A version of this review appears in Friday’s Weekend Life section of The Oklahoman.
“The Little Mermaid: Diamond Edition”
The fish tale that swept in Disney’s second golden age of animation gets a sparkling Blu-ray debut with “The Little Mermaid: Diamond Edition.”
Loosely based on the Hans Christian Andersen story, the 1989 blockbuster was the Mouse House’s first animated fairy tale in 30 years, and in retrospect, it proves worthy of the term “Disney classic.” Aspiring princesses will adore the dreamy tale of Ariel (voice of Jodi Benson), a headstrong young mermaid fascinated with the human world who defies her stern sea king father Triton (Kenneth Mars) and rescues and falls in love with a shipwrecked sailor who happens to be a prince (Christopher Daniel Barnes).
“The Little Mermaid” has plenty more going for it than just charming romance. The movie boasts an indelible villain in the half-squid sea witch Ursula (the magnificent Pat Carroll), who grants Ariel a limited-time opportunity to become a human and win the prince’s heart in exchange for the mermaid’s soaring voice. Plus, the comic relief from the goofy seagull Scuttle (Buddy Hackett), the curmudgeonly calypso crab Sebastian (Samuel E. Wright) and the deranged French chef (Rene Auberjonois) determined to fry up the cranky crustacean is truly and consistently hilarious.
But the dazzling combination of lushly vivid visuals and memorable Broadway-caliber music endures as “The Little Mermaid’s” greatest strength, and the new digital high-definition restoration puts more power behind the movie’s one-two punch. From Ariel’s signature red hair to the exotic aquatic flora and fauna, the colors are deep and luxuriant, and even during the dark and stormy sequences, the action remains clear and exciting. Alan Menken’s Oscar-winning score and the Academy Award-honored songs “Under the Sea” and “Kiss the Girl,” which Menken wrote with the late lyricist Howard Ashman, have never sounded better and invite viewers of all ages to happily croon along.
The new Blu-ray bonus material includes a Crab-E-OKE Sing-Along that can play separately or when the movie is paused, the @DisneyAnimation collection of new interviews with Disney animators, a fun featurette about a deleted character called Harold the Merman, footage of the live-action reference filming that helped the artists create Ariel, a lunchtime lecture Ashman gave early in the production, a Benson-guided ad for the New Fantasyland at Walt Disney World, and an entirely unnecessary music video of Carly Rae Jepsen singing Ariel’s theme “Part of Your World.”
Along with the DVD and digital copies of the movie, the Blu-ray combo pack also comes with all the bonus material from the previous DVD releases, including a 45-minute, six-part making-of documentary, behind-the-scenes featurettes, deleted scenes, audio commentary, virtual ride on a “Little Mermaid” theme park attraction that never got built and the heartbreakingly lovely animated short of Andersen’s “The Little Match Girl.”