Studio: Walt Disney
US Rating: Rated G for General Audiences
Film Length: 77 Mins
Aspect Ratio: 1.75:1
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1 Digital Surround Sound, French and Spanish Language Tracks
Subtitles: Optional English SDH
The Film - out of
Walt Disney has found unquestionable success in continuing the adventures of some of its most popular and winning characters from big screen outings on the small screen with direct-to-DVD releases. Not every outing captures the spirit and excitement of the cinematic adventure that gave birth to the franchise, but so often a charming, sweet and utterly enjoyable original animated video is produced; one that is played and played a hundred times over in the family home. The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning, a brand new, sweet under the sea adventure is one of the best produced and is certain to delight children everywhere.
Long before Ariel found love and walked on land, she lived under the rule of her father, the King of Atlantica, where music was outlawed and fun was nowhere to be found. The heartbroken King had decreed music forbidden after his wife, Ariel’s beautiful mother, was lost in a tragic incident. Ariel and her six sisters grew up with only faint memories of her beauty and her singing. They were raised by their father in a kingdom under the shadow of his grief. With the grumpy Sebastian, a deep voiced crab, and the evil Marina Del Ray as the princesses guardians, Ariel and her sisters long for something new.
First time director Peggy Holmes keeps The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning visually exciting and active with real flair and brisk pacing. The film is introduced during a time when Ariel’s mother is still alive with narration by Sebastian (Sam Wright, returning to the role). This allows the story to cover a lot of ground quickly and succinctly with a perfectly dramatic crescendo. Disney has really pulled out all the stops for this release, delivering a high quality animated tale with strong voice talent, a great script and lush traditional animation augmented occasionally by CGI.
Princess Ariel is again voiced by Jodie Benson, who brings her innocent but commanding voice and musical abilities to one of the best Disney characters of recent times. The malevolent governess, a power-hungry, impatient and self-servicing miscreant is voiced by Sally Field, though she brings this character to life in such a way that it is hard to tell that it is her. She has a passive, down in the dumps little sidekick character called Benjamin, voiced by Jeff Bennett, a character that I would love to see expanded upon if ever there were a fourth Little Mermaid outing. A very young Flounder meets Ariel for the first time here and is voiced by Parker Goris, King Triton is voiced by Jim Cummings and a host of other voice talent, old a new, round out the rest of the cast.
The story of young Ariel discovering music when she follows Flounder and stumbles upon a secret world filled with singing and dancing and sharing that with her sisters, is alive with relatable moments for young girls to identify with. Populating this sweet story with ideals such as standing up for what is right, and following ones heart is quintessential Disney pulp, and resonates nicely here. The perfectly innocent and playful adventure is rife with great animated dance numbers and swooping, fun sequences that explode with color and remind me of some of Disney’s warmest, richest exploits.
With a script that has good humor, and delicious musical numbers and score by Jeanine Tesori, The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning is sheer entertainment for young girls everywhere. It will tap your toes, tug your heart and leave you happy and humming familiar tunes.
Disney presents this direct-to-dvd sequel adventure in a far better than average 1.78:1 aspect ratio that is enhanced for widescreen televisions. This is a bright, superbly clean and vibrant image that impresses with its quality. At times, the bright colors almost glow. Lines are distinct, artificial sharpening minimal to non-existent and the smooth animation is filled with a rich, crisp and energetic palette.
Disney has really done well with this release and the availability of both a DTS 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound option is icing on the cake. Both produce ample bass, action in the sub-woofer and good directional effects. The musical numbers are strong in the front and center and pretty good in the surrounds, though a little more envelopment could have served the film well. Overall, however, these are very good audio tracks for you to enjoy this nice little film.
Deleted Scenes - (5:41) - 2 deleted scenes (Sebastian waking the girls and Ariel follows flounder) are introduced by director Peggy Holmes. These are incomplete animations with completed voice recordings and score.
Music & More - Jump directly to any of the 4 musical numbers and watch with or without the lyrics onscreen.
Games & Activities
Mermaid Discovery Vanity Game - Select any of the Kings daughters and check out items from their vanity desk, such as pictures on the mirror, journal entries and brief musical interludes.
Splashdance – A dancer’s adventures under the sea - (7:21) – Introduced by the first time director who has a history as a choreographer and dancer, this special feature is great and shows the attention to detail placed on even the smallest movements and how animation is a dance in every way, even during the non-musical numbers. Some good side-by-side glimpses of the voice talents in the recording booth and the finished product are a nice touch.
The Little Mermaid: Under the sea and behind the scenes on Broadway - (10:25) – The star of the Broadway adaptation of 1989’s The Little Mermaid takes us on a quick tour of the Broadway production. We meet the new ‘Sebastian’ and the far more diverse sisters to Ariel and get to watch a time lapse sequence as Ursula is made up.
Disney has made quite the splash with this lavish, well directed, scripted and produced movie premiering on DVD. I have anecdotal evidence that it is delighting young girls even as you read this, being looped in the DVD player until everyone in the house knows the lyrics to every song. A film that I can recommend wholeheartedly for the entire family to enjoy together, but young girls will enjoy it the most.