Musings on my childhood favorite – Disney’s The Little Mermaid (1989)

Happy weekend!! Hope you’re all doing well. It’s  I’ve been quite preoccupied with a bunch of stuff this week I barely have time to write anything for the blog.

But hey, I finally did get approved by Rotten Tomatoes! Yes I know I know, I could’ve done that years ago but I guess I just never took the time, but hey, better late than never. To clarify, this blog FlixChatter is NOT a Tomatometer-approved site, but I, Ruth Maramis, am an RT approved critic 🍅So check out some of reviews I’ve submitted, A Star Is Born, Alita: Battle Angel, Cold War, etc. Oh and my first ROTTEN review: A Christmas Prince, ha!

Now, about the main topic at hand…

I actually pre-ordered the Anniversary Edition blu-ray in early February, and finally picked it up a day after it’s official release on Feb 26.

The Little Mermaid is one of my favorite Disney Princess movies. When it was first released in 1989, I was in my early teen. If I were to rank my fave Disney princesses, I’d say Ariel would be in my top three (along with Sleeping Beauty‘s Aurora and Beauty & The Beast‘s Belle).

It’s been decades since I saw the movie in its entirety, and to see it in its gloriously stunning, sharp HD is such a treat! The story features a precocious, fanciful teenage mermaid who dreams of being part of the human world. I can see how this resonated with me as an Indonesian teen growing up in Jakarta, as I too was dreaming of moving away from home and going to the ‘land of dreams’ that is America! Now that I’ve been living in the US for over 20 years, more than I lived in my homeland, I can still identify with Ariel.

We can all identify with kids rebelling against strict parental rules that forbids them from doing what they want. When her dad, King Triton, finds out her vast collection of human memorabilia… and worse, that his favorite daughter has fallen in love with a human, he destroyed her room (a sacred place for any teenager!). A perfect moment for the evil sea witch Ursula to snatch her into her trap. The ‘poor unfortunate souls’ are all of us who’ve succumbed to temptation throughout our lives, some of which comes with dire consequences.

Now, the part about her giving up everything she is, even her own identity, for a guy she doesn’t even know… well, that’s where the Disney princesses narrative has become oh-so-passé, even long before the #MeToo era. Basically Ariel made a deal with the devil, trading in her voice, identity and more for a pair of feet in order to get her man. That’s why I got such a kick out of Ralph Breaks The Internet‘s hilarious-but-accurate commentary on Disney princesses!

Perhaps if you compare to Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella, The Little Mermaid is just slightly more ‘progressive’ in that we get to see the prince–AND princess–actually get to know each other (albeit sans dialog as she’s been rendered mute). I suppose three days is better in getting to know someone than three hours (or even less in the case of Snow White!). I also think Eric is perhaps the hunkiest of the Disney princes, voiced with masculine vigor by Christopher Daniel Barnes.

This movie also boasts a memorable and rather fun villain in Ursula (voiced perfectly by Pat Carroll). I was a bit scared of her initially, ok maybe scared is a strong word, her dark underworld and witchery is rather eerie and unsettling. But watching it now, I’m hugely amused by her sassy attitude and her gravely voice. Her voluptuous octopus lower body and bold red lips and stylized white hair is like a blend between Cruella de Vil and Devil Wears Prada‘s Miranda Priestly.

Apparently Disney originally wanted to tell the original Hans Christian Andersen tale that’s got a much darker ending. But I doubt that would sit well with kids, though the altruistic nature of the protagonist in the book would appeal more to adults. In this version, the obvious problematic issue with Ariel is that despite all the privileges she has (and there are many), she can never be truly happy unless she gives up her identity and becomes another being entirely. I guess with Disney movies, one must not overthink it which would lessen the enjoyment.

I wasn’t one of those girls who’d collect every Disney memorabilia I could get my hands on, but I remember buying a Sebastian stuffed toy and kept it for a long time! Seeing this decades later, I still adore Sebastian the Crab who’s got the arduous task of being Ariel chaperon. He’s still one of my all time favorite Disney characters, and for a diminutive crustacean, Sebastian’s actually got a pretty strong character arc. I LOVE the way he’s drawn… the way his jaw drops whenever Ariel did something unthinkable, how his legs quiver when he’s confronted by King Triton… he’s SO much more than a comic relief, and thanks to Samuel E. Wright, he’s certainly one of the best-voiced character in the vast Disney universe!

Speaking of voices, Broadway star Jodi Benson‘s voice as Ariel is absolutely perfect. As I’m watching the behind the scene feature, Alan Menken & the Leading Ladies, it’s amazing how Benson still sounds exactly like Ariel 30 years later! I suppose most of the leading ladies featured there still sound like their characters, but Benson seems to have the right personality as well.

Surely the music is often the highlights of the Disney Princess movies, thanks to the genius of Alan Menken and his lyricist partner, the late Howard Ashman. I usually love the ballads that the princesses’ sing, but in The Little Mermaid, the highlight has got to be Under the Sea!

No wonder the movie won two Oscars for Best Original Song and Best Original Score. The movie is a rare double nominee in the music category as the whimsical song Kiss the Girl was also nominated!

Per IMDb Trivia, this was ‘the last Disney animated feature to use hand-painted cels and analog camera and film work. 1,000 different colors were used on 1,100 backgrounds. Over one million drawings were done in total.’ That’s truly astounding and it looks absolutely breathtaking. I LOVE the underwater world of the kingdom of Atlantica, I’d say it’s way more beautiful to look at than the recent underwater universe of Aquaman.

I have just started watching the Bonus Features, and the one I enjoyed the most is the Art of Live Action Reference where models would act out the characters in order to help the artists draw them better. It’s amazing how much the two actors who play Ariel and Eric resemble their animated characters! They also get to improvise the mannerism that we get to see in the final movie.

I love just how expressive Ariel is, her wide-eyed wonder and long, flowing red mane is iconic. Animation effects have come a looong way since then, but I think The Little Mermaid still holds up pretty well. Naturally Disney has done a great job remastering their old classics to ensure the colors look vibrant and the details are sharp, but overall the animation style itself is still a marvel to look at.

So yeah, I still very much enjoy The Little Mermaid, despite some of its narrative problems I mentioned above. It’s certainly a gorgeous movie and rewatching it was a pretty satisfying walk down memory lane.


Have you seen The Little Mermaid or seen it recently? What did YOU think?

Music Break: Ten Favorite Oscar-Winning Film Scores

TenFaveOscarWinningScores

The Oscars is just a week away, folks! Well, a week ago, as I was listening to 99.5 Classical MPR they were playing my favorite score from Titanic and I knew I had to make a post of it. For this post I’m focusing more on the instrumental themes instead of the songs, hence my exclusion of Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, etc. Y’know, I’m still surprised that some of my all time fave scores did NOT win an Oscar, i.e. Gone with the Wind, Superman, Indiana Jones, Gladiator, The Hours, and The Passion of the Christ, just to name a few. Heck, the one I considered one of the greatest scores ever, Somewhere in Time, wasn’t even nominated! But its composer John Barry had been nominated six times. John Williams, the reigning champion of the most-nominated composer ever with 44 (he beat Alfred Newman who had 43 noms) have made some truly iconic scores, but my faves did not win, so I only included the one I love the most.

Thanks to Wikipedia for making it easy for me to see the winners all the way from the 1930s. Now, I’ve seen most of the films the scores appear in, with a couple of exceptions (Out of Africa and Dances with Wolves). So in any case, here are my Top 10 Fave Oscar-Winning Scores, in order of release:

BEN-HUR – Miklós Rózsa

Ever since I saw this as a young girl with my late mother, few films have touched me as much as Ben-Hur did and Rozsa’s score is one of the reasons it’s such an enduring epic.

 

Lawrence of Arabia – Maurice Jarre

I actually just saw this film two years ago but I’ve heard the soundtrack years before and it’s remained one of my favorites!

 

Out of Africa – John Barry

Ahhh John Barry… nobody could create a more lush and devastatingly gorgeous music that pierces your soul. I haven’t seen the film yet but I’m actually afraid the music would actually eclipse the film itself.

 

The Little Mermaid – Alan Menken

I grew up listening to all Disney Princess songs and I somehow identified with Ariel’s loneliness and her yearning to belong in someone else’s world. Mr. Menken is an absolute musical genius in that he somehow could capture the sentiment of her character.

I also have a special fondness for the Caribbean-influenced style of Under the Sea. I LOVE the little crab Sebastian so much I actually bought the tiny stuffed animal, and I’m still using The Little Mermaid‘s beach towel to this day 😀

 

Schindler’s List – John Williams

Perhaps one of the most hauntingly-beautiful music ever conceived. I never NOT tear up whenever I listen to this. Itzhak Perlman‘s violin solo adds so much to the piece, making it ever so unforgettable.

 

Beauty & The Beast – Alan Menken

I was just listening to this the other day and out of all the music in the wonderful album, this has to be my favorite. Yes, it even beats the more popular Tale as old as time. The scene itself of the Beast’s transformation is beautifully-done and it always packs such an emotional punch.

 

Dances with Wolves – John Barry

Another one by John Barry, can’t you tell I absolute LOVE this man’s work? I really should see this film already, as I’ve listened to the soundtrack more often than I can count.

 

Titanic – James Horner

THIS is the piece that was played in Classical MPR on my way home from work last week. I’m glad they chose to play Take Her to Sea Mr Murdock instead of the massively popular My Heart Will Go On. I always remember the first time I beheld the majestic ocean liner on the big screen and there’s a lump in my throat when that music came on. There’s such an energy to it, a joyful optimism of that day that’s so infectious, which makes the doom fate of Titanic later on in the film even more heart-wrenching.

 

The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King – Howard Shore

I really think the soundtrack of the entire trilogy is simply exceptional. It’s just as epic as Peter Jackson’s creation and it really transport you into the realm of Middle Earth!

 

The Artist – Ludovic Bource

The strength of a lot of silent films is the soundtrack and The Artist is no exception. I love most of the tracks but this waltz is my absolute favorite. I LOVE Bérénice Bejo in the role, this music is as pretty and playful as Peppy herself, there’s such a wistful nostalgic vibe that takes you back to those Chaplin classics.


Hope you enjoyed this week’s music break! Which of these Oscar-winning score(s) is your favorite?

31 Days Movie Meme Day #13: Favorite animated movie

I grew up watching Disney Princesses flicks, so to this day I always have a fondness for animated movies. Well, as I mentioned in my Films That Define Us post, one of the movies that left a lasting impression on me is Sleeping Beauty. But I’ve grown out of the fairy tale love story stuff and have since embraced pretty much everything Pixar has to offer, hence my top five Pixar characters list.

Suffice to say, it’s virtually impossible to pick just ONE favorite animated flick. As rules are meant to be broken, I’m going to list FIVE of them instead, as I shared in Peter’s Gimme 5 post series:

  1. Sleeping Beauty
    Gorgeous visuals, beautiful music (I still hum Once Upon a Dream from time to time), enchanting story, memorable villain. What else would you ask for? Briar Rose remains my favorite Princess to this day. The quintessential Disney masterpiece I can enjoy for years to come.
  2. Chicken Run
    It’s technically a stop-motion animation using clay figures, I adore the look of the movie. Based on the movie The Great Escape set in WWII POW camp, Ginger and her friends are imprisoned in the Tweedys chicken farm. Well-written and witty, this movie is pure fun and heartwarming. It even makes me feel a bit guilty eating a chicken sandwich afterward 🙂
  3. The Little Mermaid
    I LOVE Ariel! As far as princesses go, she’s by far one of the most relatable as she is like a typical teenager, giggly and naive… and who hasn’t had a major crush on a guy so much you’re willing to give up everything to be with him? I actually had a bit of a crush on Eric, too. Yeah I know he’s a cartoon but that’s how good this movie is! 🙂 Plus, there’s that adorable lobster friend Sebastian. Oh, and the music, especially Kiss the Girl and Under the Sea, absolute classic and downright entertaining!
  4. Beauty & The Beast
    A classic story with a timeless appeal. Disney REALLY upped the ante with this movie, too. The production quality and the dramatic camera movement, especially in the dance sequence in the chandelier-ed ballroom, was at the time, quite innovative and breathtaking to behold. As with any Disney flicks, the supporting characters are fun to watch, but never distracts us from the heart of the love story.
    ….
  5. Wall-E
    I never would’ve thought I’d enjoy a story about a mute little robot working in the trash department in a post-apocalyptic world. But Pixar’s genius is in creating such a sympathetic character that my eyes were hardly dry throughout the entire movie. I don’t just like this movie, I LOVE it. There’s a believable and sweet love story in this, too. Trust me, it’s even more affecting than the human version in a lot of those banal rom-coms!

    Honorable mentions:
    Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc., Toy Story 3, The Lion King, A Bug’s Life, and all Disney Princesses movies! 🙂

So, what about you? What are some animated movies that tickle your fancy?