This past month on the Walt Disney Maniacs Facebook page, we have been talking about one of my very favorite Disney animated films. The Little Mermaid was the March topic, and we had some fun with this one. As Ariel is my favorite Princess, and I like to call her my BFF, and here below is one of my favorite pictures from my trip last October where I got to meet up with Ariel in her grotto.
Now, on with the Fun Facts!
1. In the Hans Christian Andersen story that inspired The Little Mermaid, the sea-witch is not a prominent character. She doesn’t even have a name!
2. To animate the shipwreck and Ursula’s emergence from the sea, the animators studied scenes from Pinocchio involving Monstro.
3. The blue-green hue of Ariel’s fin was specially mixed by the Disney paint lab—they called the new color “Ariel” in her honor.
4. In the opening scene with King Triton, you can see Kermit, Mickey Mouse, Goofy, and Donald Duck and hiding in the crowd.
5. Both Jodi Benson (voice of Ariel) and Pat Carroll (voice of Ursula) said they stole elements of their delivery from the way Howard Ashman performed the songs.
6. The color of Ariel’s hair was a point of contention among the team. The red was chosen in part because red and green are complementary colors, and also because Daryl Hannah had just played a blond mermaid in the very popular “Splash.”
7. In the original development drawings, Ursula was portrayed as a spinefish or a scorpion fish with lots of spikes and spines.
8. After the first screening, Jeffrey Katzenberg wanted to cut the song “Part of Your World.” (He admits now that it’s an embarrassing story.)
9. After being moved to tears by The Little Mermaid, a New Jersey State Trooper called his estranged daughter to repair their relationship. He wrote to Ron Clements (writer/director) to tell him the story.
10. The color in the overcast opening scene of the film was deliberately muted because the directors wanted to save bright bursts of color for under the sea.
11. On the naming of Ariel’s many sisters: Atina was inspired by a musical Alan Menken wrote called “Atina: Evil Queen of the Galaxy,” Alana was Howard Ashman’s lyrical nod to Alan Menken, and Andrina was the name of one of the director’s aerobics instructors.
12. The shark’s name is Glut, though it is never mentioned in the film. Originally, Glut was going to return for another fight, only to be defeated by Flounder in a moment of glory, but it got cut out as the story was simplified.
13. Many of the sailors dancing on Prince Eric’s ship are caricatures of people from the staff. The man dancing on the platform is reportedly Razoul Azadani, who has worked with Ron Clements and John Musker on several films (recently he was a layout artist on Paperman).
14. JODI BENSON TRIED OUT FOR THE PART OF ARIEL VIA RECORDED AUDITION. While Benson had never been in a movie, she appeared on Broadway in Smile, written by Howard Ashman. The production closed quickly, and Ashman, feeling guilty, gave all the women who’d been in the play a rare opportunity to try out for a Disney movie he was co-producing. Benson handed in her reel-to-reel voice audition with all the other girls' and waited a whole year before learning she’d landed the part of Ariel.
15. Producer Howard Ashman stayed in the booth with Benson while she was recorded. It’s rare for a director or producer to sit in the glass booth with a voice artist while he or she records vocal tracks, but Ashman wanted his young star to inhabit Ariel as perfectly as possible. Howard had to sneak around while directing her from inside the booth so the microphone wouldn't pick up his movements.
16. THE LITTLE MERMAID KICKED OFF WHAT IS KNOWN AS "THE DISNEY RENAISSANCE." After The Little Mermaid came ten years of fantastic features, including major hits like Aladdin,The Lion King, and Mulan.
17. THE LITTLE MERMAID WAS ONE OF THE FIRST FEATURES TO USE PIXAR’S COMPUTER ANIMATION PROCESS. The usual way to make cartoons had always been by transferring animators' drawings to celluloid and then painting the reverse side. This process can yield beautiful results, but it was obviously time-consuming. Pixar’s program allowed animators to upload drawings onto a computer loaded with an infinite color palette and capable of impossibly subtle blending and transparencies. Though computers were used in very few scenes in The Little Mermaid, Pixar continued to develop the process until computer animation became the standard for quality Disney releases.
18. WRITER SHERRI STONER AND A YOUNG ALYSSA MILANO WERE THE PHYSICAL INSPIRATIONS FOR ARIEL. Stoner’s slight and graceful frame guided the animators to make Ariel’s movements realistic. Meanwhile, and unbeknownst to her at the time, Ariel’s face was modeled after Alyssa Milano.
19. THE FIRST CHOICE FOR URSULA’S VOICE WAS BEA ARTHUR. And she probably would have done a wonderful job. In fact, the screenplay even called for Ursula to have a “Bea Arthur-type basso voice." However, she declined, or at least her agent did. As co-director John Musker remembers, “Her agent, I guess, read the script, and ... somehow in her mind, (it came across as if) we were saying Bea Arthur was a witch. I don't think that she even gave it to her." Many other famous women auditioned for the role, but only veteran character actress Pat Carroll was able to give the extremely picky songmeister Howard Ashman the performance he wanted.
20. After being moved to tears by The Little Mermaid, a New Jersey State Trooper called his estranged daughter to repair their relationship. He wrote to Ron Clements (writer/director) to tell him the story.
21. The Directors insisted that every bubble in the movie be hand-drawn, not Xeroxed.
22. The voice of Ariel, Jodi Benson, sang "Part of Your World" in the dark so she could feel like she was underwater.
23. Sebastian was originally supposed to have an English accent rather than a Jamaican one. Sebastian’s Jamaican accent underscores the carefree spirit of the sea despite the animator’s original intentions. What if Sebastian had a British accent?
24. Animators intended this crustacean to resemble Grimsby, Eric’s butler, more. I find it ironic that they switched his accent, considering his run-in with Louie, the French chief. It’s no secret that the Brits and French have been at it in the past, and if Sebastian kept his British roots, then the film might have turned out more political than planned.
25. Ursula's character was partially inspired by Madame Medusa from Disney's The Rescuers — we can see the resemblance!
26. During Eric and Ariel's wedding scene, the Grand Duke and King from Disney's Cinderella can be seen in the background.
27. Carlotta, Eric’s maid, and Princess Cinderella have more in common than the fact that they are both in Disney movies. They are wearing the same outfit! The difference is that Carlotta’s hairpiece matches her dress and isn’t white like Cinderella’s.
28. Ursula’s sidekicks, Flotsam and Jetsam, are her prized possessions. Unlike other Disney henchmen, Ursula is genuinely concerned with their fate. She nicknames them "babies" and "poopsies." In fact, when they are killed, her anger and mourning turns fatal as she attempts to kill Ariel in hopes of avenging their deaths. These eels are more than her minions; they are her family.
29. Prince Eric is unlike other Disney Princes. With his adorable dimples, a trait that only one other Disney character shares, it’s no wonder how he won over Ariel’s heart. It definitely wasn’t his singing voice because, contrary to other princes, Eric does not sing until the second movie.
30. The second movie The Little Mermaid II: Return To The Sea reveals that he is the only prince to become a father. And to top it all off, he is one of a select few princes to kill the villain at the end of the film.
31. Future 'Mermaid' director Ron Clements originally presented the idea of an animated 'Little Mermaid' to then CEO Jeffery Katzenberg at a pitch meeting. But Katzenberg wasn't interested. The studio was working on a sequel to the 1984 comedy 'Splash,' and Katzenberg thought that two mermaid movies would be overkill.
The 'Splash' sequel never happened and must not have been going so well, because Katzenberg reversed his decision and greenlit 'Mermaid' for development the very next day.
We hope you enjoyed this installment of Trivia Tidbits about The Little Mermaid! We will be on a trivia hiatus in April but will pick up again in May with 101 Dalmatians!