Cast * Interesting Facts * Production Details * The talent behind The Little Mermaid * Deleted Lyrics

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


Ariel, Flounder and Scuttle!Ariel... Jodi Benson
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 Melody, The Little Mermaid II: Return to the SeaAriel 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 sea foam.

  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.

  Sherri Stoner was used as the body model for Ariel, and would also be the model for Belle in Beauty and the Beast.
Yzma Part 1
Yzma Part 2--with a few extra pounds!

  The two minute storm took 10 special effects artists over a year to finish.

  Jim 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."

  Sherri Stoner was used as the model for Ariel. Animators also based their work on a picture of Alyssa Milano.

  Ariel's treasure cave includes the painting "Magdalene With the Smoking Flame" by 17th-century artist Georges de La Tour.
Early development on Ariel and Ursula
  According to Jim 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 Mermaid.

  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 animators incorporated."

Lyricist Glenn Slater and composer Alan Menken  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 design Mermaid's sets and costumes.  Alan Menken recruited a new writing partner--lyricist Glenn Slater (Home on the Range, Enchanted)--to 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."

Ariel combing her hair


Early concept for Ursula!The 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 cels.

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 Music |Art Direction |Creating the Characters |Effects Animation


Painting illustrating Andersen's 'The Little Mermaid'The 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."

Ursula gets a bigger partClements 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.


Part of your world..."The 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 (1940), Dumbo (1941) and Bambi (1942).

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."

Alan and Howard during a demo sessionThe seven songs heard in The Little Mermaid were written and fine-tuned 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.

Sebastian on Caribbean music!For 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 hot 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.

If I could be part of your world!For 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."

Poor unfortunate souls!The 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.

Drawing board for 'The Little Mermaid'Also 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 Fantasia (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."

Discussing the story boardTo 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.


Ariel comforts a scared Flounder!"As animators here at Disney, our biggest challenge is not only to make the characters move but also to make them breathe," says directing animator Glen 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.

Sheri Stoner poses next to Ariel!Live-action 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 character alive."


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 The 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.

What would I give...According 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."

The stormThe 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."

Cast * Production Details * The talent behind The Little Mermaid * Deleted Lyrics



ALAN MENKEN (composer)

Alan Menken, composerAlan 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 compositions deserved.

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 audience.

A mermaid sings"In 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."

HOWARD ASHMAN (lyricist)

Howard Ashman, lyricistHoward 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.'"

RON CLEMENTS (director)

Ron Clements, directorRon 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.

JOHN MUSKER (director)

John Musker, directorJohn 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."

GLEN KEANE (directing animator for Ariel)

Glen Keane, animatorGlen 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.

Ariel and Eric"As 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."

MARK 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' or post-'Mermaid.'"

ANDREAS DEJA (directing animator for King Triton and Vanessa)

Andreas DejaAndreas 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).

King Triton and his daughters waving at ArielAndreas 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 it."

JODI BENSON (the voice of Ariel)

Jodi Benson, the voice of ArielJodi 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 it is.

A happy ending!The 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 story.

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."

CHRISTOPHER 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.

SAMUEL 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 November.

PAT CARROLL (the voice of Ursula)

Ursula -a great villain!Pat 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."

KENNETH 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."

Cast * Production Details * The talent behind The Little Mermaid * Deleted Lyrics



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

Fathoms Below

Sailors: (singing)
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

Heave-ho, heave-ho
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
Eric after the storm
Fathoms below, below
From whence wayward westerlies blow
Where Triton is king and his merpeople sing
In mysterious fathoms below

----Spoken Dialogue----
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!

Sailors: (singing)
Heave-ho, heave-ho
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

----Spoken Dialogue----
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

Sailors: (singing)
Alan and Howard writing the musicFor 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
Heave-ho, heave-ho

----Spoken Dialogue----
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?
Treasures untold...
Look at this trove
Treasures untold
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?

What would I...Now 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?

Seahorses dancing for ArielI'd 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
Concept art for Ursula and Ariel
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."
Silence is golden!
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!

A little magicNow here it goes
Ankles and toes
Almost complete
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?

Beluga, sevrugaCome 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

Source: The Music Behind the Magic; The Musical Artistry of Alan Menken, Howard Ashman & Tim Rice


Find out below!
  • French: La petite sirène
  • Spanish: La Sirenita
  • Italian: La Sirenetta 
  • Norwegian: Den Lille Havfruen
  • Russian: Rusalochka 
  • German: Arielle die Meerjungfrau
  • Finnish: Pieni Merenneito 
  • Dutch: De Kleine Zeemeermin 
  • Portuguese: A Pequena Sereia 
  • Swedish: Den Lilla Sjöjungfrun 

Early concept for Ursula
Cruella is back!
Early concept for Ursula
Early concept for Ursula
Early concept for Ursula


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