Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Little Mermaid

Year 7, Day 235 - 8/23/15 - Movie #2,129

BEFORE: Well, it's as good a time as any to admit that I've never seen the film that sort of kicked off the Disney renaissance of the late 1980's.  I was busy that year graduating from college, trying to find work in the big city, and distancing myself from childish things.  And without offspring, there's been no real hurry to get to every kiddie movie out there, this is really just for research purposes, and to finally cross the damn thing off the list.

Two members of the musical chorus carry over from "The Swan Princess", Susan Boyd and Sally Stevens.  Once I hit a run of animated films, it's usually pretty easy to link between cast members, because they all seem to draw from the same pool of voice-over talent. 

THE PLOT:  A mermaid princess makes a Faustian bargain with an unscrupulous sea-witch in order to meet a human prince on land.

AFTER: Beyond the animated fairy-tale aspect, this film has a lot in common with "The Swan Princess" - in last night's film, a young girl was transformed into a swan by an evil magician trying to take over her father's kingdom, and ruin her relationship with handsome Prince Derek.  Here we have a young girl transformed from a mermaid into a human by an evil magician trying to take over her father's kingdom, and ruin her relationship with handsome Prince Eric. (Hmmm....)  This last week's really been about fantasy creatures like dragons and dwarves and such, and transformations, like that guy in the "Hobbit" film who could turn into a bear.

Oh, there are differences between last night's film and this one - Ariel the mermaid enters into this bargain to become human quite willingly, even though it's a really bad deal - she gets to be human for three days, in exchange for her voice, but there's no guarantee she can romance the Prince in that time, a great chance she'll end up being enslaved by Ursula, and there's not even a mention of how to get her voice back.  How the heck is she supposed to connect to this guy without speaking (Hey, hey, keep it clean, kids are watching...) when her voice is the thing that attracted him in the first place?  

But both films also changed the endings of their original stories - because fairy tales used to be so much more depressing and bleak, like Cinderella's stepsisters cutting off parts of their feet to fit them in the glass slipper - in the original Hans Christian Andersen story of the Little Mermaid, she doesn't just magically have her voice taken away, she has her tongue cut out.  Plus, when she's given the ability to walk on legs, she always feels as if she's walking on knives and her toes are bleeding.  That Andersen was a sick puppy...

So, I understand the need to make the story a little happier, but to what effect?  What's the message being sent to a generation of little girls, that they should have their bodies altered in order to win the love of a man, which is the most important thing in the world?   That doesn't seem like it's helping girls have positive body images.  That a man won't fall in love with a woman unless she's quiet most of the time?  Again, it's sending out a strange message.  It's bad enough that we've raised a generation of girls on Disney princess stories, and 99.9% of them will never get to be princesses, but will they grow up expecting to be treated as such?  I'm all for teaching girls they can do anything they want, but they'll simply never be royals.  

Once again, I feel like there were some shortcuts taken with this plot, though maybe not as many as in "The Swan Princess" - do we ever find out WHY Ursula wants to take over the undersea kingdom?  Besides just the fact that she's evil, I mean.  IMDB says there were deleted scenes that explained she was King Triton's sister, and why she was banished - that would have done the trick, sure.  But if she's one of the mer-people, then why does she have tentacles like an octopus?

NITPICK POINT: Who takes a marble statue with them on an ocean voyage?  Even though it's a gift for the prince, that doesn't seem like a good idea.  That wooden ship's not going to float as well with a big marble statue on the deck, assuming the deck can even support its weight.  

NITPICK POINT #2: The mer-people derisively call the humans "fish-eaters".  Well, they live underwater, what do they eat, just seaweed?  How do those mermen get all those muscles if they're not eating protein?  I would think that they'd HAVE to eat fish to survive, and they'd more properly call the humans "cow-eaters" or something.  

Also starring the voices of Jodi Benson (last heard in "Toy Story 3"), Samuel E. Wright (last heard in "Dinosaur"), Christopher Daniel Barnes, Buddy Hackett, Kenneth Mars (last seen in "Shadows and Fog"), Pat Carroll, Edie McClurg (last heard in "Frozen"), Rene Auberjonois, Will Ryan, with cameos from Nancy Cartwright (last heard in "The Simpsons Movie"), Jim Cummings, Kimmy Robertson, Rod McKuen, Frank Welker.

RATING: 5 out of 10 scallop shells

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