Studio: Walt Disney
US Rating: G - General Audiences
Film Length: 77 Mins
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, French and Spanish Language Tracks
Subtitles: French and Spanish
The Film - out of
As I noted in my review for the The Little Mermaid prequel, Ariel’s Beginning, 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 every 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 II comes close at times to fulfilling that potential. Almost.
In the first follow up to the undersea love story and memorable song machine, The Little Mermaid, Disney takes the action ahead several years and centers the story on Melody, daughter of Ariel and Eric. It is the day that Melody, along with her parents, are planning on returning to the sea, much to King Triton’s excitement. But as soon as the joyful song celebrating the occasion ends, the smiles turn to frightened frowns when the evil Ursula’s angry sister, Morgana, interrupts and tries to snatch Triton’s Trident in an attempt to seize power. She is beaten back and retreats, but Melody was threatened and almost hurt so in response, Ariel and Eric decide that until Morgana is captured, they must build a tall wall to keep their daughter from the dangers of the sea (and Morgana). Years later, a curious 12 year old Melody yearns for the sea. She can talk to the underwater creatures and feels that something is missing in her life. After an argument with her protective mother, Melody runs away and ends up in the care of Morgana, who tricks her into stealing the Trident. The race is on to rescue Melody and return order to the sea.
This sequel to the highly popular Disney animated feature is light, swift and dotted with songs to keep everything sweet. It begins almost as a continuation of the film it follows and wastes no time setting up the plot. But once the story jumps ahead a dozen years, the pace draws back quite a bit. Directed by Jim Kammerud and Brian Smith, the animation remains suitably whimsical, fluid with the sway of the sea and exciting when the evil Morgana steals the stage. Morgana’s character draws considerably from the evil queen in Sleeping Beauty, including the colors and grandness of her stature, though Morgana remains firmly a comic relief of sorts, with banter between her and her once ferocious shark who is now significantly smaller thanks to the quick hand of King Triton.
The comedy is, in fact, where this brightly colored sequel begins to unravel. Relying on the beloved Sebastian character for slapstick doesn’t work as slickly as intended. It isn’t until the penguin and walrus characters are introduced, about halfway through, that the comedy element begins to work. Other niggling issues temper the sense of animated fancy, such as some imperfect sequences that appear to be not quite finished and songs that fail to reach that emotional resonating pitch that make all the difference. The film has a good story and a good cast of characters, but the pacing issues hurt the overall enjoyment.
The voice cast is solid. Sebastian is voiced once again by Samuel E. Wright and he provides the right level of exacerbated caring and comic tone that has made his character so loved. Young Melody is voiced well by Tara Strong while Ariel is voiced again by Jodi Benson. On the evil side, Morgana’s incompetent menace is brought to life by Pat Carroll and her head henchmen shark (Undertow) is voiced by Clancy Brown. The cute and funny characters are plentiful, with Tip the penguin (Max Casella) and Dash the walrus (Stephen Furst) being the best of them providing suitable comedic diversions and just the right dose of heart when needed.
Walt Disney brings Ariel and family back to DVD in this special edition framed it 1.66:1 and enhanced for widescreen televisions. The image is bright throughout with rare exception, and it is crisp with clean lines and no dirt, dust or debris in the print. This is a good quality effort.
The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea comes with a front heavy Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound option. There is good balance between the active front speakers, but true surround sound is limited here. The center channel, producing the dialogue is issue free. The bass gets a couple of moments to show off, but it is so infrequent that you might not realize it by the time the credits roll. Suitable but lacking.
Deleted Song – (1:54) – Fun song deleted from the final cut of the film. Gonna Get My Wish’ is available here to see and enjoy.
Games & Activities
Underwater Mer-Venture Challenge Game
The Little Mermaid II Trivia Game
The Little Mermaid II DVD Storybook – Enjoy the storybook. Select to read the story yourself or have the story read to you.
What Am I? Game – Multiple choice guessing/learning/game..
Bonus Short – (8:34) – Classic ‘Merbabies’ short from the Disney archives.
Sneak Peaks – Trailers for a slew of other Disney films
The slow second act almost brings the film down too much, but the exciting third act makes up quite a bit of the lost ground. The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea is enjoyable, but imperfect and a little slow. I think young girls will enjoy the pre-teen family plight and earnest search for self, with the frequent fun, pop-infused songs that help it all along. All others may find themselves being thankful for the short running time. And with a less than special 'Special Edition' - there is precious little to entice an upgrade for those who already own this adventure.