The Little Mermaid (1989)
Frozen is largely credited for creatively twisting Disney princess tropes, but for me, The Little Mermaid did it better. Although it returned to the animation Disney was known for in the golden days, The Little Mermaid should be known for innovating the Disney fairytale formula. Eric and Ariel fall in love at first sight, but then they have to build their relationship from the ground up until voiceless Ariel matches the mysticism of his fantasy girl. And its heroine doesn’t wait around for her prince charming to come and save the day. Ariel gets a pair of legs to go get her man.
While the Disney experience always involved their characters singing some songs, The Little Mermaid marked a deep philosophical change within the studio. Alan Menken and Howard Ashman not only started reviving the Broadway musical with their The Little Shop of Horrors, they also revived the movie musical. The Little Mermaid just happens to be animated.
The Little Mermaid meshes the best of Disney animation and the Broadway stage to give the studio their first hint of an identity since Walt Disney’s passing. Many Disney films have since tried to recapture the fun, up-beat atmosphere of The Little Mermaid, but only one has exceeded its tuneful spirit, innocent storytelling, and artistic merits. Rarely is a movie’s influence on its genre more profound than The Little Mermaid’s. It’s easy to see why.
Verdict: Properly Rated
Kevin’s Favorite Moment: ♪Bright young women/sick of swimming/ready to stand!♪
The Little Mermaid is the third-most important animated movie of all time (behind Snow White and Toy Story). It’s so good at what it does that it set a template for animated movies — spirited, Broadway-style musicals — that went unquestioned for more than half a decade, until Woody first uttered “You’re my favorite deputy.” It’s known as a true classic, and it IS a true classic.