Spoiler Alert: This article contains spoilers about The Little Mermaid (1989) animated film. If you have somehow managed to never seen this film, stop reading now.
I cringe at the thought of The Little Mermaid when I think back to my childhood.
Maybe it was Ursula and her wicked ways or Ariel being spelt completely wrong to me. I can already hear Sebastion mispronouncing my name, ‘Ariel, Ariel?!’, but every other merperson and sea creature got it right.
As a kid, I never liked The Little Mermaid, but as a grown adult, I’ve come to love it.
The film was released in 1989, years before I was born. To this day, whenever I meet someone new they continue to say the same thing…
“Oh Erielle? Like The Little Mermaid?”.
“Yes…”, I say.
“I get that all the time. Now if you just remember The Little Mermaid then you’ll remember my name too”.
Keep in mind, I’m a Filipino-Australian with black and faded green hair as short as an overgrown pixie cut. As a result, there’s no correlation between my appearance and the cartoon version of Ariel besides the fact that we both have legs.
The film depicts a 16-year-old mermaid princess named ‘Ariel’, who’s curious about the surface world where humans live. Her curiosity drives the story to chaos when she strikes a deal with Ursula the sea witch to swap her fins for a pair of legs.
After finally reaching the surface, her main goal is to get a kiss from her true love, Prince Eric. If she does this, she would live happily ever after.
Why didn’t I like it as a kid?
Rewind back to a younger me sitting on the couch watching the film. I was excited that a cartoon had a similar name to mine. She even had cool, long and bright red hair!
But, what annoyed me the most was Ursula with her villainy and desperation. There was also Sebastian’s nagging, the deviousness of the eels, the crazed royal chef, and the clueless Prince.
I was quite the uptight little girl.
Ursula was cunning and evil. I felt disadvantaged for Ariel when Ursula had been planning to take over the ocean kingdom all along. It made me feel angry that she would ruin Ariel’s life for this hidden agenda. I felt robbed and betrayed – it felt like I was actually Ariel in the film.
And don’t get me started on Sebastian. He acted like an annoying parent that would tell you to ‘do this, do that’ and ‘get your homework done’ before you could watch TV or play on your Nintendo DS.
On the other hand, the Prince. Oh, Prince Eric. How didn’t he recognize Ariel when she met him on the beach and why hadn’t he fallen in love with her sooner?
Remember this was Erielle between the ages of 5 to 10-years-old, not the present Erielle.
The present Erielle would have realised that she was annoyed at these characters because that was their purpose in this story. However, the kid Erielle embodied the fictional character as herself and completely clouded her own judgement.
As a 20-year-old, I’ve come to appreciate and love both the music and animation in the film. The way that the music producers incorporate dialogue while transitioning into a song makes it fun and unique. It’s as if you’re watching a live musical.
Each time a song would play in the movie, I would instantly start bopping my head and singing along. The only exception is Scuttle’s part in ‘Kiss the Girl’, of course. I think he’s the only one who would pull that off.
I’ve always loved how Ariel’s hair stays the exact same in or out of the water. Sometimes I get caught up in wishing I never had a bad hair day like her. Not to mention, the magical architecture of the underwater world of Atlantica. Ariel’s home reminds me of ‘Barbie Fairytopia‘ and ‘Barbie Fairytopia: Mermaidia‘ with the creative use of sea plants and structures as everyday objects. These were two of my favourite movies as a kid.
The popularity of Disney Princess films has also influenced me to like it and openly express it even as an adult. I’ve found that those around me who are also my age have now gotten the same confidence.
After my overdue realisation of the villain’s purpose, it’s safe to say that The Little Mermaid is a Disney classic I admire for its musical tunes, vibrant animation, and creative imagination of a mythical underwater world. Animation films may be made for younger children but it definitely has captured my admiration as an adult, making it a film that can be enjoyed by any age.
And yes, you should remember my name like The Little Mermaid‘s just not the way Sebastian says it.
Original photos by Erielle Manlulu