UltimateDisney.com | DVD Reviews Index | Animated Classics Page | DVDizzy.com: New & Upcoming DVD/Blu-ray Schedule | Search This Site

Disney's Platinum Edition DVDs: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs • Beauty and the Beast
The Lion King • Aladdin • Bambi • Cinderella • Lady and the Tramp • The Little Mermaid
Peter Pan • The Jungle Book • 101 Dalmatians • Sleeping Beauty • Pinocchio

The Little Mermaid: Platinum Edition DVD Review

The Little Mermaid movie poster The Little Mermaid

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

Directors: Ron Clements, John Musker

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

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

Buy from Amazon.com

Page 1: The Movie, Changes, Video and Audio, Disc 1 Bonus Features
Page 2: Disc 2 Bonus Features, Menus and Packaging, Closing Thoughts

Writer-directors John Musker and Ron Clements appear in the documentary "Treasures Untold: The Making of 'The Little Mermaid'." DreamWorks honcho Jeffrey Katzenberg recalls his days as Disney's animation chairman in the 1980s. Jodi Benson, the voice of Ariel, in "Treasures Untold."


The second platter is arranged into three sections: "Backstage Disney", "Deleted Scenes", and "Games & Activities", with content moving from "most" to "least", though substance is happily maintained in all three. The first and lengthiest component of Backstage Disney is "Treasures Untold: The Making of The Little Mermaid", a 45½-minute documentary which can also be viewed,
less effectively, as six separate featurettes, representing the prologue and five acts the piece is arranged into. This thorough and terrific piece neatly puts Mermaid in a historical perspective, considering its place in the Disney studio's run (with always-appreciated clips from other Disney cartoon features) and, to a lesser degree, in terms of moviemaking at large. It is best viewed all at once, as the transitions are mostly transparent (which is good).

It opens with Ron Clements and John Musker revisiting the Burbank parking lot which once housed the storied animation studio. This sets up a discussion of the environment to which the movie was born. To that end, there are comments from Leonard Maltin, Roy E. Disney, Roy's wife Patty, and former VP Peter Schneider. Surprisingly, even DreamWorks honcho Jeffrey Katzenberg appears prominently to recall his executive position at Disney. Perhaps the most noteworthy absence among key personnel is Michael Eisner, who only shows up with the late Frank Wells in an October 1984 presentation at Disney World. The climate of '80s Disney is discussed, where the credo pre-Eisner/Wells/Katzenberg/Roy was "We may bore you, but we will never shock you." We hear of the changes dealt to the animation studio, no longer the company mainstay it once was (animators were moved off the lot to attract live action film stars), and of the edits to The Black Cauldron that Katzenberg wanted.

Act II hones in on the movie's development, as we learn that Clements' 2-page treatment was initially turned down because a sequel to Splash was in development. A host of animators and crew members reflect on production, including Andreas Deja, Glen Keane, Ted Kierscey, Ruben Aquino, Duncan Majoribanks, Mark Dindal, story artist Roger Allers, and associate producer Maureen Donley. One of the more interesting topics is that Ariel's hair color was an issue. (The decision to make her a redhead clearly reshaped the generic mermaid marketplace.)

Then, the focus turns to Howard Ashman, whose pre-Mermaid career is profiled. Ashman's work partner Alan Menken, life partner Bill Lauch, assistant Nancy Parent, and sister Sarah Gillespie all single out the efforts of the late songwriter, which included re-writes of a few key scenes. From there it moves into character development, discussing the unlikely influence of the drag queen known as "Divine." Pencil-mustachioed director John Waters, whose films regularly cast Divine, provides his own unique perspective. He is part of an impressive handful of movie talent not directly involved with Mermaid who comment. Others include writer/directors Nora Ephron and Frank Oz.

Next, the voice cast is celebrated. Jodi Benson (the voice of Ariel) and Pat Carroll (the voice of Ursula) appear in new interviews, and we also get a few glimpses of them (and Buddy Hackett and Samuel Wright) recording their songs and/or dialogue. This section feels rushed, unfortunately, and most cast members are skipped over. The obligatory obstacles of production are covered -- Katzenberg's lack of patience, dissatisfaction, and the threatened removal of "Part of Your World". This documentary then concludes with an interesting section on marketing the movie and then interview participants recall the film's box office success (which seems a little exaggerated, probably due to retrospect and its predecessors).

The "Treasures Untold" sub-menu is also home to three Easter eggs, the only unlisted bonuses I could find. The first (1:05) finds John Musker and Ron Clements doing caricatures of one another. The second (1:40) provides comments from Ursula's supervising animator Ruben Aquino as well as Ariel's co-supervising animators Glen Keane and Mark Henn on material that inspired their characterizations. Appropriately enough, we also get all-too-brief glimpses of octopi footage and Sherri Stoner's live action acting/modeling, the references that respectively shaped the two personalities. The third (0:30), which I could only access via DVD-ROM, finds Musker and Clements demonstrating "The Little Mermaid handshake."

"Storm Warning: 'The Little Mermaid' Special Effects Unit", or "Four Animators and a Movie." "The Story Behind the Story" showcases artwork from Kay Nielsen's proposed treatment for a "Little Mermaid" Disney short in the 1940s. Originally developed for a third "Fantasia" movie, "The Little Match Girl" ends up as a Disc 2 bonus feature.

Next is "Storm Warning: The Little Mermaid Special Effects Unit" (8:40), a featurette in which four of the movie's animators get together to watch the movie again. They are Mark Dindal and Randy Fullmer (the directing/producing pair behind Chicken Little and The Emperor's New Groove), Dolph Lanpher (seen with some bitterness in Dream On Silly Dreamer), and Ted Kierscey. The group remembers the things that shaped their effects animation and Dindal also take us to Disney's Animation Research Library. While this isn't the easiest watch or something that will likely merit repeat viewings, it's fun to feel privy to this insiders' fond revisiting of a 17-year-old film.

"The Little Mermaid: The Story Behind The Story" (11:30) is a very nice piece, which partly profiles the Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. It also speaks at some length about the differences between the featured movie, Andersen's original story, and a featurette-length treatment developed for Walt Disney in 1941 by Danish animator Kay Nielsen. Some artwork and notes from Nielsen/Disney's planned cartoon are interestingly witnessed here.

Next is The Little Matchgirl (6:39), a dialogue-less new short made in 2-D animation. It tells the story of a young girl in snowy Russia, who, unable to sell any matches, uses them to beat the cold and transport her to warmer, happier places. It's sort of sweet, but also depressing. The short is preceded by an introduction by director Roger Allers. Originally intended for Fantasia 2006 (it's set to Alexander Borodin's String Quartet #2), it now finds a home as an unorthodox bonus feature here due to the fact that it too is adapted from a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. It's presented in Dolby 5.1, but is mind-bafflingly letterboxed, making this fall short of a proper wide debut.

This gallery item shows concept art of Ariel. A model sheet for Flounder is relegated to the Miscellaneous Characters gallery. Samuel E. Wright and Pat Carroll (the voices of Sebastian and Ursula) appear together in a Production Photo. Ariel looks slightly different in an early presentation reel.

The Little Mermaid Art Galleries are separated into Visual Development (50 stills experimenting with the look/mood of settings and scenes), Kay Nielsen Artwork (38 stills of predominantly colorless environments), Character Design (197 stills), Storyboard Art (52 stills accurately and chronologically telling the story in various shades of gray), Backgrounds (25 uninhabited locations), and Production Photos (25 caption-less color pictures depicting animators, voice actors, and other key players). Character Design breaks down into Ariel (43), Ursula (50), Prince Eric (28), King Triton (17), Sebastian (19), and Miscellaneous Characters (40, most notably holding Flounder and Scuttle artwork). As usual, style slightly trumps navigability, but if you can get past the not overly helpful thumbnails and same recurring instrumental strands of "Kiss the Girl", you should enjoy what's here, so long as this kind of thing interests you.

Rounding out Backstage Disney are two brief but cool inclusions. An Early Presentation Reel (2:34) features a temporary track recording of "Under the Sea" with an interesting assortment of concept art, much of it boasting limited colors.
Disney collectibles
Then there's the Original Theatrical Trailer (2:15), a very cool preview which puts the film in a rich tradition (designating it the studio's 28th animated motion picture) with brief clips from early Disney hits. It also enables you to marvel at how much better the film looks on Disc 1.

Deleted Scenes holds seven excised or extended sequences, each introduced by one of the writer/directors, either Ron Clements or John Musker and most in either a story reel or pencil test format. Altogether, between the deletions and introductions, this section runs 26 minutes. An alternate version of "Fathoms Below" (2:30) extends the catchy opening song, introduces the merpeople in a somewhat heavy-handed fashion, and reveals that Triton and Ursula are siblings! "Backstage with Sebastian" (1:40) gives Ariel's sisters more lines, but lets the audience in on the fact that Ariel is missing at the opening concert. There are two more brief bits featuring Sebastian: "Sebastian Lost in the Castle" (1:50), which is slightly extended with more gags, and "Advice From Sebastian" (1:30), in which the crab ponders his options when Ariel falls asleep. The three most substantial pieces involve Ursula. An alternate version of "Poor Unfortunate Souls" (8:34) discloses a bit more of Ursula's past and plays the song to mere piano accompaniment; it's not terribly different for such a long sequence, but it is cool to see. "Fight with Ursula/Alternate Ending" offers more of Alan Menken on the piano and catches up with Louie the Chef. Finally, there is audio only from Menken's "Silence is Golden" song demo (3:00), an early predecessor to "Poor Unfortunate Souls." While there's a lot of deleted content presented here and it's not uninteresting, it somewhat pales next to the previous Platinum Editions and their delivery of fare uncovered from Walt's films and the grave plot points omitted from Aladdin.

This deleted scene takes us backstage with Sebastian and Ariel's six sisters (whose names all start with A, too). Ride the Attraction: "Under the Sea Adventure: A Virtual Ride Inspired by Disney Imagineers." "Ride with the Imagineers" and choose from four different angles for the split-screen.

The final section, Games & Activities, is void of conventional games and activities. That is almost refreshing, though, since it instead holds one of the rare items falling under this header to deliver major replay value. That item is "Under the Sea Adventure: A Virtual Ride Inspired By Disney Imagineers", a heading which actually covers three listings. "Ride the Attraction" (4:15) takes you on a computer-animated trip on a dark ride which would be at home in Fantasyland. Inside of a seashell boat, you drop below the ocean line (and later ascend above the surface) while encountering various set-ups depicting key scenes from The Little Mermaid. In design, the ride is not all that different from the very popular Peter Pan's Flight.
It feels very much like a real Disney park ride (complete with English and Spanish announcements after departing the queue area), though there are a few obvious differences: you don't get to pick what you look at, but it moves slow enough to allow you to appreciate every detail (something that's definitely not true of most of the brisk Fantasyland attractions). Also, there is no FastPass, but amazingly enough, there is no line whatsoever.

The ride can also be experienced this same way but with an Imagineer in your seashell, if the commentary is turned on. "Ride with the Imagineers" takes that same commentary, but gives you still more ways to visually enjoy the ride. Via split-screen and the angle button (or on-screen icons), you can devote half the screen to a lightly-animated version of actual Imagineer storyboards, a tour of miniature 3-D models, an overhead map of the entire track marking your progress, and, at times, with the dark parts illuminated to see everything. It would have been nice to experience each of these at fullscreen, but that's the closest thing to a drawback. This is a very cool feature, especially since the parks rarely turn up on Disney movies' DVDs (outside of the odd ad) and because all the development work that went into it now gets to be enjoyed by the public. Heck, this would be cool even if the ride had truly been made. Imagine such a feature for the Pooh, Pinocchio, or Mr. Toad rides which do exist. They'd be no substitute for the real thing, but it sure helps you appreciate them and want to go on them.

The "Under the Sea Adventure" featurette provides the storyboard artwork for "The Ride That Almost Was." Ten points if you can tell if that's Flotsam or Jetsam being compared to a real life eel in "DisneyPedia: Life Under the Sea." I gotta have more Buddy Hackett recording footage!

The commentary -- another neat, unique touch -- is provided by Tony Baxter, senior vice president at Disney Imagineering, who explains the thought that goes into designing a ride like this, from different effects to making sure that guests' eyes are able to adjust to the dark setting. Concluding this sub-section is "Behind The Ride That Almost Was with Disney Imagineers" (5:53), a featurette which puts it all into context. Here, lots of informed interview subjects explain traits of the ride (which was put on hold in 1992) including the little touches that normally don't get appreciated after your vehicle comes to a stop.

Finally, "DisneyPedia: Life Under the Sea" (8:24) is a straightforward featurette on different species seen in the movie. Not split up into selectable vignettes like most other DisneyPedia bonuses, it plays as one single piece. Clips from The Little Mermaid (and only Little Mermaid) are sprinkled throughout the dispatching of scientific fun facts. Together, it manages to stay pretty entertaining for an educational piece. Sharks, crabs, octopi, the breed of eels that Flotsam and Jetsam are... they're all discussed here except, for whatever reason, mermaids.

Overall, the extras here are very good. There's none possessing the out-of-left-field nature of Cinderella's extras. Unfortunately, there is a lack of forward-thinking as most of the supplements are presented in widescreen but are not enhanced for 16x9 televisions; at least many receive a Dolby Surround track. There is not quite the wealth of extras that some Platinums (chiefly, Snow White and Aladdin) have delivered and there's definitely a lot more that could have been included, like cover music videos (one has been relegated to the concurrently-issued 2-CD Special Edition soundtrack) and, more importantly, release-time material. The trailer from the film's '97 theatrical re-release should have been a no-brainer inclusion; even though the set is replete with marketing, this is the good kind which isn't really selling you anything you don't already own. Furthermore, one wishes that the various things excerpted in the documentary (like a McDonald's Happy Meal commercial or Buddy Hackett recording studio footage) were provided in full on their own. Heck, even an episode of Disney's animated TV series would have been welcome. These are minor complaints, but it's only natural for fans of the movie to want a long-promoted, one-shot mega-event like this to include as much as possible.

The Main Menu for Disc 1 of "The Little Mermaid" Platinum Edition DVD The Main Menu for Disc 2 of "The Little Mermaid" Platinum Edition DVD


Disc 1's Main Menu is simple but elegant, an unusual but not necessarily bad break from the line's tradition. Sitting in front of a setting orange sun, Ariel's hair and fins blow (as does the water) while music from "Part of Your World" is heard. The rest of the disc's menus feature environments, with minimal animation and only one special transition (to "Bonus Features"). Disc 2's Main Menu takes a similarly low-key approach, only it features the coastal palace and a little more animated activity including some featuring Sebastian. The trend of listing runtimes for bonus features continues, to an improved degree of accuracy, for some but not all of Disc 2's video features. Disc 1 also offers more basic Indexes, though these are pretty much just silent, non-animated replicas of the Bonus Features menu and only link to supplements.

As is normal for a Platinum Edition, there is much to behold inside the case, most of which is advertising. The embossed cardboard slipcover and black dual amaray keepcase are consistent with what has been used from Beauty and the Beast (2nd in the series) on. The "DVD Guide" booklet devotes two pages to highlighting the DVD's features from the digital restoration (with exaggerated comparison graphic) to Ashley Tisdale's music video. After a list of scene selections, a navigational overview of the two discs (runtimes included), a page on the Platinum Editions (which announces next year's two -- Peter Pan in March and The Jungle Book in October, the final two pages promote a new rewards program for Disney DVD buyers.

A smaller booklet showcases a cornucopia of cheap Little Mermaid merchandise (and a Disney Cruise vacation) which you can win by entering a sweepstakes. Finally, there's an issue of Disney DVD Insider, the ad-tastic publication which has accompanied Platinum sets since last year. It talks up cover subject Cars, Cinderella III, Peter Pan: Platinum Edition, and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, among many other entities. It also includes some coupons for products relevant and irrelevant.

Go on and kiss da girl! Ariel really wants to be part of your world.


There's plenty of reason why The Little Mermaid ranks as highly with Disney fans as it does. Its appeal is near-universal, with colorful characters, lively songs, charming worlds, and a captivating fairy tale all adding up to wonderful fun in the grand Disney tradition. Seventeen years after its initial release, it may be too soon to call Mermaid timeless, but it certainly seems headed in that direction and its reputation for reviving animation seems both significant and well-earned.

The DVD isn't quite perfect, but it comes close. Picture and sound quality are dazzling. In terms of quantity, the extras menu here can't match some of the previous Platinum Edition DVDs, but in terms of quality, there is little to be desired and next to nothing in the way of commercial fluff. A solid commentary, an extensive documentary, and a hearty supply of deleted scenes certainly add enough value to dwarf an inane edit and a shortage of release-time content. The virtual park ride and bonus short could very easily justify purchases on their own with more of their kind, so their inclusions here are more than welcome.

On the many strengths of the movie and the DVD, The Little Mermaid: Platinum Edition deserves a place in every DVD collection.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Page 1: The Movie, Changes, Video and Audio, Disc 1 Bonus Features
Page 2: Disc 2 Bonus Features, Menus and Packaging, Closing Thoughts

Get 4 Disney Movies for $1.99 Each, Free Shipping!

Related Reviews:
Platinum Editions:
Aladdin (1992) • Beauty and the Beast (1991) • The Lion King (1994) • Lady and the Tramp (1955)
Cinderella (1950) • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) • Bambi (1942)
101 Dalmatians (1961) • The Jungle Book (1967) • Peter Pan (1953)

1980s Animation:
Oliver & Company (1988) • My Neighbor Totoro (1988) • Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
The Great Mouse Detective (1986) • The Black Cauldron (1985) • The Rescuers Down Under (1990)
DuckTales: Volume 1 (1987) • Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers: Volume 1 (1989) • TaleSpin: Volume 1 (1990)

Recent DVD Releases:
The Wild (2006) • Twitches (2005) • Brother Bear 2 (2006) • Leroy & Stitch (2006)
Darkwing Duck: Volume 1 (1991) • Sing Along Songs: Happy Haunting - Party at Disneyland (1998)

Other Disney DVDs Featuring The Little Mermaid Voice Cast:
Jodi Benson: Toy Story 2 (1999) • Samuel E. Wright: Dinosaur (2000) • Buddy Hackett: The Love Bug (1969)
Christopher Daniel Barnes: Spider-Man: The Venom Saga • Edie McClurg: A Bug's Life (1998)
Rene Auberjonois: The Christmas Star (1986) • Kenneth Mars: The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again (1979)

Related Pages:
Top 100 Disney Songs Countdown
(featuring "Poor Unfortunate Souls", "Kiss the Girl", "Under the Sea", and "Part of Your World")
The Little Mermaid in Disney Animated Classics Countdown (#2)
Top 50 Disney Heroes & Heroines Countdown (featuring Eric and Ariel)
Top 30 Disney Villains Countdown (featuring Ursula)

Disney's Platinum Edition DVDs
October 9, 2001 October 8, 2002 October 7, 2003 October 5, 2004 March 1, 2005 October 4, 2005
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Beauty and the Beast The Lion King Aladdin Bambi Cinderella
Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs
• DVD Review
• Buy the DVD
Beauty and the Beast
• DVD Review
• Buy the DVD
The Lion King
• DVD Review
• Buy the DVD
• Buy the Gift Set
• DVD Review
• Buy the DVD
• Buy the Gift Set
• DVD Review
• Buy the DVD
• DVD Review
• Buy the DVD
• Buy the Gift Set
February 28, 2006 October 3, 2006 March 6, 2007 October 2, 2007 March 4, 2008 October 7, 2008
Lady and the Tramp The Little Mermaid Peter Pan The Jungle Book 101 Dalmatians Sleeping Beauty
Lady and the Tramp
• DVD Review
• Buy the DVD
The Little Mermaid
• DVD Review
• Buy the DVD
Peter Pan
• DVD Review
• Buy
The Jungle Book
• DVD Review
• Buy
101 Dalmatians
• DVD Review
• Buy
Sleeping Beauty
• Preorder DVD
• Preorder Blu-ray

UltimateDisney.com | DVD Reviews Index | Animated Classics Page | DVDizzy.com: New & Upcoming DVD/Blu-ray Schedule | Search This Site

Reviewed October 3, 2006.