Earlier this November was the 25th anniversary of the theatrical release of The Little Mermaid. I celebrated by listening to the soundtrack nonstop the entire day. After all, it’s not everyday your favorite Disney movie turns 25. The Little Mermaid has always been my favorite Disney movie. Even though I love Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Tangled, Frozen, and so many other ones, The Little Mermaid has always held a special place in my heart for several reasons.
As a little girl growing up in Southern California, my dream was always to be a mermaid. This is quite natural in SoCal, a place where everyone swims. In addition to being part of a swim club and junior life guards, I also spent more time than I can remember swimming in the ocean and in the pool in our backyard. Much of this time was spent swimming with my legs together pretending to be a mermaid. Even though Ariel’s dream is to trade her fins for legs, for many girls growing up in Southern California, the dream is to trade legs for fins, because nothing could be better than never having to leave the ocean.
Besides that early childhood psychological attachment to mermaids, The Little Mermaid is also my favorite Disney film because it has—in my opinion—the best group of songs of any Disney movie. I love songs like “Let It Go”, “Colors of the Wind”, and all those other amazing Disney songs, but as an entire album, “Part of Your World”, “Part of Your World Reprise”, “Under the Sea”, and “Kiss the Girl” are my favorites. Alan Menken and Howard Ashman really outdid themselves. So did Jodi Benson. The lyrics are poetry, and the music is inspired. I could listen to these songs all day. And I did to celebrate the 25th anniversary.
But besides my personal preferences, The Little Mermaid is one of the most important Disney movies in history. It began the Disney Renaissance, a revival of a golden age of animated films. The Disney studios had a difficult time recovering after Walt Disney passed away, and for most of the 70s and 80s, it felt like maybe there would never be another Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty. But when The Little Mermaid was released in 1989, it began a new wave of incredible animated films from Disney studios, including Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin.
Several people at Disney were largely responsible for the success of The Little Mermaid and the films that followed. One is Glen Keane, now a legendary animator for his work on The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, Tangled, and more. He has animated some of Disney’s most beloved characters, from Ariel to Rapunzel, and has inspired a new generation of artists to pursue animation.
My other two heroes from this film are Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. These two men teamed up for movies like The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast to write Disney’s most beloved songs. Alan Menken has composed for and scored more Disney movies than any other musician, and Howard Ashman’s lyrics are unparalleled by any other lyricist who has written for Disney. Together, they were the perfect team—the best team—and their songs will never be forgotten.
Those are the three reasons why The Little Mermaid is so special to me. As a child, the idea of being a mermaid inspired so much of my imagination. I’m also grateful that The Little Mermaid rejuvenated Disney and led to other amazing films. And I learned so much from Glen Keane, Alan Menken, and Howard Ashman about storytelling. I eagerly look forward to other exciting new animated films from Disney studios, but The Little Mermaid will always be first in my heart.