The Little Mermaid (Disney franchise)

This article is about the Disney franchise. For the first film in the franchise, see The Little Mermaid (1989 film). For the video game, see The Little Mermaid (video game). For the television series, see The Little Mermaid (TV series).
The Little Mermaid
Original work The Little Mermaid
by Hans Christian Andersen
Films and television
Films The Little Mermaid (1989)
Animated series The Little Mermaid (1992–94)
Theatrical presentations
Musicals The Little Mermaid
Video games
Original music
Theme park attractions

The Little Mermaid is a Disney media franchise. The success of the 1989 American animated feature film The Little Mermaid led to a direct-to-video sequel, a prequel film, a spin-off television series, a musical, several video games, theme park attractions, and other merchandise. The Little Mermaid paved the way for what would become the Disney Renaissance, with the original film becoming the first film of that era.


Disney's The Little Mermaid franchise chronology
Films and television

The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning
The Little Mermaid (TV series)
The Little Mermaid (1989 film)
The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea


The Little Mermaid is the original film of the franchise. It was produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios, and was released to theaters on November 15, 1989 by Walt Disney Pictures. It was directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, and produced by Musker and Howard Ashman. The film was a critical and commercial success. The Little Mermaid is the 28th Disney animated feature film and belongs to an era known as the Disney Renaissance.[1] It is based on Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale of the same name.

The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea is a direct-to-video sequel to the first film. It was released by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment on VHS in the United States on September 19, 2000. It was directed by Jim Kammerud and Brian Smith, and produced by Leslie Hough and David Lovegren. In 2006, the film was bundled together with the original film in the Region 2 release. The original DVD release has been discontinued. A special edition DVD with a deleted song, "Gonna Get My Wish," and a new game was released on December 16, 2008. Return to the Sea is the last film in the chronology of Disney's version of The Little Mermaid. Unlike its predecessor, The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea received generally negative reviews from critics, with the criticism reserved for the film being a repetition of the first film.

The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning is a direct-to-video prequel to the first film. The film was released on Region 1 DVD in the United States on August 26, 2008, and on Region 2 DVD in Europe on September 22, 2008. It was directed by Peggy Holmes and produced by Kendra Halland. The DVD contains special features including deleted scenes, a production featurette hosted by the director, games and activities, and a featurette hosted by Sierra Boggess about the Broadway musical. The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning received largely positive reviews, although the film's new antagonist, Marina Del Rey, was criticised for being nowhere near as good a villain as Ursula.

Television series

The Little Mermaid is an animated television series featuring the adventures of Ariel as a mermaid prior to the events of the first film. This series is the first Disney television series to be spun off from a major animated film. The Little Mermaid premiered in the fall of 1992 with the animated prime time special called "A Whale of a Tale," then moved to Saturday mornings. This series originally appeared on CBS, with an original run from 1992 to 1994. It was later shown in reruns on The Disney Channel and Toon Disney. Some of the episodes contain musical segments, featuring original songs written for the series. The opening theme to the show is a combination of the songs "Part of Your World", "Under the Sea", and "Kiss the Girl".

A series of shorts starring Sebastian were aired as part of another Disney Saturday morning series for CBS, Marsupilami, which ran from 1993 to 1995.

Stage musical

A pre-Broadway stage version premiered in September 2007 in Denver, Colorado, at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, with music by Alan Menken, new lyrics by Glenn Slater, and a book by Doug Wright. The musical began performances on Broadway at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on November 3, 2007 and officially opened on January 10, 2008.[2] The original cast featured Sierra Boggess as Ariel, Norm Lewis as King Triton, Sherie Rene Scott as Ursula, Eddie Korbich as Scuttle, Tituss Burgess as Sebastian, Sean Palmer as Prince Eric, Jonathan Freeman as Grimsby, Derrick Baskin as Jetsam, Tyler Maynard as Flotsam, Cody Hanford and J.J. Singleton as Flounder, and John Treacy Egan as Chef Louis.

The show closed on Broadway August 30, 2009, after 685 performances and 50 previews.[3]


Cover art that was used in both NES and Game Boy versions of The Little Mermaid video game in North America.

There are several video games based on the films, and the characters have made appearances in other crossover video games.

The Little Mermaid the video game was developed by Capcom for the NES and Game Boy, and published in 1991. It is a single player side-scrolling action game where the player controls Ariel on a quest to defeat Ursula. Ariel has already met Eric, and they plan to wed, but Ursula has taken control of the ocean. So Ariel (After explaining what's going on to Eric) becomes a mermaid once more and sets off to rescue the sea. The game takes place from a side view and Ariel (swimming most of the time, but hopping around on the land occasionally) can shoot bubbles to trap her foes and can then throw them at each other. She can also dig through sand to find treasure and pick up sea shells to break chests open with. The treasure she finds in the sand is usually just bonus points, but the treasure you find in chests will increase your bubble's power and range.[4] The gameplay is similar to other Capcom games such as Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers and DuckTales in that Ariel shoots air bubbles from her tail that when they hit certain enemies, can be picked up and thrown at other enemies or bosses. Ariel can also collect icons scattered throughout the levels to restore health, gain extra lives, or increase the range/power of her air bubbles.

There are some differences between the NES and the Game Boy versions. When a stage begins, Ariel descends from the top of the screen to the recommended starting point in the NES version, but just starts out in the recommended position in the Game Boy version. The featured SFX are different in both versions. The start of the stage's BGM can be heard only once in the NES version; although the whole BGM can be repeated in the Game Boy version. The stage backgrounds were more restricted in the Game Boy version than in the NES version. When you lose a heart, the heart turns into a heart frame in the NES version, but disappears in the Game Boy version. The key scales of the Boss BGM are different in both versions. The BGM speed in the NES version is much faster than in the Game Boy version.

Ariel the Little Mermaid is a video game published by Sega in 1992 for the Mega Drive/Genesis and Game Gear (a Sega Master System version was released by Tec Toy in Brazil). The game lets the player control either Ariel or King Triton to defeat Ursula. Rescuing requires the player to simply swim into the unfortunate little victims as they hang about at fixed places in the watery world; while fending off and dodging enemies like eels, clams, sharks, and several other sea meanies. Friends like Flounder and Sebastian can also be summoned for a little helping hand.

The Little Mermaid 2: Pinball Frenzy is based on The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea. It is a pinball video game developed by Left Field Productions and published by Nintendo for the Game Boy Color handheld video game console. It was first released in North America, and was later released in PAL regions.

The Little Mermaid: Magic in Two Kingdoms, by Buena Vista Games, was released for the Game Boy Advance. A The Little Mermaid hand-held LCD game from Tiger Electronics was also released in 1993. The most recent game released was The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure which was released on the Nintendo DS on October 2, 2006.

Characters and the setting from the first film appear in Disney/Square's Kingdom Hearts series of video games. Ariel appears as a party member, while Ursula is the boss in the world of Atlantica and one of the members of Maleficent's inner circle. Other characters from the film also make appearances.

Ariel's Musical Surprise, was released on iOS and published by Disney Mobile Studios on October 10, 2013.

The Little Mermaid: Undersea Treasures, a hidden object PC game by Microsoft Studios was released in a preview playable form on December 20, 2013, with plans for further game options in the future.[5][6]

Other media

Several attractions based on The Little Mermaid have been released. Mermaid Lagoon at Tokyo DisneySea is a themed land made to look like the Palace of King Triton and features fanciful seashell-inspired architecture. It includes the meet-and-greet attraction Ariel's Grotto, as well as the parachute jump–style ride Jumpin' Jellyfish (also present in Disney California Adventure). King Triton's Carousel of the Sea is a Carousel at Disney California Adventure that uses sea horses, flying fish, whales, dolphins, sea lions, otters and garibaldi. Voyage of the Little Mermaid is a live show attraction at Disney Hollywood Studios in Florida that features puppets and live actors. Other attractions based on the film include The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure, a dark ride at Disney California Adventure in Paradise Pier and the Magic Kingdom in Fantasyland.

Ariel is part of the Disney Princess franchise, an extensive line of merchandise that includes dolls, sing-along videos, and a variety of other children's products, apparel, and even adhesive bandages. Ursula, on the other hand, is part of the official line-up of the Disney Villains franchise.

Many characters from the franchise appear in the Disney Channel series Disney's House of Mouse.[7] Some of them also appear in the series' spin-off film Mickey's Magical Christmas: Snowed in at the House of Mouse, and Ursula appears as one of the main villains in Mickey's House of Villains. The characters also appear at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts as a meet and greet characters.

Ariel appears in Sofia the First: The Floating Palace, a television special that was aired as part of the series Sofia the First and released on Region 1 DVD on November 24, 2013.

Printed adaptations

Disney Comics released a four-issue "The Little Mermaid Limited Series" comic series and two issues of "Sebastian from The Little Mermaid" comics in 1992. Marvel Comics released its own title, "Disney's The Little Mermaid" in 1994, which ran for twelve issues. All the comics are prequels to the film, and feature Ariel still a mermaid living under the sea.

A series of twelve prequel novels were published in 1994, following the adventures of young Ariel living under the sea with her sisters and father. The titles are: "Green-Eyed Pearl" and "Nefazia Visits the Palace" by Suzanne Weyn; "Reflections of Arsulu" and "The Same Old Song" by Marilyn Kaye; "Arista's New Boyfriend" and "Ariel the Spy" by M. J. Carr; "King Triton, Beware!", "The Haunted Palace" and "The Boyfriend Mix-Up" by Katherine Applegate; "The Practical-Joke War" by Stephanie St. Pierre; "The Dolphins of Coral Cove" by K. S. Rodriguez; and "Alana's Secret Friend" by Jess Christopher. Also published in 1994 is "Tales from Under the Sea", an illustrated book containing 22 stories and poems about the characters from the film.

In 2009 Disney Press started a young adult novel series retelling various films of the animated Disney canon but set from the point of view of its villains. The novels are written by Serena Valentino, and the third entry in the series is Poor Unfortunate Soul: A Tale of the Sea Witch, which is expected to be published in July 2016.[8][9]

Common elements

Plot and themes

Ariel, a sixteen-year-old mermaid princess, is dissatisfied with life under the sea and curious about the human world, despite her father, King Triton who holds a grudge against humans. One night, Ariel, her best friend Flounder and an unwilling Sebastian travel to the ocean surface to watch a celebration for the birthday of Prince Eric, with whom Ariel falls in love. A sudden storm hits, and Eric almost drowns saving his dog Max but is saved by Ariel, who drags him to the beach. She sings to him but dives underwater when Max returns to Eric. Upon waking, Eric has a vague impression that he was rescued by a girl with a beautiful voice; he vows to find her, and Ariel vows to find a way to join Eric.

Triton and his daughters notice a change in Ariel, who is openly lovesick. Triton questions Sebastian about Ariel's behavior, during which Sebastian accidentally reveals the incident with Eric. Triton furiously confronts Ariel in her grotto, using his trident to destroy her collection of human treasures. After Triton leaves, a pair of eels, Flotsam and Jetsam, convince a crying Ariel that she must visit Ursula the sea witch, if she wants all of her dreams to come true. Ursula makes a deal with Ariel to transform her into a human for three days. Within these three days, Ariel must receive the 'kiss of true love' from Eric; otherwise, she will transform back into a mermaid on the third day and belong to Ursula. As payment for legs, Ariel has to give up her voice, which Ursula takes by magically removing the energy from Ariel's vocal cords and storing it in a nautilus shell.

Eric and Max find Ariel on the beach. He initially suspects that she is the one who saved his life, but when he learns that she cannot speak, he discards that notion. Nonetheless, Ariel spends time with Eric, and at the end of the second day, they almost kiss but are thwarted by Flotsam and Jetsam. Angered at their narrow escape, Ursula takes the disguise of a beautiful young woman named "Vanessa" and appears onshore singing with Ariel's voice. Eric recognizes the song and, in her disguise, Vanessa/Ursula casts a hypnotic enchantment on Eric to make him forget about Ariel. The next day, Ariel finds out that Eric will be married to the disguised Ursula on a ship. She cries and is left behind when the wedding barge departs. Scuttle discovers that Vanessa is Ursula in disguise, and informs Ariel. As Ariel and Flounder chase the wedding barge, Sebastian informs Triton, and Scuttle is assigned to literally "stall the wedding." With the help of various animals, the nautilus shell around Ursula's neck is broken, restoring Ariel's voice and breaking Ursula's enchantment over Eric. Realizing that Ariel was the girl who saved his life, Eric rushes to kiss her, but the sun sets and Ariel transforms back into a mermaid. Ursula reverts to her true form and kidnaps Ariel.

Triton appears and confronts Ursula, but cannot destroy Ursula's contract with Ariel. Triton chooses to sacrifice himself for his daughter, and is transformed into a polyp. Ursula takes Triton's crown and trident, which was her plan from the beginning. Ursula uses her new power to gloat, transforming into a giant, and forming a whirlpool that disturbs several shipwrecks to the surface, one of which Eric commandeers. Just as Ursula is set to use the trident to destroy Ariel, Eric turns the wheel hard to port and runs Ursula through the abdomen with the ship's splintered bowsprit, mortally wounding her. With Ursula gone, her power breaks and the polyps in Ursula's garden (including Triton) turn back into the old merpeople. Later, after seeing that Ariel really loves Eric and that Eric also saved him in the process, Triton willingly changes her from a mermaid into a human using his trident. She runs into Eric's arms, and the two finally get married.

The plot of The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea focuses on Ariel's daughter Melody who longs to be a part of the ocean world and is ultimately manipulated by Ursula's vengeful sister, Morgana, into stealing the Trident for her. The film is essentially a re-telling of the first film, to the point that Morgana has two manta ray cohorts very similar to Flotsam and Jetsam, desires the trident and revenge against Triton, and is even voiced by Pat Carroll.

The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning is set before the events of the original film, in which King Triton has banned music from Atlantica, and Ariel, her sisters, Sebastian and Flounder rebel against this new law while a greedy palace official, Marina Del Rey, seeks to claim Sebastian's position for herself.

Cast and characters

Characters Films TV Show
The Little Mermaid
The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea
The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning
The Little Mermaid
Princess Ariel Jodi Benson
Sebastian Samuel E. Wright
King Triton Kenneth Mars Jim Cummings Kenneth Mars
Flounder Jason Marin Cam Clarke Parker Goris Edan Gross
Bradley Pierce
Scuttle Buddy Hackett (Silent cameo) Maurice LaMarche
Prince Eric C.D. Barnes Rob Paulsen Jeff Bennett
Ursula Pat Carroll
Jodi Benson (Vanessa)
(Painting) Pat Carroll
Grimsby Ben Wright Kay E. Kuter Kay E. Kuter
Chef Louis René Auberjonois René Auberjonois
Max Frank Welker Frank Welker
Carlotta Edie McClurg
Attina Caroline Vasicek (Silent cameo) Kari Wahlgren Kath Soucie
Alana Kimmy Robertson Jennifer Hale Kimmy Robertson
Adella Kimmy Robertson (Silent cameo) Tara Strong Sherry Lynn
Aquata Caroline Vasicek (Silent cameo) Kath Soucie Mona Marshall
Arista Kimmy Robertson Grey DeLisle Mary Kay Bergman
Andrina Kimmy Robertson (Silent cameo) Tara Strong Cathy Cavadini
Flotsam and Jetsam Paddi Edwards Paddi Edwards
Princess Melody Tara Strong
Morgana Pat Caroll
Tip and Dash Max Casella (Tip)
Stephen Furst (Dash)
Undertow Clancy Brown
Queen Athena Lorelei Hill Butters
Andrea Robinson (singing voice)
Marina Del Ray Sally Field
Benjamin Jeff Bennett



The Little Mermaid was originally planned as part of one of Walt Disney's earliest feature films, a proposed package film featuring vignettes of Hans Christian Andersen tales.[10] Development started soon after Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in the late 1930s, but was put on hold due to various circumstances.

In 1985, The Great Mouse Detective co-director Ron Clements discovered a collection of Andersen's fairy tales while browsing a bookstore. He presented a two-page draft of a movie based on "The Little Mermaid" to CEO Michael Eisner and Walt Disney Studios chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg at a "gong show" idea suggestion meeting. Eisner and Katzenberg passed the project over, because at that time the studio was in development on a sequel to their live-action mermaid comedy Splash (1984) and felt The Little Mermaid would be too similar a project.[11] The next day, however, Walt Disney Studios chairman Katzenberg greenlit the idea for possible development. While in production in the 1980s, the staff found, by chance, original story and visual development work done by Kay Nielsen for Disney's proposed 1930s Anderson feature.[10] Many of the changes made by the staff in the 1930s to Hans Christian Andersen's original story were coincidentally the same as the changes made by Disney writers in the 1980s.[11] That year, Clements and Great Mouse Detective co-director John Musker expanded the two-page idea into a 20-page rough script, eliminating the role of the mermaid's grandmother and expanding the roles of the Merman King and the sea witch.


In 1987, songwriter Howard Ashman became involved with the writing and development of Mermaid after he was asked to contribute a song to Oliver & Company. He proposed changing the minor character Clarence, the English-butler crab, to a Jamaican Rastafarian crab and shifting the music style throughout the film to reflect this. At the same time, Katzenberg, Clements, Musker, and Ashman revised the story format to make Mermaid a musical with a Broadway-style story structure, with the song sequences serving as the tentpoles of the film.[10] Ashman and composer Alan Menken, both noted for their work as the writers of the successful Off-Broadway stage musical Little Shop of Horrors,[12] teamed up to compose the entire song score.

The first film's soundtrack, The Little Mermaid: An Original Walt Disney Records Soundtrack contains the songs from the film written by Menken and Ashman, as well as the film's score composed by Menken. The album received the Academy Award for Best Original Score and the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score. As of February 2007, the album is certified 6x Platinum by the RIAA. In 2010, Rhapsody (online music service) called it one of the all-time great Disney and Pixar Soundtracks.[13] To commemorate the film's 25th anniversary, an extended version of the soundtrack will be released on November 24, 2014 under the Walt Disney Records: The Legacy Collection.[14]

Apart from the, The Little Mermaid has inspired several more albums. Sebastian from The Little Mermaid and Sebastian: Party Gras! contain songs are cover versions of classic calypso or reggae songs. All of the songs are performed by Samuel E. Wright as Sebastian the crab with the exception of "Dancing Mood" and "Dance the Day Away", which are performed by Jodi Benson as Ariel, who also joins Sebastian on "Day-O". Jason Marin plays the speaking role of Flounder in the beginning of some tracks. The Little Mermaid: Songs from the Sea is a concept album; listening to the tracks in order will present the story of a typical day in the life of the mermaid Ariel (set sometime before the events of the first film).

Disney's The Little Mermaid: Original Broadway Cast Recording is the cast album for the musical The Little Mermaid. It features performances from the show's cast, which includes Tituss Burgess, Sherie Rene Scott, Norm Lewis, Eddie Korbich, and newcomer Sierra Boggess as Ariel, the little mermaid.

Critical reception

The Little Mermaid received positive reviews and on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 52 reviews collected, the film has an overall approval rating of 90% based on various reviews collected since its 1989 release.[15]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote positively of The Little Mermaid praising the lead, Ariel saying, "Ariel is a fully realized female character who thinks and acts independently, even rebelliously, instead of hanging around passively while the fates decide her destiny".[16] And "The Little Mermaid is a jolly and inventive animated fantasy—a movie that's so creative and so much fun it deserves comparison with the best Disney work of the past".[16]


  1. "Disney: Notes on the end of the Disney Renaissance". Retrieved 2008-08-26.
  2. "Playbill News: Mermaid Will Resume Nov. 29 and Will Officially Flip Her Fins Jan. 10". Retrieved 2009-07-15.
  3. Jones, Kenneth.Davy Jones' Locker: Broadway's Little Mermaid to End Aug. 30; National Tour Planned,", June 30, 2009
  4. The Little Mermaid (NES game)
  5. "Disney The Little Mermaid Undersea Treasures". Window Store. Retrieved 2014-01-08.
  6. Steltenpohl, Crystal (2014-01-07). "Preview: Disney The Little Mermaid: Undersea Treasures (PC)". Retrieved 2014-01-07.
  7. "House of Mouse Cast of Characters". WhatsIts Galore. Retrieved 2008-08-05.
  8. "Poor Unfortunate Soul: A Tale of the Sea Witch". Retrieved 2016-04-10.
  9. "Serena Valentino (official website): Poor Unfortunate Soul". Retrieved 2016-04-10.
  10. 1 2 3 (2006) Audio Commentary by John Musker, Ron Clements, and Alan Menken Bonus material from The Little Mermaid: Platinum Edition [DVD]. Walt Disney Home Entertainment.
  11. 1 2 (2006) Treasures Untold: The Making of Disney's 'The Little Mermaid [Documentary featurette]. Bonus material from The Little Mermaid: Platinum Edition DVD. Walt Disney Home Entertainment.
  12. Hahn, Don (2009). Waking Sleeping Beauty (Documentary film). Burbank, California: Stone Circle Pictures/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.
  13. 10 Essential Disney & Pixar Soundtracks Referenced July 27, 2010
  14. "'The Little Mermaid' Legacy Collection Soundtrack Details". FilmMusicReporter. 2014-10-08. Retrieved 2014-10-12.
  15. "Rotten Tomatoes—The Little Mermaid". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2012-09-08.
  16. 1 2 Ebert, Roger (November 17, 1989). "The Little Mermaid review". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved 2012-09-08.
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