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The Little Mermaid DVD Review

The Little Mermaid

Theatrical Release: November 17, 1989 / Running Time: 83 Minutes / Rating: G

Directors: Ron Clements, John Musker

Voice Cast: Jodi Benson (Ariel), Christopher Daniel Barnes (Prince Eric), Pat Carroll (Ursula), Jason Marin (Flounder), Samuel E. Wright (Sebastian), Kenneth Mars (Triton), Buddy Hackett (Scuttle), Rene Auberjonois (Chef Louis), Paddi Edwards (Flotsam/Jetsam), Edie McClurg (Carlotta), Ben Wright (Grimsby)

Songs: "Fathoms Below", "Daughters of Triton", "Part of Your World", "Under the Sea", "Part of Your World (Reprise)", "Poor Unfortunate Souls", "Les Poissons", "Kiss the Girl"

Awards: Academy Awards - Best Song ("Under the Sea"), Best Original Score; Golden Globes - Best Song ("Under the Sea"), Best Original Score
Click to order "The Little Mermaid: Platinum Edition", now available on Disney DVD.

Disney finally re-issued The Little Mermaid in a Platinum Edition DVD on October 3, 2006. This new two-disc release offers substantial improvement in picture, sound, supplements, and accessibility.
Click here to buy The Little Mermaid: Platinum Edition from Amazon.com, click here to read our complete Platinum Edition DVD review, or read on for a full critique of the Limited Issue DVD released in 1999.

Review by Jack Seiley

After a long period of production that was largely unsuccessful and almost killed them, the Walt Disney Company was on the threshold of a major revitalization in the late 1980s. The animation department had a breath of fresh air blown into it with newcomer artists, which led to projects like The Great Mouse Detective and Oliver & Company that harked back to the style of the traditional Disney musical. But the climax of the renewal process and the gateway for further humongous success was, without a doubt, The Little Mermaid.

I’m sure like many others, I may not be the Disney fan I am today if it wasn’t for that movie about a young mermaid who wanted so much to be part of our world. My earliest memory in life is seeing Mermaid in a movie theater at age two. Ursula the sea witch scared the living daylights out of me, but I was enchanted by everything in it. I would practice my drawing skills by trying to depict Sebastian and Flounder, and would swim to the bottom of my local swimming pool expecting to find Ariel. That led to me begging my mother for the VHS when it was eventually released, and becoming heavily addicted to the rest of the Mouse House’s animated films to follow. Yes, it truly opened the door and introduced me to the world of Disney.

I’ve always remembered how much I adored The Little Mermaid. But isn’t it true that the impact a certain film may have on you fades over the years? This is what happened, as I hadn’t experienced the movie for close to decade until I stumbled upon the Limited Issue DVD at my local rental store. Having rediscovered several films from my childhood recently, I was enthused to take the copy home to refresh my memory of Mermaid.

As I expected, my great affection for the movie flooded back. While it reverts to the structure of Snow White and Cinderella, Ariel’s story feels fresh and original. Songs like “Part of Your World,” “Under the Sea,” and “Kiss the Girl” by the legendary duo of Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman remain character-building, atmosphere-developing, and insanely catchy. And maybe it’s the fear instilled in me as a young’un, but Ursula is still one of the few Disney villains I can completely despise, which makes my desire to see the main characters succeed all the more compelling. Returning to this movie after such a long time brought back memories, sent chills down my spine, and reminded me just how great of a picture it is.

Early on, Disney was hesitant about the DVD format, and decided to test the waters with a series of nine Limited Edition discs, released late in 1999, that would only be available for 60 days after their initial release date. The Little Mermaid made its debut on DVD as one of the 8 animated classics in this line. Its single disc is held in a standard, white amaray case with a single-page chapter listing insert.

Buy The Little Mermaid from Amazon.com Marketplace DVD Details

1.66:1 Non-Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English
Closed Captioned
Release Date: December 7, 1999
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5)
Suggested Retail Price: $34.99
Out of Print
White Keepcase


The feature appears in its original aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1. This is not an anamorphic transfer – it has not been enhanced for 16x9 televisions. Colors and sharpness look relatively good, but the image suffers from being quite grainy, and it can get a little severe at times. This is by no means the finest presentation possible, but it’s more forgivable when considering it’s an early Disney DVD.

Better comments can be said about the option for sound: a Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Audio plays out among the three front speakers, and during more active scenes, the rears become involved too. I didn’t notice a lot of separate effects in the back channels, but it is made up for in crisp and clear production of the dialogue, sound effects, and musical score. Once more, this isn’t the best audio possible, but it’s solid anyway. I thought it was going to be weaker, so this track surpassed my expectations.

Main Menu


I’d like to introduce you my little friend, “0”. He is a figure that represents nothingness, and the reason I haven’t brought him up before is because, previously, I didn’t need to. But for this DVD review, “0” insisted on being present, so I could say: there are 0 extras on this disc – zilch. Not even a trailer. Today’s standard of animated menus isn’t seen here either, as they are stagnant.

Of course, there is the bonus feature that Disney lists on the back of the case: “full-color character artwork on disc.” I was about to make a crack about this, but I’ll hold myself back: jokes about that have been taken care of in other reviews, I trust that you’ve already thought of a better one than I could come up with, and, oh yeah – I already made a joke about my friend “0”.


The Little Mermaid is without a doubt one of the true classics of Disney’s entire animated roster – a quality film unto itself, and an important part of the company’s history. On top of this, my feelings about the movie are so special; I can’t really do them justice with words.

This is a must-have for any Disney fan, either a casual one, or an enthusiast. The best that can be said about the Limited Edition DVD release is that it presents the movie with acceptable video and audio quality. In an important note, this may very well be the last time the true, original version of the film will be seen on this format, or future formats. There has been news that Disney has recently given Mermaid the same treatment done to the DVD releases of Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, and the upcoming Aladdin - redrawn animation and backgrounds to ‘enhance’ the movie. Thus, the next release will in all likelihood contain a new version of Mermaid, and not the one from 1989.

You’re unlikely to find this DVD for anything less than around $35 to $40 these days, and there have been many reports of people buying the Limited Editions from places like Ebay, and only getting bootleg copies in return. I recommend that if you do choose to buy it, be very cautious, and try to make sure it’s the real deal.

Now, what about that ‘next release’? The Little Mermaid has been announced as part of the prestigious line of 2-Disc Platinum Edition DVDs that Disney has been putting out every October, since 2001. The original release schedule planned for 1 Platinum release per year, with Mermaid staked for October 2008. Much to the delight of fans, this schedule was changed in spring 2003, and opted for 2 Platinum releases per year instead of 1, starting in March 2005. (Fore more information on this topic, please visit: FAQs and Different Types of Releases.)

So when can we expect The Little Mermaid: Platinum Edition? October 2005 is a strong possibility, with October 2006 being another option. Rest assured that this review will be updated with a detailed analysis of the 2-Disc set when it eventually does come. Like many, I can’t wait.

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Buy "The Little Mermaid" 2-Disc Platinum Edition from Amazon.com
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Read our DVD review of The Little Mermaid: Platinum Edition

Related Reviews
The Little Mermaid: Platinum Edition
Oliver & Company (1988) | The Great Mouse Detective (1986)
The Lion King (1994) | Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Pinocchio (1940) | Sleeping Beauty (1959)

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Reviewed March 12, 2004.