Glen Keane: I heard Part of Your World, Jodi Benson singing that, and it just captivated me. I have to do that. And I went and told those guys, “I really wanna do Ariel.” And they said, “Well, I don’t know. This is supposed to be a pretty girl. Can you do that?” I said, “Look, I have to do Ariel. I mean, I can feel it in my heart.”
Even as a little kid, Ariel left a distinctly different impression on me. Oh no, I’m not checking Ariel out over there. I was deathly afraid of her. Look at how far away I am sitting from that Disney World employee! My sister is like: Yo, sitting next to a mermaid, no big deal, and I’m like: My god, mermaids exist? Man, have I been wrong about Disney movies… where can I find me one of those magic carpets?
I honestly don’t remember what freaked me out so much about seeing a mermaid live. I mean, I had no problem with Ariel, King Triton, or any of the other mermaids in The Little Mermaid. In fact, it was one of my favorite movies growing up. I returned to The Little Mermaid only a few years back for the music, for the animation, for the laughs, and instead, I found myself asking: when is Ariel going to come back on screen? And although I was pained to see Ariel lose her voice for half the movie (sure beats sleeping), thankfully, there is never a scene too long without Ariel in it, as if Disney knew how hard their audience was going to fall for their fourth princess. Some of you may be thinking Ariel breaks the third rule of this list, “No animals or otherwise non-human characters allowed,” but if you notice, I was very careful in selecting pictures of Ariel only when she’s in human form. Even when losing gorgeously animated scenes like Part of Your World and the renown Part of Your World reprise, you can still find plenty of varying facial expressions from Ariel, breaking free from the more monotonous facial expressions and body movement of the classical Disney princesses that came before her. In many ways, Ariel is rebellious not just as a Disney princess, but as a movie character. As Roger Ebert puts it, “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.” She bargains with an evil sea-witch, gets a pair of legs, and leaves the ocean to go get her man, even saving him twice in the process of doing so. There are others who don’t like Ariel’s man-seeking motives, but for those people, I’ll direct them to another post down below.
In the Hans Christian Andersen fable, the little mermaid has the most beautiful voice in the world, and while Sierra Boggess does admirably in The Little Mermaid’s fated Broadway showings, there is only one definitive voice of Ariel and that is the voice of Jodi Benson. Bright, clear, and unguarded, Benson gives a once-in-a-lifetime performance singing Part of World, one I have yet to be seen replicated by even the great Disney legend herself. Mesmerizing more than just the thoughts of Prince Eric, Glen Keane splashes unto the animation scene by providing some of his best work as the supervising animator of Ariel, later followed by his notable works on the Beast, Pocahontas, and Tarzan. Not only has Keane played an integral part in the 1990s resurgence now known as the Disney renaissance, Ariel should be, has been, and continues to be an iconic figure for the studio. More deserving than Jiminy Cricket or that of Tinker Bell. The Little Mermaid is filled with unforgettable moments, but one of my favorites is actually pretty cliché. For some reason, it just works here. I hope my readers will forgive me for including a picture of Ariel as a mermaid here.
Ariel has been scavenging sunken ships for their treasure, disobeying her father probably for years now just to get a new glimpse of human civilization, of human culture. And now, closer than ever, she is, out of all things, afraid, as if all her exploration on human life amounted to nothing but speechlessness. And as Ariel eavesdrops on Eric’s conversation, she tilts her smiling face ever so slightly upwards. This face is the face of someone who is pacing through the endless possibilities. This is the face of a dreamer.
A while back I decided I would add a new home-made movie poster representing the best of every significant movie genre I complete for my blog’s background. Unfortunately, I’m no good at drawing, so I showed my sister this picture and stressed how important it was to replicate Ariel’s facial expression. And for 25 bucks, I think my sister did a good job! The teddy bear Ariel is clinging on to is a caricature of my teddy bear shown below, and is my blog’s official mascot, if you will.
I was asked by a friend to describe my perfect date. At first, the question seemed harmless. Oh, that’s easy, she’s gotta be… well, she’s gotta be… and I actually found it very difficult to spit the words that were jumbling around in my head. So then I resorted to movie characters, and one of the first characters that came to my mind was Ariel. What? An animated character? That is what I’m going to tell my friend who my perfect date is? And while I wasn’t nearly as articulate at the time forming my rudimentary answer, I basically said she has to be herself. She needs to be sincere, genuine; she needs to be her own unique person. She needs to comfortable with who she is, she needs to be believe in herself, and she needs to stick out of a crowd in some way, in any way, just to make my head turn twice. What makes Ariel special you ask? I think Glen Keane said it best, “The characters I like to animate have this burning desire inside of them. They believe the impossible is possible.” I personally would love to take a character with a burning desire inside of them on a date, if only to have a small fraction of their passion exude onto me, to keep the dinner conversation going, so they can share their passions with me and I can share my passions with them. And then I thought to myself, isn’t that what Disney movies are about in the first place? To believe in the impossible. To believe in a wish, a dream, a fairytale. The reason why the Disney renaissance movies were so great was because they indulged on Walt Disney’s philosophy, “All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” And look no further than the renaissance’s first title character, the little mermaid, to best embody such a statement. That is why Ariel represents the best of Disney. And that is why Ariel should be part of our world.