talent behind The Little Mermaid
Directed by: Ron Clements & John Musker
Written by: Roger Allers & Ron Clements
Music by: Alan Menken & Howard Ashman
Released on: November 17, 1989
Running Time: 82 minutes
Box-Office: $84.355 million in the U.S. (original release, $110m
with 1997 reissue), $216.6 million worldwide
Sebastian... Samuel E. Wright
Flounder... Jason Marin
King Triton... Kenneth Mars
Ursula... Pat Carroll
Scuttle... Buddy Hackett
Prince Eric... Christopher Daniel Barnes
Louis... Rene Auberjonois
Grimsby... Ben Wright
Jodi Benson (Ariel)
and Samuel E. Wright (Sebastian) returned in a September 2000 direct-to-video
sequel The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea, which features
five new songs. After rejoicing over the birth of their daughter
and Eric must face a new threat from Ursula's revengeful sibling Morgana
-a threat that forces them to hide Melody's true mermaid heritage. Melody,
a young princess curious about her roots, ultimately ventures into the
sea against her parents' wishes. There she meets new friends, and in her
dream to be a mermaid becomes a pawn in Morgana's plot to gain control
of the Seven Seas. Ariel must reunite with her childhood friends, Sebastian,
Flounder, and Scuttle, to rescue her daughter and restore harmony to her
family. This movie was a huge success, and became one of 2000's top-10
highest grossing movies, including live-action and theatrical releases,
grossing a total of $121 million!
In the version
by poet H. C. Andersen, the 15-year old Mermaid falls in love with the
Prince that she saved from drowning the first time she swam to the surface
of the sea. She lost her fish tail, when she sold her voice to the evil
sea witch instead of the "most beatufiful legs any girl could ever have".
She would win the Prince and an imortal soul. But unlike this animated
version, she didn't get her Prince, and was transformed into deadly cold
Cybele Baker wrote
in to further comment that "The Little Mermaid original tale also has her
in agony every time she walks which is why she seemed so graceful and delicate
because she walked very carefully. Her death at the end, while sad is also
uplifting because she chooses not to kill the Prince to save her own life
but to allow him his happiness. The Hans Christian Andersen tale is all
about how Mermaids do not have a soul, and when they die they become nothing
but Sea Foam. But the Little Mermaid does not become Sea Foam, she is taken
away by angels in Heaven at the end and given the gift of a soul because
of her goodness and sacrifice."
This was the last
Disney animated feature to be painted by hand. 1,000 different colors were
used on 1,100 backgrounds. Over one million drawings were done in total.
was used as the body model for Ariel, and would also be the model for Belle
in Beauty and the Beast.
The two minute
storm took 10 special effects artists over a year to finish.
Hill reveals that the great white shark Glut, seen briefly in Ariel's
introductory scene in The Little Mermaid, was originally meant to
have a much larger role: "in his desperate desire to consume Ariel &
Flounder as he surges through the ship, the shark [would have swallowed]
a lot of things. Including a French horn. Then the two friends escape only
because Glut gets his head caught in the rope end of an anchor." Much later
on, when Ariel and Flounder swim to reach the wedding barge, Glut would
have spied them again, out in the open ocean. "So the Great White swims
up underneath them and throws open his enormous jaws when... Ariel &
Flounder reach the boat. The Little Mermaid is able to clamber up the side
of the ship just as Flounder spies Glut. The terrified little fish then
crams the barrel into the Great White’s gaping maw. As Glut bites down
on the wooden container, the camera zooms in to reveal the 'Gun Powder'
label that’s pasted to the side of the barrel. Cut to the deck of the wedding
barge. Prince Eric & Ursula’s ceremony is interrupted as the ship is
rocked by an enormous off-screen explosion. Tons of water now rain down
on everyone standing on deck. After a slight pause, a battered French horn
falls out of the sky--landing right at Ursula’s feet. Time and money played
an important part in Glut’s return getting cut."
was used as the model for Ariel. Animators also based their work on a picture
of Alyssa Milano.
cave includes the painting "Magdalene With the Smoking Flame" by 17th-century
artist Georges de La Tour.
Hill, a gag, which would have appeared near the end of Ursula's big
number, Poor Unfortunate Souls, was cut out: as the sea witch unrolled
the scroll that Ariel must sign to become human, the camera quickly flies
over the fine print. Going frame by frame, one would eventually see a series
of arcane symbols on the contract. These symbols included a hand gun being
pointed directly at Mickey Mouse's head. Disney management somehow got
wind of the proposed in-joke and insisted that it be dropped from the finished
version of the film.
In the opening
scene when King Triton arrives at the arena, you can briefly see Mickey
Mouse, Goofy, and Donald Duck in the crowd of sea-people as mermen when
he passes over them.
Ben Wright (Grimsby
the butler) also lent his voice to Roger in 101
Dalmatians, something the Disney folks auditioning him for The
Little Mermaid didn't even know until he told them! This talented actor
died of a heart failure shortly after completing his part for The Little
According to casting
director Chris Chase, Pat Carroll's villainous Ursula is a perfect example
of an actor fueling animators. "She sounded like she'd smoked too many
cigarettes, and she made these delicious little noises, all of which the
It was confirmed in October 2001 a stage version of The Little Mermaid
was in development at Disney Theatrical Productions. It will feature
direction and choreography from Matthew Bourne, who received 1999 Tony
Awards for Best Choreographer and Best Director for his production of Swan
Lake. Matthew Bourne will collaborate with Lez Brotherston, who will
Mermaid's sets and costumes. Alan Menken recruited
a new writing partner--lyricist Glenn Slater (Home
on the Range,
help him fashion 5 or 6 new numbers for Sebastian et al to sing. The stage
musical will have an out-of-town tryout in spring 2004, librettist David
Ives told Variety on November 4, 2002. The show is scheduled to reach Broadway
in fall 2004. Ives also said the show would get a "round-table reading"
in February 2003.
A reading of Alan
Menken and Glenn Slater's stage musical version was held in summer 2003.
Kerry Butler was cast as Ariel in the reading, which featured 12 new songs
by Menken and Slater. The score also features the original tunes by Menken
and the late Howard Ashman. Menken commented in August 2003 that the "thorniest"
issue about the musical was its physical production, how to stage a musical
that is set under water. "I can't imagine how we're going to physically
get it on stage. That's one reason right now, very quietly, there's a lot
of talk going on with a lot of directors and a lot of designers. Until
that's figured out we're just in a little bit in a holding pattern, and
I hope we will break that holding pattern soon."
first Disney animated feature in almost 30 years to tackle a classic fairy
tale, The Little Mermaid marked the beginning of a new era: first
film produced by the new generation of animation artists to capture fully
the imagination of both audience and critics, it was also the last feature
to be made by the principal animation unit that depended upon hand-painted
More importantly, it was exactly what the animation industry needed
at the time: an animated film for everyone. A huge critical and commercial
success, it opened the third Golden Age of Disney animation, which would
span onto the 21st century!
Origins of the Project |The
the Characters |Effects
OF THE PROJECT
idea of doing an animated version of The Little Mermaid dates back
to the late 1930s, when Walt Disney considered making it his second animated
feature -the project never saw the light of day due to World War II.
Half a century later, in 1985, Ron Clements encountered
the story while browsing in a bookstore. He was just wrapping up his assignment
as co-director on The Great Mouse
Detective (1986) and had been scouting around for future projects.
The prospect of doing an underwater fantasy was particularly intriguing
to him. The Andersen tale had all the elements he was looking for but there
were some distinct challenges in adapting it to the screen.
"When I first read 'The Little Mermaid,' I thought it was a beautiful
and poetic story with really exciting visual opportunities," recalls Clements.
"It was so cinematic, that the images seemed to leap off the page. But
it was also one of the saddest stories ever written. The biggest problem
was with Andersen's ending where the mermaid sacrifices herself and turns
into a sea foam spirit when her love is unrequited. We knew we needed a
happier ending to really make it work for our purposes. We tried to come
up with a way of doing that and somehow still remaining faithful to the
basic themes of the story. Our ending retains the bittersweet quality of
the original story, yet is uplifting at the same time."
initially wrote a two-page treatment for The Little Mermaid in 1985.
The treatment was later expanded to 20 pages, with John
Musker joining his colleague in the writing process. In this version,
the unnamed seawitch from Andersen's story became more of a villain and
figured more prominently into the overall story. Characters like Sebastian,
Flounder and Scuttle were created and personalities for Triton and the
Prince began taking shape.
In the summer of 1986, Clements and Musker went to New York to meet
with Howard Ashman and his partner, Alan
Menken. The songwriters offered their opinions on the role and placement
of the music in the film and played an early rendition of the "Part of
Your World" number. As the script was finalized, they became an important
part of the creative process.
Little Mermaid" makes extensive use of songs and underscoring to accentuate
and advance plot points, story action and the personalities of the characters.
From the very inception of the project, composer Alan Menken
and lyricist Howard Ashman worked in close collaboration
with the directors. This unique relationship harkens back to the Studio's
earliest days, when resident staff musicians routinely worked with the
creative team during the formative stages of such films as Snow
White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Pinocchio
Dumbo (1941) and Bambi
From the animators' point of view, the musical contributions of Ashman
and Menken brought something special to the project. Their songs created
an excitement and enthusiasm among the staff that motivated them to create
visual elements that would be equally dynamic. "Howard and Alan brought
a theatrical approach and style to the project that we tried to wed with
animation and film techniques," says Musker. "I think
the marriage was a good one. The songs are better integrated here than
in any Disney film in a long, long time."
seven songs heard in The Little Mermaid were written and
over a period of 18 months. During that time, the songwriters set up a
music studio at Disney's animation facility in Glendale, California, where
Ashman spent at least two weeks out of every month. "Usually the lyrics
come first," explains Menken. "Because Howard was involved
as a producer, as well as a lyricist, he had a strong concept for the music,
as well as the lyrics. He would come in with not only the words, but the
whole dramatic thrust and the style of the song, and how we were going
to use the underscore."
Ashman noted in 1989 that "Writing the songs is
usually pretty easy. The hard part is what we call 'routining,' which means
deciding how many times to repeat a part, if at all, or whether to cut
it out entirely." The songwriters describe their work for the film as "a
pastiche." "Working with a fairy tale, you lose a sense of specific time
and therefore have the latitude to work in all kinds of musical styles.
It allows you to do a different kind of dreaming," said Ashman.
the character of Sebastian, who sings two of the film's main tunes, the
songwriters dreamed up a special musical style that would allow a rhythmic
edge and a contemporary feeling to it. Ashman remembered, "At our first
meeting with the directors, we came up with the idea of giving Sebastian
a Caribbean flavor so that we could have a whole range of calypso and reggae
styles to play with in the music. It was a way of adding energy, spice
and a little bit of contemporary pop feeling. "Sebastian's first song in
the film is the spirited production number "Under The Sea." Backed by a
crustacean band and a Busby Berkeley-style chorus line of brightly colored
marine life, the crafty crab musically extols the virtues of living below
the surface. Sebastian returns to the spotlight later in the film to stir
up a romantic mood by crooning the upbeat tune "Kiss the Girl." Providing
some "doo-wop" harmonies are a chorus of grasshoppers, pelicans, flamingos,
frogs, ducks and turtles.
the ballad "Part of Your World," Ashman and Menken
set out to articulate Ariel's dream through music in a way that would get
the audience to like her and root for her to succeed. "In almost every
musical ever written," remarked Ashman, "there's a place usually early
in the show where the leading lady sits down on something -- in Brigadoon
it's a tree stump; in Little Shop of Horrors it's a trash can --
and sings about what she wants most in life. We borrowed this classic rule
of Broadway musical construction for 'Part of Your World.' Because Jodi
Benson (the voice of Ariel) is an actress who also sings, she was able
to convey a tremendous amount of soul and specificity in her performance."
song "Poor Unfortunate Souls," is delivered by Ursula
in a raunchy, cabaret-style with strong overtones of Kurt Weill. Ashman
put the character's sophisticated and verbal nature to best advantage by
using more rhymes, puns and sly humor in the lyrics. The song plays a pivotal
role in the plot since it follows Ariel's transformation from mermaid to
human. Also on the musical menu is a hilarious number called "Les Poissons"
served up with a dash of slapstick by the palace chef, Louis. It focuses
on the joy of cooking fish as he desperately tries to turn Sebastian into
the daily special.
Two other diverse musical selections complete the program. "Fathoms
Below" is a sea chanty that introduces Prince Eric and his shipmates
at the beginning of the film. "Daughters of Triton" is a concert showcase
for Ariel's sisters, created by that great impresario of the deep, Sebastian.
To create a distinctive design and fitting color style for the fairy
tale setting of The Little Mermaid, the directors turned
to a number of top artists for inspiration during the early stages of preproduction.
Cartoonist Rowland B. Wilson influenced the color schemes with his watercolors
of Mediterranean castles and seascapes. Renowned children's book author/illustrator
Chris Van Allsburg and legendary Disney layout man Ken O'Connor suggested
additional artistic approaches.
helpful during this period were some evocative pastel drawings by sketch
artist Kay Nielson that were unearthed in the Disney Archives. Nielson,
who had previously worked on the "Night on Bald Mountain" sequence for
(1940) and was a prominent illustrator of his day, had created storyboard
art in the early '40s for two proposed features based on Andersen's works.
With these inspirations, art directors Mike Peraza and Donald Towns
began experimenting with color and backgrounds to see how those elements
could strengthen the telling of the story. "Just because so much of the
film takes place underwater, didn't mean our color palate was limited to
blue," explains Towns. "The great thing about animation is that you have
the ability to take liberties that you wouldn't ordinarily take in a live-action
picture. We were able to create a full range of moods and emotions by varying
and contrasting colors. This was also useful in enhancing the theatrics
of our musical numbers."
ensure a consistent style and flow of color throughout, Towns devised a
schematic approach which served as his visual outline for the entire film.
A board with small color squares representing the various scenes allowed
him to analyze the impact of the changing colors for the entire film. The
"Under The Sea" number provides a good example of this approach. The scene
begins in almost a monochromatic blue to suggest its setting on the ocean
floor. As Sebastian sings about life being greener, the background shifts
to that color. When he mentions the unhappy fate of fish in captivity,
the background becomes purple. As the musical number builds to its full
theatrical intensity with hundreds of dancing fish and marine musicians
joining in, a full spectrum of color is introduced. Pinks, yellows, and
even a brilliant red (to illustrate the song's reference to a hot crustacean
band) add to the overall effect. At the song's conclusion, when Ariel has
wandered off, the environment returns to a calm shade of underwater blue.
This sudden contrast from the cheery scene which preceded it suggests that
"reality" has returned and helps set up what is to follow.
With regard to colors for the characters themselves, great care had
to be taken to compensate skin tones and hair color in changing environments
and light sources. There were 32 color models for Ariel alone and numerous
costume changes (from mermaid fin to rag dress to wedding gown). The Disney
paint lab even invented a new color appropriately called "Ariel" for the
blue-green color of her fin.
animators here at Disney, our biggest challenge is not only to make the
characters move but also to make them breathe," says directing animator
Keane. "They have to appear to be thinking and making their own decisions.
You have to see the thinking process. Whenever I do a scene where that
comes across, then I feel like I've accomplished something."
Andreas Deja, another of the film's directing
animators, sums it up this way: "To be a good animator, you have to like
what you're doing so much that the drawing part is really secondary. The
things that are uppermost in your mind are acting, emotions, communicating
clearly and getting it all technically right. You just happen to be drawing
at the same time."
With these ideas in mind, the "Mermaid" creative team set out to design
and animate a new cast of characters that would come to life on the big
screen. In the early stages of production, a large aquarium, was moved
into the animation building and artists with sketch pads frequently gathered
to study and draw the exotic fish. Research photos from National Geographic
and reference books were plastered on the walls of the animators' rooms.
models also proved useful for study purposes. Sherri Stoner, a talented
young actress/performer who had spent many years with Los Angeles' premiere
comedy improvisation group, The Groundlings, was called in to model for
the little mermaid. Animators were able to study her movements as she swam
about in a clear glass tank (8 feet deep) filled with water.
Directing animator Mark Henn credits Stoner with
inspiring some of Ariel's facial expressions as well. "She was able to
bring to the character a unique and believable spark which we may not have
thought of otherwise," said Henn. "Little things like the way she bites
her lip were incorporated into Ariel's personality and helped bring the
While the work of the character animators is prominently on display
in the form of any movement involving personality, the more subtle efforts
of the effects animators are equally important in creating an overall sense
of excitement and credibility. Animated effects can range from huge crashing
waves on the ocean to a tiny teardrop of water coming from a faucet. For
Little Mermaid, a team of 25 effects artists were responsible for animating
storms at sea, billowing sails, schools of fish, shadows, raging fire,
explosions, magic pixie dust, surface reflections, underwater distortions,
ripples and more bubbles than a Lawrence Welk marathon.
to effects animation supervisor Mark Dindal, "This film had more effects
than probably any film since Fantasia
(1940). Nearly 80 percent of the film required some kind of effects work.
The fairy tale setting gave us the challenge of coming up with images that
were new and fantasy-related. The more successful we are, the more the
audience is pulled into the story. We tried to strike the right balance
so that the effects added enough without overpowering the characters."
For research and inspiration, Dindal and his team studied the scenes
from Walt Disney's 1940 classic Pinocchio
involving Monstro the whale. "That particular scene really captured the
feeling of a massive ocean in terms of its scale and dimensions," says
Dindal. "The strong drawings and timing of the waves helped us with our
storm sequence. We also discovered how effective the use of distortion
effects, bubbles and light patterns crawling over rocks could be."
biggest challenge for the "Mermaid" effects team was the sea storm, where
the Prince's ship runs aground, catches fire and eventually explodes. It
took eight weeks to choreograph the various elements of nature in this
scene which appears on screen for a scant 2-1/2 minutes. "The mood we tried
to create was one of total chaos," explains Dindal. "By painstakingly creating
the elements one at a time, we were able to build toward a powerful climax.
Things like gusts of wind obliterating the field of view for an instant
and slow, rolling waves added greatly to the overall dramatic impact and
theatrics of the scene."
talent behind The Little Mermaid
TALENT BEHIND THE LITTLE MERMAID
Menken was born on 22th July 1949 in New Rochelle and developed an
interest in music at an early age. He studied piano and violin through
his high school years and after completing studies at NYU and BMI's Lehman
Engel Musical Workshop, Menken was chosen by the already experienced playwright
Ashman (The Confirmation, Dreamstuff) to collaborate with him on the stage
musical of Kurt Vonnegut's God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (1978). It was
not, however, until their off-Broadway success, Little Shop of Horrors
revamping of the 1960 Roger Corman cult film opened in 1982 that the duo
received the popular and critical plaudits that their light, playful, witty
A bright light of the New York musical theater scene, prolific songwriter
and composer Alan Menken achieved his greatest recognition and acclaim
in the movies. In collaboration with the late Howard Ashman, he helped
resuscitate the American movie musical with two wildly popular Disney animated
features, The Little Mermaid (1989) and Beauty and the Beast (1991). They
brought their Broadway savvy to Hollywood and found a huge, appreciative
the old days," explains Menken, "the music was written before they began
animating. Even some of the background music was written first. In many
ways we went back to that tradition for this film by laying the songs out
early in the storyboarding process. There are lots of places where they
animated right to the music. It's amazing to see the way the animators
bring life to the music by causing something inanimate to act. It's like
having the greatest actors in the world performing your material."
Ashman was a lyricist and he wrote songs for the animated movies The
Little Mermaid, Beauty and the
Beast, and Aladdin. In addition,
he was the producer for The Little Mermaid. He received two Academy
Awards, four Grammy Awards and two Golden Globe Awards for Best Song ("Beauty
and the Beast" and "Under the Sea") with Alan Menken..
Commenting on the film at the time of its initial release, Ashman said,
"Animation is the last great place to do Broadway musicals. Unlike live-action
movies, it's a place you can use a whole other set of skills and a way
of working which is more the way plays and musicals are made. With most
films, the story seems to come first and the songs are an afterthought.
Coming from a musical theater background," observed Ashman, "we're used
to writing songs for characters in situations. For 'The Little Mermaid'
we wanted songs that would really move the story forward and keep things
driving ahead. Instead of stopping to sing a song, it's more like you get
to a certain point where the crab has to convince the mermaid not to go
up above the water and change her life, so he sings 'Under the Sea.'"
Clements was born in Sioux town center, Iowa. Ron Clements became
interested in animation when he saw Pinocchio for the first time as a ten-year
old. After he left High School, Ron Clements travelled to California, in
order to try his luck in getting a job at Disney. Since there were no vacant
postitions in Disney, he worked for several months at Hanna Barbera.
Due to his perseverance, Ron Clements later joined the formation department
of Disney. His own experience and the will to succeed made up for the lack
of formal training. Under the guidance of Franc Thomas, Ron Clements advanced
to the position of Assistant Animator. Years later, he was promoted to
Director where he worked on film The Great Mouse Detective. After the release
of The Little Mermaid, John Musker and Ron Clements went on to write, direct
and produce Aladdin and Hercules.
Musker was born in Chicago and he was inspired by Disney classics like
Sleeping Beauty and Pinocchio. Fascinated by comics and cartoons, he decided
to become an animator at a young age. After he left college, he made his
way to California in order to become an animator but he was rejected by
Disney. Therefore, the following year he enrolled to the Academy of Arts,
CalArts to perfect his work. He joined Disney as an animator after he left
CalArts. A new recuit when he first worked on Black Cauldron, he was promoted
rapidly to the position of director.
According to John Musker, "Fairy tales are usually set in a fantastic
landscape, and animation, by the very nature of the medium, can create
its own world from scratch. For example, 'The Little Mermaid' as we've
approached it couldn't have been done in live-action. "In terms of the
stories themselves," continues Musker, "great fairy tales can speak directly
to children and teach them things about life they can use later on. They
also tend to have a timeless and universal quality that appeals to practically
everyone in some way or another. With 'Mermaid,' we're hoping that kids
and parents will identify with the relationship between a father and daughter
and that the story will stay with them long after the film is over."
KEANE (directing animator for Ariel)
Keane was the directing animator for Ariel in the movie "The Little
Mermaid". As a directing animator, he worked on numerous Disney key characters
- The Bear (The Fox and The Hound), Marahute (The Rescuers Down Under),
The Beast (Beauty and the Beast), Aladdin (Aladdin) and Pocahontas (Pocahontas).
Glen Keane remembers, "Drawing Ariel is something I'll never forget.
For one thing, I used my wife as an inspiration for the character so everytime
I see the character it reminds me of her. For another, she has become such
a popular character that I'm always getting asked to draw her for people."
Keane adds, "From the very beginning, we just knew that there was a magic
to this film and that it was going to be something special. You could hear
Howard Ashman and Alan Menken in the room next door working on the tunes.
They'd come in and take a look at the storyboards and we would listen to
what they were working on. It was the first time I'd heard music in the
animation building and also the first fairy tale the animators had a chance
to work on. It's a feeling that I'll always remember.
an animator, I love to work on characters who have a burning desire inside
of them and in Ariel's case it's her belief that the impossible is possible
-- that she could actually walk around and be human and meet the prince
of her dreams -- that makes her so interesting to create," adds Keane.
"When I'm drawing a character, the entertainer side of me imagines how
the audience is going to feel about what it is I'm drawing but more importantly
I'm drawing it because I believe it. I love to live in that world and live
in the character. I'm a guy but I'm playing the part of a 16-year-old mermaid.
That's possible for an animator to do just as I could be an eagle or a
beast or any character that I can draw. I love the experience of living
in the skin of another character."
He adds, "This story is different from any fairy tale that Disney has
ever done in the past in that the heroine is more real and identifiable.
What she wants is really impossible, but hopefully the audience becomes
so caught up in her determination to make her dreams come true that they'll
want more than anything for her to succeed."
HENN (supervising animator for Ariel)
Mark Henn was the supervising animator for Ariel in the movie "The Little
Mermaid". Henn, who went on to supervise such other memorable female leads
as Belle, Jasmine and the lead character in Disney's recent film, "Mulan,"
found this to be a challenging assignment with lots of rewards. "Ariel
will always be one of my favorite characters because she was the first
female lead I ever animated. Artistically, it was a very rich picture for
all of us and Ariel was a fascinating character with a great personality
who was also fun to draw. One of the joys of animating her was that she
was so likable and as an animator it is important to like the character
that you're bringing to life. The film itself was a real benchmark for
the animators and we often talk about our careers as either being pre-'Mermaid'
DEJA (directing animator for King Triton and Vanessa)
Deja was born in Poland. With the help of a German-English dictionary,
he wrote to "Walt Disney Studios, America," inquiring how to become a Disney
animator. His talent was discovered by Eric Larson, where he later worked
for Disney. Deja's first project was The Black Cauldron and he had been
assigned to conceptual drawings with Tim Burton. Andreas Deja was the directing
animator responsible for "King Triton" and "Vanessa" and he worked other
characters such as Gaston (Beauty and the Beast), Jaffar (Aladdin), Scar
(Lion King) and Hercules (Hercules).
Deja said, "'Mermaid' was a real breakthrough film for all of us because
we felt like we could cut loose and not be restricted by the history of
animation. This was going to be one that we would all have fun with and
I think it shows on the screen. There's a real sense of freedom and discovery
that is in this film and I think will always be there whenever you watch
BENSON (the voice of Ariel)
Benson is the vocal embodiment of a beautiful mermaid who longs to be part
of the human world. The talented stage actress, whose Broadway credits
include leading roles in "Crazy For You" (which earned her the Tony Award
nomination for Best Actress and the Helen Hayes Award nomination for Best
Actress), "Smile" and the Cy Coleman musical "Welcome to the Club," was
chosen for the role of Ariel from among hundreds of candidates who auditioned
across the country. In the end, she was selected on the basis of her taped
audition and didn't actually meet the directors face to face until the
first recording session many months later.
"Ariel was one of the most difficult voices to cast," recalls Ron Clements.
"Because the songs are structured almost as extensions of the dialogue,
we felt it was really important to have the same person doing the singing
and speaking voices. Jodi had a sweetness and purity to her singing voice
and a youthfulness to her speaking voice that was very unique. She best
captured the innocent and vulnerable quality we were looking for."
Jodi Benson commented in a 1991 interview: "When The Little Mermaid
came up, I didn't think, 'Oh wow, now I'll be involved with kids.'
I think animated feature films are for all ages. Hopefully, it's
going to start changing the way family entertainment is looked at.
When you say 'family entertainment,' there's not a lot of things
that parents do with their children. They either drop them
off someplace, or plug in a video and then go off to read the paper.
There's not a lot of things that people do together as a family unit,
which I'm sure is part of the reason why the family structure is the way
Little Mermaid is great because it's sophisticated, with great music,
and it captivates adults on that level. Also, the animation, and
the activity and action, keeps kids involved with the characters and the
A person's faith influences everybody in everything they do; in how
they wake up in the morning and face the day. When I'm reading scripts
for plays or television shows, I have to make decisions on whether I want
to go in on something or not. That's the first step. When it
came to Disney and The Little Mermaid, I was home free, because
of the moral values of the story. Also, a lot of the people that
worked on The Little Mermaid were believers, although we didn't
discover that until about six months into the project."
DANIEL BARNES (the voice of Prince Eric)
Born in Portland, Maine, Barnes began his acting career at the age of
eight with appearances in national commercials. He went on to become a
regular for two years on the daytime drama "As the World Turns." At the
ripe old age of 13, he moved to California to star with Robert Hayes in
the TV series "Starman." A leading role in the NBC series "Day by Day"
(where he starred as Ross Harper) followed. Barnes was also featured in
the ABC Afterschool Special "Private Affairs." He has also appeared in
"Boys and Girls," "Clueless," "Empty Nest," "Blossom" and "Time Trax."
Christopher Daniel Barnes gives a noble performance as the handsome
young prince of Ariel's dreams. The actor envisioned his character as "a
romantic who falls instantly in love with Ariel's voice. He's trying to
follow his heart but his mind keeps getting in the way," says Barnes.
E. WRIGHT (the voice of Sebastian)
Samuel E. Wright puts the accent on comedy with his vocal performance
as Ariel's Calypso crab companion. The scene-stealing shellfish owes much
of his on-screen persona as well to this talented stage performer whose
Broadway credits include "Promises, Promises," "The Tap Dance Kid" (for
which he received a Tony nomination); the musical "Welcome to the Club"
(with co-star Jodi Benson)"; Jesus Christ, Superstar"; "Two Gentlemen From
Verona"; "Pippin" and "Over Here." Wright traveled extensively across the
country in a touring production of "I'm Not Rappaport" (in which he played
Midge) and also starred in the Ken Hall musical production of "Phantom
of the Opera." In additiion, he has the role of Mufasa in Disney's "The
Lion King" stage production by Julie Taymor, which bowed on Broadway in
CARROLL (the voice of Ursula)
Carroll provides the villainous voice of the seductive seawitch. The part
gave the veteran performer a rare chance to play a bad guy and challenged
her to dig to the depths of her vocal capabilities."To play someone mean
is heavenly," enthuses Carroll. "It's a roller coaster. You can go wild.
She's everything you hate and yet everyone is fascinated by what makes
her tick and all her quirks."
The actress envisioned the character as part Shakespearean actress,
with all the flair, flamboyance and theatricality, and part used car salesman
with a touch of con artist. "The excitement is to arrive at a character
with only your voice," says Carroll. "You have to think of the emotion
in your head because the character always has a thought and an emotion
forthcoming from that thought. By nature I am a contralto, but they wanted
Ursula's voice to be lower, growly and gravely so there would be a greater
contrast with Ariel's sweet tones. They made me work hard to get it and
I adored it."
MARS (the voice of King Triton)
Kenneth Mars is the strong-yet-sensitive, speaking voice of Ariel's
father, King of the Mer-people. The versatile character actor is well-known
to moviegoers for his comic portrayals in two of Mel Brooks' cult comedies,
"Young Frankenstein" and "The Producers," as well as for his work in "Radio
Days," "Fletch," "What's Up, Doc," "Viva Max" and "Butch Cassidy and the
Sundance Kid," among others. On television, he has been seen in such hit
shows are "Head of the Class," "Charles in Charge," "Simon and Simon" and
"Murder, She Wrote." His television animation credits include "Darkwing
Duck," "Talespin," "Duck Tales" and "Garfield."
The songs of The Little Mermaid as we know them took different
forms and shapes over the months to adapt to the evolving story lines.
Below are their original lyrics -including the unreleased "Silence
is Golden", which was written on a melody very similar to the final
"Poor Unfortunate Souls". A collector's bonus -enjoy!
Fathoms Below * Part of Your
World * Part of Your World (Reprise) * Silence
is Golden * Poor Unfortunate Souls
Heave ho, heave ho
I'll tell you a tale of the bottomless blue
And it's hey to the starboard, heave-ho
Brave sailor beware, for a big 'un's a-brewin'
Mysterious fathoms below
I'll sing you a song of the king of the sea
And it's hey to the starboard, heave-ho
The ruler of all of the ocean is he
In mysterious fathoms below
Fathoms below, below
From whence wayward westerlies blow
Where Triton is king and his merpeople sing
In mysterious fathoms below
Eric: Isn't this great?
Grimsby: Oh yes, delightful.
Eric: The salty sea air, the wind blowing in your face - I love it!
Grimsby: You love it? I'm about to heave ho myself!
I'll tell you a tale of the bottomless blue
And it's hey to the starboard, heave-ho
Look out, lad, a mermaid be waiting for you
In mysterious fathoms below
Grimsby: Eric, please! Get your royal keister down from there!
Eric: Oh, Grim, nothing's going to - woah!
Grimsby: Eric, Eric! It is not at all princely! Oh, I loathe storms!
Sailor: Ha! This ain't no storm - that's a storm! Way out there! .
The king of the ocean is angry
So trouble's a-brewin' out there
I'm tellin' you, lad, when King Triton is mad
How the waves'll buck, rock to and fro
Hold on, good luck, as down you go
Triton is king of the bottomless blue
And it's hey to the starboard, heave-ho
Beware of the magic his merpeople do
In mysterious fathoms below
Eric: Who are they singing about, sailor? Who is King Triton?
Sailor: Why ruler of the merpeople, lad! And a powerful lord is he!
Eric: The merpeople?
Aye, and they's lives down there, with the bodies of fish and the rest
of 'em human! Yes, it's what fifty years at sea will do to you - make fun
of yer like! But I seen 'em! Blast!
Part of Your World
Look at this stuff
Isn't it neat?
Wouldn't you think my collection's complete?
Wouldn't you think I'm the girl
The girl who has everything?
Look at this trove
Copper and bronze
And fine leather and gold
Paper and china and books
And look, feathers and everything!
I should start an aquatic museum
I've got gadgets and gizmos galore!
All these fish'd pay money to see 'em
But who cares?
No big deal
I want more . . .
Part of Your World (Reprise)
What would I give to live where you are?
What would I pay to stay here beside you?
What would I do to see you smiling at me?
there's a dream
Now there's a goal
Now there's a need I'll never control
I won't get free
Till I can be
Part of your world
What would I give if I could live outta these waters?
What would I pay to spend a day holding your hand?
give my life
I'd sell my soul
'Cause I can feel I'll never be whole
But I can see
I'll never be
Part of your world
Silence is Golden
You won't sing, you won't speak
Not a word, not a squeak
Not a peep, not a squeal
That's the price, love, that's the deal
But silence, silence is golden, my dear
Up above they have chatter
So what does it matter
If you become mute - nobody likes a loudmouth!
I mean it
Silence, silence is golden, my dear
Don't you think you should try it?
They'll say, "She's so quiet, so shy, and so cute."
Well, take it or leave it, that's all, that's the bargain
Go on, take a stand, make a choice
Remember, you'll get the legs and the lungs and the prince
All I get is the voice
And you'll be silent, but silence is golden, sign here
There's no choice for you since you're in love with a prince
But relax, I've been told
Silence is gold
Beluga, sevruga, come winds of the Caspian Sea!
Laryngitis, glacydis, es max (unintelligible)
La voce to me!
here it goes
Ankles and toes
Legs and feet
Enjoy it, deploy it, this form
Yours to keep
There, I've done it, you're human, good luck
And breathe deep, dear!
Poor Unfortunate Souls
Come on, I know you need a little magic
And magic is my specialty du jour
Don't just stand there looking sick
Would I kid you? Play a trick?
Like I told you, I don't do that anymore
So I think you ought to take my little bargain
Yes, I think you ought to make my little deal
Sure, it's hard to leave your life, but you could be a prince's wife
Why don't you let me take that dream and make it real?
on, you poor unfortunate soul
Poor child! Poor fish!
Aren't you glad you brought your problem
To a lady you can trust?
Won't you let me grant your wish?
You poor unfortunate soul
Poor sweet! Poor dear!
Aren't you lucky that I'm ready
With a potion and a plan?
Aren't you glad you came and asked
If I could help you? And I can
When a mermaid comes to Ursula
She always gets her man
You poor unfortunate soul
HOW DOES THE LITTLE MERMAID
TRANSLATE IN OTHER LANGUAGES?
Find out below!
This site is a member
of WebRing. To browse visit