THE LITTLE MERMAID
The Little Mermaid is not a great Disney film but it is carried by a great deal of energy and sheer good cheer. The background is drawn with a patently unreal airbrushed quality and the story is on the slight side. The subsequent films of the directing team of Musker and Clements Aladdin, Hercules (1997) and Treasure Planet (2002) have been disappointingly flat, but here Musker and Clements are operating at their best. A considerable amount of The Little Mermaid is driven by energetic visual slapstick most enjoyably during the scenes with the crab Sebastian attempting to flee a French chef.
The requisite line-up of supporting talking animal sidekicks are some of the most likeable characters of any Disney film. Particularly well crafted is the character of Ariel. Making up for several decades of pallid Disney heroines like Cinderella, here was the beginnings of modern independent Disney animated heroines like Beauty, Pocahontas and Mulan. Ariel manages to balance the soft, rounded, innocent plaintiveness of the endearing Disney characters with a child-like strength to become quite memorable you end up feeling for her plight.
Also particularly good is the Alan Menken-Howard Ashman soundtrack, which must be the most memorable and catchy of all Disney soundtracks. The calypso number Under de Sea accompanied by the surreal images of clams being used as castanets, fish teeth as xylophones and blowfish as brass sections proved to be an instant classic, and there is a romantic number between Ariel and Eric that is delightful.
This was followed by The Little Mermaid (1992-5), an animated series featuring the ongoing adventures of the characters, and The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea (2000), a likeable direct-to-video sequel, and the direct-to-video prequel The Little Mermaid: Ariels Beginning (2008).
In the 1990s, John Musker and Ron Clements became one of Disneys most successful directing teams, making the likes of Aladdin (1992), Hercules (1997), Treasure Planet (2002), The Princess and the Frog (2009) and Moana (2016).