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The Little Mermaid (1989) Poster

Trivia

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It's possible that Prince Eric could be related to Prince Phillip and Princess Aurora from Sleeping Beauty (1959). In the dining room in Eric's castle on Ariel's first evening on land, there is a painting hanging on the wall. The couple bear a striking resemblance to Aurora and Phillip.
In the opening scene when King Triton arrives at the arena, you can briefly see Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Donald Duck and Kermit the Frog in the crowd of sea-people as mermen when he passes over them.
"Part of Your World" was nearly cut; Jeffrey Katzenberg felt that it was "boring", as well as being too far over the heads of the children for whom it was intended. At a test screening children were restless during the song which did not have finished animation - in particular one child that sat in front of Katzenberg and spilled his popcorn and was more interested in picking it up than watching the sequence. John Musker, Ron Clements and Howard Ashman all pleaded their case and begged Katzenberg to let the song stay to no avail. Ultimately the one who managed to convince him to give it a second chance was the animator of the sequence Glen Keane. Another screening was set up. This time with an adult audience and was a greater success (even reportedly moving some members to tears) and so the song was left in the film. Katzenberg later said that he was happy that no one listened to him because he couldn't imagine the film without the song.
Ariel's body type and personality were based on Alyssa Milano. The effect of her hair underwater was based on footage of astronaut Sally Ride in weightless conditions.
Originally, Sebastian was to have an English accent. It was lyricist/producer Howard Ashman who suggested he be Jamaican. This opened the door to calypso-style numbers like "Under the Sea", which won the Academy Award.
Deleted scenes: An extended "Fathoms Below" sequence in which it is revealed that Ursula is Triton's sister; alternate version of "Poor Unfortunate Souls" explaining why Ursula was banished by Triton; a scene just before the concert in which Sebastian finds out Ariel is missing; extended scene of Sebastian lost in Eric's castle; Sebastian giving additional advice to Ariel at bedtime; and the fight with Ursula to the ending with no dialog.
The character of Ursula was based on Divine. Her personality and some of her actions were also largely inspired by a previous Disney villain, Madame Medusa from Disney's The Rescuers (1977).
Ariel was quite deliberately made a redhead in order to distinguish her from Daryl Hannah's character in Splash (1984).
Jodi Benson sang 'Part of Your World' in the dark to get that 'under the sea' feeling.
In Greek mythology, the God of the Sea is Poseidon. Triton (the name given to the Sea King), however, is one of his sons.
Ben Wright's final film. When he got the part of Grimsby, Prince Eric's butler, the erstwhile Disney folks had no idea that he had been the voices of Roger in 101 Dalmatians (1961) and Rama in The Jungle Book (1967). He had to tell them.
Christopher Daniel Barnes was only 16 years old when he recorded his voice for Prince Eric - the producers thought felt his voice sounded much older than he really was.
When Scuttle is providing "vocal romantic stimulation" to Eric and Ariel while they are rowing in the lagoon, he is squawking Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's "Romeo and Juliet".
The most prominent ingredient shown in Ursula's human-transformation potion is a bubble containing a butterfly. Later it is revealed during the wedding between her and Eric that the name of the human woman that Ursula transforms herself into is "Vanessa", the name for that genus of butterfly.
There are several shots of Ariel, sitting on a rock, in a pose reminiscent of the "Little Mermaid" statue that sits in Copenhagen harbor.
The first Disney fairy tale since Sleeping Beauty (1959).
Ursula has six tentacles, plus two human arms, making eight limbs which qualify her as an octopus.
This was the last Disney animated feature to use hand-painted cels and analog camera and film work. 1,000 different colors were used on 1,100 backgrounds. Over one million drawings were done in total.
Before recording "Poor Unfortunate Souls", Pat Carroll asked Howard Ashman to sing the song one more time to get it right. He obliged, and as he sang he added little spoken ad-libs that Carroll then incorporated into her performance. These included Ursula saying "Pathetic" at the mer-couple she conjures up as an example, and the line "Life's full of tough choices, innit?"
Scheduling conflicts with Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987) forced Patrick Stewart to turn down the role of King Triton.
Some versions of the videotape cover had the likeness of a penis, inadvertently drawn on the cover. Promotional materials and posters for the theatrical release also contained the likeness. It's the highest tower in the middle of the castle in the background. The artist that drew the cover has stated in interviews that it was not intentional, but the result of having to hurry on a project where the castle's towers were rather phallic to begin with.
HIDDEN MICKEY: In the scroll that Ursula gets Ariel to sign. It is in the middle of the words when it pans over the scroll from top to bottom. Also, in the scene where the animals are trying to break up the wedding, right as the seals are jumping onto the deck of the boat from the ocean, there is a woman with black hair in a red gown with her back to the camera. The shape of her hair clearly outlines a Mickey head until she turns sideways. Also, Mickey, Donald, and Goofy are in the concert audience passed by Triton (shown to the left).
When Ariel is singing "Part of Your World" in her grotto, there is a bust of Abraham Lincoln.
This was the first Disney film to receive an Academy Award since Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971), though other films had been nominated.
The animators created the character of Ursula for Bea Arthur, who declined as she was occupied with The Golden Girls (1985). Jennifer Saunders then auditioned for the role of Ursula but was turned down. Somehow in 2002, Steven Spielberg got hold of her tape and insisted to the three directors of Shrek 2 (2004) that she be cast as the scheming Fairy Godmother. After Bea Arthur turned down the chance to voice Ursula, Nancy Marchand, Nancy Wilson, Roseanne Barr, Charlotte Rae and Elaine Stritch were all then considered with the latter eventually being cast in the part. However, Stritch's style clashed with that of lyricist Howard Ashman so Pat Carroll got the part.
The shot of Ariel reaching out through the skylight of her grotto was the last shot to be completed. It took four tries to get the optical effects just right.
There was a widespread rumor in the early to mid-'90s that the priest in the wedding scene has an erection. He doesn't (in fact, the shot is of the priest's knee moving underneath his tunic) but this didn't deter enraged moralists from strenuous protest (even to the extent of filing at least one lawsuit against Disney). In the 2006 Platinum Edition DVD release, the scene has been altered so that the priest is standing on a small platform box and his knee is no longer visible through his robes.
'The Little Mermaid' had been a Disney property since 1941. Walt Disney planned to include the much darker Hans Christian Andersen version of the tale in a planned anthology film of the fantasy author's works. After a bitter strike by the animators that same year and the increasing focus on wartime propaganda shorts, the initial version of 'The Little Mermaid' was shelved in 1943.
Ariel's rendition of "Part of Your World" set a precedent for subsequent Disney animated musicals where the protagonist would vocalize his or her desires early in the film. See also "Belle" in Beauty and the Beast (1991), "One Jump Ahead" in Aladdin (1992) and "Just Around the Riverbend" in Pocahontas (1995).
CASTLE THUNDER: Heard a few times during the storm that wrecks Eric's ship in the beginning. It's also briefly heard for a second during the middle of the second storm when Ursula becomes gigantic and powerful, and is the last Disney movie to use the sound.
When Ursula first shows Ariel the contract, it quickly scrolls through the body of the text. This is the actual text shown on the scroll: "I hereby grant unto Ursula, the witch of the sea... , one voice, in exchange for byon once high, Dinu*gihn thon Mueo serr on Puur-qurr I rehd moisn petn r m uenre urpti m srerp monk guaki ,Ch rich noy ri imm ro mund for all eternity. signed," All other instances clearly say: "I hereby grand unto Ursula, the witch of the sea... , one voice, for all eternity. signed,"
While writing "Part of Your World", Alan Menken and Howard Ashman discovered that the song shared contextual and rhythmic similarities between "Somewhere That's Green"; a song from their earlier musical, Little Shop of Horrors (1986). Hence, leading the duo to humorously nickname "Part of Your World" as "Somewhere That's Dry".
The film's Oscar wins of Best Original Song and Best Original Score would be repeated for their next four films - Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992), The Lion King (1994) and Pocahontas (1995).
More money and resources were poured into The Little Mermaid (1989) than any other Disney animated film in decades. Aside from its main animation facility in Glendale, California, Disney also opened up a feature animation facility outside Orlando, Florida.
This film was the most effects-animation-heavy Disney animated feature since Fantasia (1940). Even with much of the rain effects being lifted from Pinocchio (1940), the two-minute storm sequence alone still took 10 special effects animators over a year to finish. Effects animation supervisor Mark Dindal estimated that over a million bubbles were drawn for this film, in addition to the use of other processes such as airbrushing, back lighting, superimposition, and some flat-shaded computer animation.
Glen Keane went to then President of Walt Disney Feature Animation Peter Schneider and demanded the chance to animate Ariel after seeing the footage of Jodi Benson singing "Part of Your World"
When The Little Mermaid (1989) earned four Golden Globe nominations in 1990, it not only became the first full-length animated feature film to be nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy, but it also became the first animated feature to be nominated for a Best Picture Golden Globe Award, of any genre, in general. Even though it did not win, Disney's Beauty and the Beast (1991) would later on to become the first animated feature film to win the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy), two years later.
The directors insisted that every one of the millions of bubbles should be hand-drawn, not Xeroxed. The sheer manpower for such an effort required Disney to farm out most of the bubble-drawing to Pacific Rim Productions, a China-based firm with production facilities in Beijing. The student uprising in Beijing, China, threatened to delay production. Roughly one-third of the finished cel artwork used by the Chinese artists as underlays for drawing the bubbles were in a vault only a few blocks away from the demonstration at Tienanmin Square and the violence that followed.
On January 14, 2013, a 3D re-release of the movie was canceled after poor box office performances from several other Disney 3D re-releases: Beauty and the Beast (1991) - ($47.6 million), Finding Nemo (2003) - ($41 million), and Monsters, Inc. (2001) - ($30 million), that failed to be as successful as the 3D re-release of The Lion King (1994) - ($94.2 million). Disney had already started working on the film's 3D conversion since November 2012, so the film was ultimately released on a Diamond Edition Blu-Ray 3D combo pack, instead of being rescheduled for an another theatrical release date. The end credits of this release include credits for the 3D conversion team. which have thus been sped up slightly to match the music.
Movie was adapted as a Broadway musical in 2007.
The only time Vanessa is mentioned by name is during the wedding.
The rainbow that King Triton sends above the wedding ship at the end of the film is actually inverted.
The first Disney animated film to earn any Academy Award nominations since The Rescuers (1977).
In the Norwegian version, Ursula was voiced by Frøydis Armand and Sebastian was voiced by Helge Jordal. The two actors were married at the time and had one child.
Although based on the classic tragic tale by Hans Christian Andersen, the story also carries major similarities to classic 19th-century Czech tragic opera Rusalka, the biggest difference being the very bleak ending of the opera.
Although he was initially hired just to co-write the songs alongside composing partner Alan Menken, Howard Ashman became a co-producer and co-writer on the film, introducing much of its elements of romanticism and camp. At least three key scenes in their entirety have been credited to him: The scene where Sebastian takes pity on Ariel and decides to help her rather than report her, a scene with him 'tutoring' her on the art of flirting, and the dialogue between him and king Triton at the end where the king decides to set her free to become the human she always dreamed of.
Pat Carroll modeled her voice for Ursula on Tallulah Bankhead and Maurice Evans.
According to Entertainment Weekly, co-director Ron Clements brought the film's concept to Disney in 1985, but it was vetoed because it was considered too similar to a Splash (1984) sequel that was in development at Disney. In 1985, Clements, while finishing work on The Great Mouse Detective (1986), was browsing through a bookstore and chanced upon a copy of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales, and found "The Little Mermaid" most fascinating, cinematic, and intriguing of all. He subsequently presented a two-page story treatment of both the film and Treasure Planet (2002) to Disney CEO Michael Eisner and chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg at a 'gong show' idea suggestion meeting where everyone at Walt Disney Feature Animation is supposed to come up with at least five new ideas for animated features; an idea Katzenberg came up with when he was working at Paramount Pictures. Both of them passed on the idea; Katzenberg changed his mind the next day and gave it the greenlight along with Oliver & Company (1988), but not Treasure Planet (2002) due to the technology, at the time, not being sophisticated and advanced enough to capture the filmmakers' vision for the film. Early in production, Katzenberg warned Clements and John Musker that their film would be perceived as a "girl's film" and that it would make less money at the box office than Oliver & Company. As the film neared completion, Katzenberg was forced to backtrack and admit that he thought that the studio had a major hit in the making.
Ben Wright's final film.
When the film entered active production, the staff chanced upon the original story and visual development done at the studio back in the 1930s. Many of the changes made by the staff back then to Hans Christian Andersen's original story were coincidentally the same as the ones that the Disney writers were making in the 1980s.
Ariel's treasure grotto includes the painting "Magdalene With the Smoking Flame" by 17th-century artist Georges de La Tour.
The last Disney film using the xerography process, invented by Ub Iwerks, which had been used since 101 Dalmatians (1961).
Songwriting team Alan Menken and Howard Ashman were brought to the attention of Disney Animation Chair Jeffrey Katzenberg by longtime colleague (and future Dreamworks co-founder) David Geffen, who was producing the team's off-Broadway musical "Little Shop of Horrors".
Ariel's liplines were created with hand-inking.
Previous to The Little Mermaid (1989), the songs for animated films were written beforehand. With this film, composer Alan Menken and lyricist Howard Ashman worked alongside directors John Musker and Ron Clements throughout the whole storyboarding process, in order to make the songs a more organic part of the film.
Jodi Benson had starred in a short-lived 1986 Broadway musical based on the film Smile (1975), which had a score by Howard Ashman and Marvin Hamlisch. When casting for the role of Ariel in 'The Little Mermaid', it was Ashman who recommended Benson to producers.
The wedding scene at the close of the film marked one of the first use of CAPS (Computer Animation Production System) in a Disney feature. CAPS is a digital ink-and-paint and animation production system that colors the animators' drawings digitally, as opposed to the traditional animation method of tracing ink and paint onto cels. The rest of The Little Mermaid (1989) uses hand-painted cels. All subsequent Disney features have used CAPS instead of ink-and-paint. An earlier scene where Ariel runs down a set of stairs, also uses the CAPS system for its moving background. This film was intended to be the first Disney animated feature using all digital processes but at the time CAPS wasn't ready. Disney's next animated feature The Rescuers Down Under (1990) was going to be the first 100% digitally processed film.
Sebastian's fanfare was performed by composer Alan Menken on a kazoo.
Disney artists had considered an animated film of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid" as part of the "Silly Symphonies" series, in the late 1930s, and illustrator Kay Nielsen prepared a number of striking story sketches in pastels and watercolors. The project was dropped in favor of Andersen's Ugly Duckling (1939). For this film, the artists received inspiration from the Nielsen story sketches that were brought out of the Archives for them to study, and they gave Kay Nielsen a "visual development" credit on the film. Another first for recent years: Live actors and actresses were filmed for reference material for the animators. Sherri Stoner acted out Ariel's key scenes. Not all of Disney's animators approved the use of live-action reference; Glen Keane, the co-supervising animator of Ariel said in an interview with the Orange County Register that one artist quit the project rather than work with live-action reference.
An attempt to use Disney's famed multi-plane camera for the first time in years for quality "depth" shots failed because the machine, always a monster to use because of its sheer size, was in dilapidated condition. The multi-plane shots were farmed out to another studio.
Sissel Kyrkjebø, a Norwegian singer, provided her voice for Ariel in both the Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian dub.
A deleted draft detailing an alternate version of the ending had Ariel and Flounder trying to rush to the wedding barge only for Glut (the shark from earlier in the film who got stuck in an anchor ring) to ambush them, causing Flounder to gain a second wind, deliver an already exhausted Ariel to the ship, and bait Glut into chasing him with the barrel still lassoed onto his back (it's actually a gunpowder barrel), causing Glut to bite the barrel and get caught in an explosion.

Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

Several elements from the original Hans Christian Andersen story were kept in the movie, including: Ariel being the youngest of many sisters, the secret white marble statue, the polypi along the entrance to Ursula's cavern, and Ariel asking what she'll have left without her voice and the sea-witch's response. However, in the original story, Ariel doesn't turn back into a mermaid at the end. When the sun rises on the last day she turns to foam and dies. Later editions included her becoming a daughter of the air and rising to heaven.
The battle with Ursula did not always have her as a giant, a concept originally intended was for her to remain normal size.

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