Today marks the 25th anniversary of the release of the The Little Mermaid, one of the most beloved Disney movies of all-time, and a watershed production for the studio, which had spent two decades as a fallen giant before the story of a young mermaid named Ariel brought the studio back to the top. I wrote extensively about the movie for my Disney Canon project, but since I love it so much, I couldn’t let the anniversary go by without acknowledging its greatness one way or another, so, without further ado, here is a list of the…
Top Ten Reasons Why ‘The Little Mermaid’ Is Awesome
10. The “Les Poissons” Sequence
…in which Sebastian runs around the palace kitchen to keep Chef Louie of turning him into Ariel’s dinner. It’s an extended sequence that has little to do with the movie’s plot, but it’s so much, and has some pretty solid gags.
So, while we’re in the topic of Sebastian, he is a pretty awesome sidekick isn’t he? Sure, some people complaint about the Jamaican accent, but truth be told, I find it kind of endearing, and far from being stereotypical. Beyond the accent, Sebastian doesn’t spot any stereotypes usually attributed to Jamaican people (except that they’re good musicians). Also, his uptight desperation makes him so endearing.
7. “Under the Sea”
6. “Kiss the Girl”
A lot of the entries in this list are just going to be songs, but that’s what happens when a movie has as strong a score as The Little Mermaid. Both of these numbers are delightful. “Under the Sea” is iconic, as most things that are parodied on The Simpsons are, but I want to throw a bone to “Kiss the Girl”, which is one of the loveliest, most romantic show-stopping numbers in cinema.
5. Pat Carroll as Ursula
Ursula is one of the best villains in the history of Disney Animation, and Pat Carroll does an outstanding job of giving her the personality of an evil underwater diva. In a movie with a strong queer identity (more on that later), Ursula is a delicious drag queen. She also gets to sing “Poor Unfortunate Souls“, which is an awesome song…
4. Howard Ashman
…talking about awesome songs, the original score by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman is a complete delight. Most specifically, though, Howard Ashman seems to me like one of the most genius people to have worked at Disney, not only did he write some of the most clever and memorable lyrics in the studio’s history, but he seems to have had a deep connection to what made Disney movies so great. From his insistence on not cutting “Part of That World” from The Little Mermaid when it was received poorly by a test audience to his major role crafting Beauty and the Beast, he was a treasure who was sadly taken before his time.
Who is such a fantastic protagonist. First of all, because she is beautifully animated by Glen Keane. Second, because she has a delightful personality (even when she can’t speak), and is a character that has a lot to say about gender identity, which brings me to my next point…
2. It has an awesome queer message.
I’ve written about this before, but my reading of the film is that Ariel is clearly a transgender character. She is born a mermaid, but doesn’t feel comfortable in her body. Her dream is becoming a human being. A lot of people read this plot as yet another story of a woman sacrificing her identity to be with a man, I see it as a woman defining herself in her own terms, and forging her identity according to her own feelings.
1. “Part of That World”
Everything I love about Ariel, about Menken and Ashman’s amazing score, and about the movie’s message about identity comes together in “Part of That World”, my favorite song in Disney history, and, in my humble opinion, the best “I Want” song ever written.