With unforgettable characters, thrilling adventures, soaring Academy Award-winning music (1989: Best Music, Original Score, and Best Music, Original Song, “Under The Sea”), The Little Mermaid is one of the most celebrated animated films of all time. Now spectacularly transformed for the first time on Blu-ray with digitally restored picture and brilliant high-definition sound! Venture under the sea where Ariel, a free-spirited mermaid princess, longs to be part of the human world. After bravely striking a bargain with Ursula, a sneaky sea witch, Ariel embarks on the adventure of a lifetime. With Flounder and Sebastian at her side, Ariel will need all of her courage and determination to make things right in both her worlds.
The Little Mermaid is many things – the 28th animated Disney movie, the last one to use traditional hand painted cel animation, the first to use then new CAPS (Computer Animation Production System), the first Disney film to be structured like a Broadway show, it was also the first film that Alan Menken and Howard Ashman collaborated on the music, and it was also the film that ushered in the start of the Disney Renaissance. It was also a return to form for Disney as it had been a long time since they had done a fantasy type movie that featured a princess, so there was a lot of pressure internally to make the film as good as possible.
This time, the film was based on a story by Hans Christian Anderson and was centered on a mermaid named Ariel (Jodi Benson) who was infatuated with all things human. Ariel is so enchanted with human relics of all kind that she has a collection of them hidden in a cave, where her father King Triton (Kenneth Mars) can’t find them. Triton doesn’t like humans and has forbidden Ariel to go anywhere near the ocean’s surface where should could come into contact with humans and be endangered. When Ariel disobeys her father, she discovers a ship sailing above with its owner Prince Eric (Christopher Daniel Barnes) aboard. It’s love at first sight for Ariel but when she’s caught, her father is furious with her and destroys her entire collection of human objects.
Upset, Ariel is desperate enough to make a questionable deal with a sea witch named Ursula (Pat Carroll), to give up her singing voice in exchange for a pair of legs and three days to receive a kiss of true love. The catch is that if Ariel doesn’t get the kiss in time she will love her voice forever and belong to Ursula. So Ariel journeys to seek out her prince along with her friends Flounder (Jason Marin), Scuttle (Buddy Hackett), and her minder Sebastian (Samuel E. Wright). Time is running out and Ursula doesn’t plan to make it easy for Ariel as she’s determined to keep her voice and use Ariel as a pawn to convince Triton to relinquish his power to her. Only the kiss of true love can stop her.
The Little Mermaid is one of Disney’s best efforts and it has one of the best soundtracks as well. Unlike some of their latter efforts, the songs don’t feel like they are padding the run-time or included to help with soundtrack sales. The songs in this film, not only advance the plot, but they are excellent in their own right. The voice casting is superb across the board especially Jodi Benson’s handling of both the vocals and the singing for Ariel. I think that this movie was the perfect choice to bridge Disney’s traditional past to their computer assisted future. The movie still stands up and is just as good today as it was twenty-four years ago when it was released.
2D Video 3D Video
Disney has once again given us a stellar 2D presentation and a fairly strong 3D transfer as well. In both versions, the detail is much better than the previous releases and the colors look very impressive too. While this look much better, it does suffer in comparison to more recent movies, especially the undersea environments when compared to a CG movie like Finding Nemo. But judging the film on its own merits, this is a nice restoration that looks better than it ever has. The 3D transfer also looks good but it’s not as good as the more recent Disney movies that have made the transition to 3D. This film just wasn’t really made with 3D in mind so it isn’t able to take as much advantage of it as some of the other past Disney films. That’s not to say that this is a bad 3D presentation, because it’s not, but the many darkened scenes under the water don’t really lend themselves to 3D. Scenes that take place in bright environments fare much better and offer a better sense of depth and that’s when the 3D really works. The other good news is that the 3D transfer doesn’t suffer from ghosting issues which helps.
The Little Mermaid’s DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix isn’t quite the sonic powerhouse that I thought it would be but it’s a nicely balanced lossless mix that manages to remain faithful to the original mix while improving on it. This is a more front heavy mix that I expected it to be, but the rear channels do come into play throughout the movie, especially during the film’s fantastic musical sequences. The dialogue is clear and sharp and there’s a lot of nice atmosphere delivered by the rear channels. This lossless mix really comes alive during the songs by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman who delivered one of the best soundtracks for Disney with this film. The songs themselves sound incredible on this disc and much better than they did on the DVD release.
Once again Disney has pulled out all of the stops for one of their Diamond Editions and fans of this movie will be very happy once they see everything that has been included on this set. Not only do we get all of the classic extras from previous releases, but we also get a bunch of new extras and all of them are in high definition. On top of that, Disney has also generously given us downloadable codes for the film’s soundtrack and for the film itself for iTunes!
New Bonus Features:
- @DisneyAnimation -Directors John Musker and Ron Clements host a look at what’s it like to work at the Disney Animation studio. We hear from the veterans and more recent hires who talk about why they got into animation, why they love working there, and we also get to see their cool work environment. It turns out that they each share a cool office with one other person and they do a lot of fun team building events like caricature contests. The place reminds me a lot of Pixar.
- Under the Scene – This extra takes a look at the practice of using live action models to help the animators draw more complex scenes. We see how the practice was done during Walt Disney’s days and also how it was used for The Little Mermaid. It’s amazing to see how close the final result was compared to the real thing.
- Howard’s Lecture – Disney did guest lectures a lot for their employees and this time it featured Howard Ashman who along with Alan Menken wrote the music for the movie. This is a sixteen minute lecture where Howard talks about how the songs work within the movie and what purpose they serve along with his philosophy of musicals.
- Deleted Character: Harold the Merman – We learn about Harold the Merman who was supposed to show the result of what happens when Ursula is crossed, but he was completely cut out of the movie because it was too long.
- Part of Her World: “Jodi Benson’s Voyage to New Fantasyland” – Not only do we watch the voice of Ariel take part in the festivities at the Disney Animation Resort in Florida, but we also get to follow her to the brand new Fantasyland in DisneyWorld where we get to see a lot of the new stuff. As a huge Disney fan, it was cool to see both the resort and the new land. And of course, Benson’s favorite ride is Ariel’s Undersea Adventure.
- Crab-E-Oke Sing Along – Here’s sixteen minutes of karaoke where you can sing “Part of Your World,” “Under the Sea,” “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” “Les Poissons,” and “Kiss the Girl.”
- Music Video – Carly Rae Jepsen’s music video of “Part of Your World.”
- Soundtrack Download Code
- 2D Copy of the Film
- iTunes Digital Copy of the Film
Classic Bonus Features:
- Audio Commentary – This commentary features Ron Clements and John Musker along with composer Alan Menken who talk about how the film came about – from the genesis of the film, to making it, the music, and the actors too. There’s a lot of good information about the production of the film here and fans will enjoy it.
- Deleted Scenes – There’s seven deleted scenes that make up twenty six minutes worth of cut footage that includes the following clips: “Fathom’s Below” (Alternate Version), “Backstage with Sebastian,” “Poor Unfortunate Souls” (Alternate Version), “Sebastian Lost in the Castle,” “Advice from Sebastian,” “Fight with Ursula” (Alternate Ending), and “Silence is Golden” (Song Demo).
- Backstage Disney – This is a collection of nine extras all grouped together here. These include:
- The Little Match Girl – An animated short along with the director’s introduction.
- The Making of The Little Mermaid – If you want the most comprehensive look at the making of the film, this six part documentary covers just about everything during it’s forty-six minute run time.
- The Story Behind the Story – We hear about the story’s author Hans Christian Anderson and his tale that this movie is based on.
- Storm Warning: Special Effects Unit – A look a the effects of the film’s storm scenes.
- Under the Sea Early Presentation Reel – This kind of a test in progress early look with concept art shown along with music.
- John & Ron Make Caricatures of Each Other – The two directors draw each other’s caricature.
- Animators Comment on their Characters – Two minutes of the animators talking about the characters.
- The Little Mermaid Handshake – The directors demonstrate their secret handshake.
- Original Theatrical Trailer
- Music & More – Four songs: “Part of Your World,” “Under the Sea,” “Les Poissons,” and “Kiss the Girl” are here along with on screen lyrics as well as a”Kiss the Girl”music video starring Disney actress Ashley Tisdale.
- Disneypedia: Life Under the Sea – An educational look at oceanic wildlife for kids.
- Behind the Ride that Almost Was – This is an interesting look at what could have been. We hear about the original plans for a Little Mermaid attraction.
- Under the Sea Adventure – Another look at a theme park ride but this time it’s a virtual one.
This movie is so beloved by the public that I know I don’t really have to say how good the film is but instead to focus on how well this Diamond Edition turned out on Blu-ray. I’m happy to report that this set contains very good video and audio quality as well as some absolutely stellar extras that deserve the Diamond Edition moniker. The 3D version of the film is done well but it’s not as impressive as Disney’s more recent releases. It’s up to the viewer to decide whether or not to pay extra for the 3D, but I’d argue for it because it’s still a new way to experience the film and because of the incredible extras that come with this set. After all, this set gives you three formats of the film to watch, the soundtrack, and a ton of other extras both new and old. This is highly recommended!
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