Our pal Zach Kenny is back with the sixth installment of The Little Mermaid 50 Day Art Challenge, leading up to the 25th anniversary of The Little Mermaid. If you missed it, be sure to check out the previous installments. Without further introduction, here’s Zach with new artwork celebrating the film’s development.
Zachary Kenny- At this point in The Little Mermaid’s history, the film has been released & became a legendary success, so for the next 2 weeks, we’ll be looking at the impact and what happened to the franchise. but we won’t be going in chronological order as we’ve been doing for the past 5 weeks.
DAY 36: ALL DOGS GO TO HEAVEN
No, this isn’t a Disney product, but it does have some relation with The Little Mermaid. Once upon a time, there was a man named Don Bluth. He started as a Disney animator, going from character animator for Robin Hood to animation director in Winnie the Pooh & Tigger Too, The Rescuers & Pete’s Dragon; he was also produced & directed a Christmas short called “the Small One”. During The Fox and the Hound, he left Disney to create his own films, like The Secret of NIMH, An American Tail, The Land Before Time & the video game Dragon’s Lair. These films were actually able to out-do Disney! An American Tail was more financially successful than The Great Mouse Detective and The Land Before Time was overall a greater success than Oliver and Company; & they were released on THE SAME DAY! Then on November 17th, 1989 cameAll Dogs Go to Heaven, the same day as TLM, but this time, Disney won; with critical praise & $211.3 million at the box office. As for ADGTH, it only earned about $27 million & the critics bashed this film, COMPARING IT TO TLM! Now, THAT’S really unfair. It soon became popular as years went on & became known as one of Don’s best… but in the 90s, he really lost his touch. His later films ranged from “eh”, “confusing to follow”, “too childish” & “how did we go from Secret of NIMH to THIS?!”; there was only ONE success. But back on track, in the animated world, who knows? Maybe Charlie, Itchy & the rest of the characters of ADGTH made amends with TLM’s Atlanticans, letting bygones be bygones. So, here’s Ariel giving recognition for her fellow film’s silver anniversary, ‘cause after all, ya can’t leave a good dog down.
DAY 37: DISNEY RENAISSANCE
After the Little Mermaid was released, it gained a MASSIVE change with the studio. It sparked the age of Disney animation known as “the Disney Renaissance”; a time where their films throughout 1990 to 1999, they had the same spark & genius that’s as if Walt assisted them the entire way. After TLM, their next movie was The Rescuers Down Under in 1990, the first Disney film to use the CAPS System, but unfortunately did 50/50 and is now, unfortunately, very underrated, ‘cause it’s better than the original. Then came Beauty & the Beast in 1991,Aladdin in 1992 & the Lion King in 1994, all of which were praised & are now known as Disney’s best. Once Pocahontas was released in 1995, the Renaissance started to loose it’s touch, along with Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1996 & Hercules in 1997; there’s nothing bad about them, they’re just not as strong. Mulan & Tarzan in 1998 & 1999 did better & are what ended the era.
DAY 38: PRINCESS POWER
As well as everything else this film has done, there’s also been a BIG change with Disney female leads. When thinking back to the old Disney leads, Snow White & Aurora don’t do much; they’re just really bland & nothing really major have been done with their help. Cinderella DOES have more to her, but many people, even some hardcore Disney fans, have forgotten that. But Ariel, she has plenty of development, a couple good quirks & has lots of involvement. & that’s what many people find the best change to the Disney formula. So similar to the famous Rosie the Riveter poster, we have Ariel recreating the poster, surrounded with the many important Disney female leads that have followed.
DAY 39: TV SHOW
Here we have one of the first elements of the franchise made after the film; a TV series that was a part of the Disney Afternoon. It’s set as a prequel, showcasing how major plot elements of the first film came to be. I don’t really remember much of it; not because I didn’t like it, I just never got enough chances to watch it. From episodes I’ve seen from YouTube, they’re pretty good. There’s the return of the original characters, giving them some good set-ups, & also giving them some more depth like Triton & Ariel’s sisters. There’s also a slew of new characters. There’s a merman named Urchin (maybe inspired by Harold), voiced by Danny Cooksey, (Disney-wise best known as Dave the Barbarian), a deaf Latina mermaid named Gabriella, a baby killer whale named Spot, a group of kid crabs called the Crab Scouts & a new villain named the Evil Manta, voiced by Tim “how come I’ve only voiced Disney villains for TV & straight-to-movies & not theatrical films yet?” Curry. Many of the original voices returned, like Jodi, Sam, Kenneth & Pat, but Flounder is replaced with Chip from Beauty & the Beast& bird-brained Scuttle is voiced by mouse-brained Maurice LaMarche. A couple of noteworthy moments from the show include meeting the baby whale Spot, how Ariel meet characters like Scuttle & Flounder, saving Hans Christian Anderson from sinking, Ariel & one of her sisters going to a place called Eel-Ectric City, discovering a land of frozen dinosaurs & a song called “In Harmony”. Oh, yeah; the songs featured in the episodes are pretty good & catchy as well. So, if you’re a really big fan of Disney’s animated TV shows, a big Little Mermaid fan & haven’t checked this show out yet, go ahead & take the dive. It’s a pretty good addition to the Disney Afternoon. (But if you’re gonna watch it on YouTube, switch the speed to 1.25, ‘cause the normal speed is slowed down a bit.)
DAY 40: HOUSE OF MOUSE
Ah, the House of Mouse; probably my favorite TV show to come from Disney. How can anybody NOT love it? The concept alone is what most Disney fans have DREAMED of: a club on Main Street where Mickey & his friends set up an updated variety show & showcase cartoons for EVERY animated Disney character! That is SO fan-fiction material & all you hard-core Disney dorks always thought of that as a kid. Like I said, just about every Disney character was shown & had small moments to shine. The cast of Little Mermaid is no exception. Even though about all the cast was prominent, Ariel, Sebastian & Ursula had the most screentime & spoke the most (‘cause their voices returned). Some noteable moments include Scuttle teaching Donald to fly, Sebastian almost being cooked & kissing the grill for Mortimer “the critic”, Ursula joining the villains in Mickey’s House of Villains, Triton doing an offscreen water spectacular only to be “spiced up” by Hades (probably ending up like the Miser Brothers) & Flounder repeatedly being served for dinner. Ariel had a couple moments, sometimes singing, always switching from mermaid to human, believing in Mickey forthe Christmas Snowed In at the HOM movie, & always being schmooched by Daisy. So, as Brian Setzer said, c’mon in, we’re gonna shake the house! We’re havin’ a ball… at the House of Mouse!
DAY 41: TLM II: RETURN TO THE SEA
Many are aware of Disney’s infamous sequels, many of them terrible compared to their predecessors. Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea is a perfect example of that; totally unnecessary, practically making the complete opposite of what made the first movie great. This is also one of those movies that make you think “Wow… to think I actually liked that.”
The story’s basically the first movie, but switched the locations. Instead of mermaid wanting to be human, it’s about Ariel’s daughter Melody wanting to be a mermaid… & it’s painfully obvious, right down to certain characters going through the same path as the original & the villain being an octopus voiced by Pat Carroll. The animation’s TV quality & nothing really “spectacular” about it. Many characters go through the same arch as the first one; Ariel’s turned into Triton, Sebastian has to “babysit” Melody, Eric, Scuttle & Triton don’t really do much & Flounder’s become a daddy. The new characters; even MORE rip-offs. Melody is exactly like her mother, Morgana is a skinny green Ursula that sucks at magic & Tip & Dash are an Arctic version of Timon & Pumbaa. Only character that IS kinda funny is Morgana’s shark Undertow. The voice work is the only good aspect, but it does go half-&-half. Jodi, Samuel, Kenneth, Buddy & Pat do well as always, but Yakko Warner as Eric & Leonardo from Ninja Turtles as Flounder? Yeah, doesn’t match well. There’s also some strange connections to the voices as well! Tip (a rip-off of Timon) is voiced by the original Timon from Broadway, & the voice of Undertow does another tough sea creature, Mr. Krabs from Spongebob! Only other thing about the cast to mention is that this is Buddy Hackett’s last performance & he passed away a couple months after the movie premiered. The songs are very forgettable &, get this, there are only THREE songs; but including reprises… only four.
Overall, this is a definite skip, even if you are a big TLM fan.
DAY 42: TLM III: ARIEL’S BEGINNING
But then we get THIS sequel, the last direct-to-video Disney sequel before Lasseter stopped them. And boy, this is a surprisingly great farewell film. TLM III: Ariel’s Beginning is really surprising & doesn’t rehash.
The story? Just after the first 5 minutes, you’ll get sucked in immediately. The film overall shows more on how Ariel became the “odd one”, why music is so important to Atlantica, why Triton has such a prejudice with humans & what happened to Ariel’s mother. It does have a few continuity errors from the TV series & no explanation to Ursula. They sometimes CAN be really distracting, but you can tell they REALLY wanted to leave the sequel train on a high note & they succeeded 100%. The animation isn’t half bad. Yes, it’s still TV quality, but it’s GOOD TV quality, especially in the shadowing & colorization. The characters are really well-done, setting them up for the material that follows. Ariel just wants music back, Triton goes through father issues AND the death of his wife, Sebastian understands where both of them are coming from, even Ariel’s sisters & the Catfish Club get a few good moments. On the bad side, Flounder seems a little too uncharacteristically hip & the main villain is really dull (more of an Yzma rip-off), even if Sally Field does a good performance. This would also be Jim Cummings’ first time voicing Triton (Kenneth Mars fell ill & couldn’t perform, passing away soon in 2011) & Samuel Wright’s last performance as Sebastian before his retirement. Lots of final performances in this franchise, hasn’t there? First Grimsby, then Scuttle, now Triton & Sebastian. The music, even though there’s still only 3, they’re not half bad. They even sing the enjoyable “Shake Senora (Jump in the Line)” a couple times.
So overall, I’d recommend Ariel’s Beginning. It’s just as good as Bambi II & Cinderella III.
Be sure to check back next week for the final installment!