The Little Mermaid Celebrates 30 Years

Ariel (Jodi Benson) in Disney's The Little Mermaid. Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures.

The Little Mermaid will celebrate its 30th anniversary later this year but the film joins the Walt Disney Signature Collection with a new edition.

Mermaid princess Ariel (Jodi Benson) has a dream of being human.  Much to her father’s dismay, Ariel frequently makes the journey to the surface.  It doesn’t matter that Atlantica King Triton (Kenneth Mars) forbids her from doing so.  Ariel is going to visit the humans because some dreams can’t be overcome.  She does so with the help of best friend Flounder (Jason Marin) and an ignorant seagull, Scuttle (Buddy Hackett).  Scuttle thinks he knows all about human culture.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t.  Sebastian (Samuel E. Wright) may side with King Triton but he finds himself reluctantly drawn into Ariel’s endeavors.

When Ariel finds herself drawn to Prince Eric (Christopher Daniel Barnes) during his birthday party, she instantly falls in love.  Since her father forbids it, he takes out his anger by destroying the human artifacts in her possession.  What does Ariel do as a result of his actions?  She turns to the dreaded sea witch Ursula (Pat Carroll) and becomes human but loses her voice for three days as a result.  The things that people will suffer through in the name of love!  There’s a catch to losing her voice and it means having to kiss Eric by the end of the three days.  Ursula isn’t without her own plan up her sleeve.  This includes tricking Eric if it means getting her way.  This is a Disney film so nobody is really in true danger and Ariel gets a happy ending.

Maybe it was for the best that the Hans Christian Anderson tale was never adapted during Walt Disney’s lifetime.  This film would not be the same without the musical contributions from both Alan Menken and Howard Ashman.  The Little Mermaid remains a timeless classic mostly because of this duo.  This isn’t to take away from the animation–which beautifully holds up 30 years later in a world full of CGI.  The film has been able to stand the test of time.

Alan Menken and Howard Ashman made some beautiful music together.  Menken’s score combines with Ashman’s lyrics helped to kickstart a Disney Renaissance in late 1989.  This is a film that offers a few timeless classics in its soundtrack including “Part of Your World,” “Kiss the Girl,” and the show-stopping Oscar winner, “Under the Sea.”  To think that Part of Your World was almost cut by Jeffrey Katzenberg!  I’m sorry but that song really helps to make this film what it is.  You can’t have The Little Mermaid without it!

While hand-drawn animation may be a thing of the past, The Little Mermaid beautifully holds up some thirty years later.  The film kicked off a wave of musical films.  With the way that the music plays into the film, it almost has a Broadway-esque way of pacing.  Because of this film, later Disney films would follow a similar structure.  Aladdin would later become a game-changer.  This is because Disney would turn towards major movie stars for voice work.  For what it’s worth, none of this is even possible without the 1989 classic.  A live-action adaptation is in the early stages of development.

Blu-Ray and Digital Bonus Features

  • Sing-Along Mode – Sing along to the movie in this  sing-along version of the film.
  • Alan Menken & the Leading Ladies Song – From the voice of a mermaid to the tunes of a muse, the music of Alan Menken has scored the soundtrack for some of Disney’s most iconic leading ladies. Join Alan, Jodi Benson (Ariel), Paige O’Hara (Belle), Judy Kuhn (Pocahontas Singing Voice), Lillias White (Calliope) and Donna Murphy (Mother Gothel) as we celebrate the music of their films in honor of the one that started it all … “The Little Mermaid.”  In this discussion, the ladies will share their memories of musically creating their characters with Alan, discuss what it means to be part of the Disney Princess/leading lady legacy and create new memories as they sing with Alan around a baby grand piano.
  • “What I Want From You…Is YOUR VOICE” – Enter the recording studio and get an inside look at the cast of “The Little Mermaid” in their original recording sessions.
  • Stories From Walt’s Office – Gadgets & Gizmos – Like Ariel, Walt Disney was a collector of many different things from miniatures to early mechanical characters that inspired the invention of audio-animatronics. We take a look at some the collections that Walt kept in his office in the third episode of this series.
  • #TreasuresUntold – Join Ruby Rose Turner and Olivia Sanabia from the Disney Channel Original Series “Coop and Cami Ask the World” as they take a deep dive to explore some hidden treasures and fun facts about Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.”
  • DCapella “Part of Your World” Music Video
  • Classic Bonus Features – revisit four exciting bonus features from previous releases including:
    • Deleted Character: Harold The Merman
    • Under The Scene: The Art Of Live Action Reference
    • Howard’s Lecture
    • Audio Commentary With Ron Clements, John Musker and Alan Menken


  • “Part of Your World” – A 30-Year Retrospective – Songwriter Alan Menken and Jodi Benson, the acting and singing voice of Ariel, sing the epitome of Disney “I Want” songs “Part of Your World” and discuss its impact since it was first heard 30 years ago.
  • Classic Bonus Features – Over 3 additional hours of previously released classic bonus features including Deleted Scenes, Easter Eggs, Music Videos and more!

DIRECTORS:  Ron Clements, John Musker
SCREENWRITERS:  John Musker and Ron Clements
CAST:  Jodi Benson, Pat Carroll, Samuel E. Wright, Christopher Daniel Barnes, Kenneth Mars, Buddy Hackett, Jason Marin, and René Auberjonois

Walt Disney Pictures opened The Little Mermaid in theaters on November 15, 1989.  The film is now available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray/DVD, Digital, and VOD as a part of the Walt Disney Signature Collection. Grade: 5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.