Studios was experiencing a lull. Yes, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? had done some exciting things with animation and live-action blended together, but the 1980s had only provided The Fox & The Hound, The Black Cauldron, The Great Mouse Detective, and Oliver & Company… After The Little Mermaid, Disney would break off a string of successes that can hardly be compared: Beauty & The Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, Pocahontas, Toy Story. In many ways, The Little Mermaid rescued Disney.
Underwater teenage princess Ariel ignores all of the warnings of her father, King Triton of Atlantica, and the crab adviser Sebastian, traveling regularly with her non-flounder buddy, Flounder, to the surface world to collect knick-knacks a-plenty. She rescues Prince Eric when he’s shipwrecked, and yearns to be human so she can be with him. She makes a deal with the sea witch Ursula: she’ll have three days to get Eric to kiss her, while Ursula keeps her voice trapped in a nautilus shell. Those deals never end well, do they?
Blu-ray features here take a deeper dive into the making of the film, like “What I Want From You is … Your Voice” as the cast recorded tracks, and Alan Mencken is paired up with “The Leading Ladies” for musical numbers. Of course, there’s sing-a-long mode, too. Walt’s office gets “bugged” for stories about “Gizmos and Gadgets”, while Coop and Cami Ask the Real World’s Ruby Rose Turner and Olivia Sanabia look into the secret treasures of the film. Digitally, there is a thirty-year retrospective and three hours of bonus material.
Even thirty years later, watching it again, certain things jump off the screen: Sebastian is still hilarious, Ursula is still one of the most terrifying Disney villains (or other) ever, and the music – “Under the Sea,” “Kiss the Girl,” “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” and “Part of Your World” – still gets stuck in your ears.