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Blu-ray Review: The Little Mermaid: Anniversary Edition

February 26, 2019

By John Corrado

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Disney’s The Little Mermaid, and with it comes a new Signature Collection release of the 1989 classic to mark the occasion.

Directed by John Musker and Ron Clements, the film is notable for ushering in the fabled Disney Renaissance that would continue through the 1990s, and it remains one of the studio’s most beloved films.

The red-haired mermaid Ariel (Jodi Benson) is still a fan favourite amongst Disney Princesses, and the sea-witch Ursula (Pat Carroll), with whom she trades her voice in order to live on land when she rescues and falls in love with Prince Eric (Christopher Daniel Barnes), is amongst their most iconic villains.

The story, based on the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale, is well told and engaging, the characters are likeable, and the wonderful songs by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman – including the Oscar-winning jam “Under the Sea,” the Oscar-nominated “Kiss the Girl” and, of course, the iconic “I Want” song “Part of Your World” – are instantly recognizable and considered classics for a reason. The film’s colourful hand-drawn animation is still gorgeous to look at, especially on Blu-ray.

This Anniversary Edition comes with a selection of new bonus features. First up is Alan Menken and the Leading Ladies, a delightful and bittersweet piece featuring voice actresses Benson, Paige O’Hara (Belle in Beauty and the Beast), Judy Kuhn (the singing voice of Pocahontas), Lillias White (one of the Muses in Hercules), and Donna Murphy (Mother Gothel in Tangled) reuniting with Menken sitting at the piano to reminisce about their experiences giving voice to these iconic characters, remember the legacy of the late Howard Ashman, and sing a few songs. It’s a wonderful featurette for Disney fans.

Next is “What I Want From You is… Your Voice”, which features archival footage of the voice actors behind Ariel, Ursula, Sebastian (Samuel E. Wright), Scuttle (Buddy Hackett) and Seahorse (Will Ryan) in the recording studio. This is followed by Stories From Walt’s Office: Gadgets & Gizmos, which is the next piece in the series from the other Signature Collection discs, this time focusing on the miniatures that Disney collected. The less said about the cringe-inducing #Tresuresuntold the better, an obnoxious piece featuring the hosts of Coop and Cami Ask the World sharing trivia about the film. Finally, there’s a music video for “Part of Your World” performed by the group DCappella.

Transported over from the 2013 Diamond Edition release are a look at the deleted character Harold the Merman; the featurette Under the Scene: The Art of Live-Action Reference, which details how the animators resurrected the practise of shooting live action reference footage for the animators to work off of; and Howard’s Lecture, which offers an introduction to the late Ashman. There’s also a commentary track with co-directors Musker and Clements joined by composer Menken. There’s also a short preview of the other classic bonus features, which are included with the digital copy of the film.

The Little Mermaid: Anniversary Edition is a Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment release. It’s 83 minutes and rated G.

Street Date: February 26th, 2019

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