Book Vs. Movie: The Little Mermaid
The Hans Christian Anderson Story Vs. the 1989 Disney Classic
The Margos continue “Disney in December” with the all-time classic 1989 animated feature The Little Mermaid, which began as a fairy tale by Danish author Hans Christian Anderson in 1837. The film was responsible for bringing Disney studios back into animation leaders after decades of so-so films and losing top artists to rival companies.
The original story is about a mermaid who lives in an underwater kingdom with her sisters, her father (a Mer-King), and her grandmother, who instructs her that when she is 15 years old, she can swim to the surface to see the world above. Her sisters (who are all older than her) can visit the land for only one day per year. The mermaid (who is never given a name) longs to visit more often and is obsessed with a statue of a human man on the ocean floor.
When she finally rises, the Mermaid can see a man (a prince!) on shore, and she falls in love. As luck would have it, his ship wreaks, and she can save him from drowning. As she waits for him to wake up on the shore, a young woman from a nearby temple comes over. She is given credit for saving him, and the Little Mermaid becomes despondent.
This is when we learn that mermaids can live up to 300 years undersea, and then they turn into sea foam–without a soul to go to heaven. The Little Mermaid visits a sea which tells her she will give her human legs if she trades with her beautiful voice. Mermaid makes this deal and goes to land. Unfortunately, her new legs feel like daggers as she walks, and the prince likes her well enough, but he loves the woman from the temple whom he thinks saved him from the shipwreck.
The Little Mermaid is told by her sisters (who gave up their long hair to the sea witch to get the formula to bring her back underwater) if she visits the prince and his new bride on their honeymoon on a ship, she can stab him in the heart and she will become a mermaid again.
Instead, she throws a knife into the water and becomes an “Air Fairy,” If she does good deeds for 300 years, she will go to heaven.
The Disney version retells the tale with one of the best villains EVER–Ursula, voiced by the fabulous Pat Carroll and supposedly based partly on the late drag performer Divine. This mermaid is named Ariel, and Alan Menken‘s music and Howard Asman’s lyrics are some of the most memorable in film history. (Try getting “Kiss the Girl” out of your head!) It made hundreds of millions at the box office, and little girls have been cosplaying Ariel for decades. She’s not exactly a feminist icon–but the film is a delightful confection and the last of the handpainted Disney films.
In this episode, we get into the history of the 1989 film and the children’s fairy tale and discuss their differences. Then we choose which we each like better!
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Set up against the backdrop of the Pacific Northwest, FBI agent Laurel Snow strives to navigate her complicated family life when her newly discovered sociopathic half-sister becomes the target of a dangerous killer. The Blacklist meets The Profiler meets Justified is how it is described as laurel believes her sister (Abigail) was behind the mysterious disappearance of their father. Abigail shows up to claim someone is out to kill her, and then dead bodies turn up in the icy Sauk River–her sister seems to be the only connection.
In this ep the Margos discuss:
- Hans Christian Anderson’s interesting life
- The significant differences between the book and the movie
- Disney’s post-Little Mermaid success and how it changed the perception of animation
- The 1989 cast: Jodi Benson (Ariel,) Christopher Daniel Barnes (Prince Eric,) Pat Carroll (Ursula,) Kenneth Mars (King Triton,) Samuel E. Wright (Sebastian,) Jason Marin (Flounder,) Buddy Hackett (Scuttle,) Paddi Edwards (Flotsam and Jetsam,) Ben Wright (Sir Grimsby,) Edie McClurg (Carlotta,) Will Ryan (Harold,) and Rene Auberjonois as Chef Louis.
- Opening Clip with King Triton
- The Little Mermaid original 1989 trailer
- Ariel sees Eric for the first time
- Kiss the Girl
- Ariel and Ursula
- Sebastian and King Triton
- Under the Sea
- Music by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman
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