Richard’s Year of Movies — The Little Mermaid

I think people these days tend to forget what a revelation The Little Mermaid was back when it first came out.  Disney had been in an extreme slump since, oh, forever by that time.  So along came this animated musical that nobody really gave a chance to.  Well, by the time Ariel was staring longingly at her prince and singing “Someday I’ll be part of your world,” that perception was out the window.  Then “Under the Sea” came along and that was that — Disney was back.

The worst thing that could have happened to Mermaid was to be followed directly by Beauty and the Beast, because the later film sort of stole all the thunder.  I still prefer Mermaid to Beast — I think it has the better songs and the stronger story — but thanks to the Best Picture nomination, Mermaid is destined to be Beast‘s little sister.

Which is too bad, because there’s some great work in Mermaid.  There’s some amazing lighting effects both during the storm at the beginning and during the final with the giant Ursula, and while the look of the characters isn’t quite as polished as it would later become as the Disney renaissance went on, the animation on Ariel (and all the humanoid characters, for that matter) is pretty great. But it’s the story and the songs that make it stand out — it wasn’t like Disney was doing bad animation before this, they were just beautifully animating stories that nobody gave a damn about.

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