Thursday, December 07, 2006

#98 The Little Mermaid

This is the next installment of my personal canon "Movies I Think About When I Think About the Movies"

American members of Generation Y and Z may have a good deal of trouble imagining this but it's true: once upon a time, animated movies were considered highly uncool. They were strictly for babies. Teenagers disdained them. Adults took their children under duress. They barely caused a ripple at the box office. The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences ignored them. CGI was not part of the national vernacular. Strange but true.

In a very short window of time, from November 1989 through February 1992, three major events changed modern perceptions of the animated film in a gargantuan way. Let's take them in reverse order: The final big-bang was the moment when Beauty & the Beast (1991) was nominated for six Oscars including Best Picture, the first (and still only) time that a cartoon has received that pinnacle mainstream honor. The middle part of the three-part revolution was when hipster American audiences began to discover that there was more to the form than Walt Disney. Katsuhiro Ôtomo's anime sci-fi classic Akira was the key that opened the door for anime, now very big and influential business in America. Which brings us to the beginning: the first key event of animation's turnaround was the release of Disney's "28th animated classic" The Little Mermaid; an orgasmic reawakening of the most flexible and fantastical of film mediums.



Continue reading "She's Gotta Have It"...
for more on Ariel's coming of age, Britney Spears and Madonna, the rebirth of the musical, and more --yes, this one's all over the place.

Tags: movies, cinema, The Little Mermaid, moviemusicals musicals, animation,film, Britney Spears, Madonna,Walt Disney, mermaids,cartoon, fairy tale

17 comments:

Russ said...

I absolutely love The Little Mermaid. It remains one of my first and fondest childhood cinematic memories. Great read, Nathaniel.

Nick Davis said...

What a great article! I don't even like this movie, but a) I loved this entire piece anyway, and b) you've convinced me that I need to give The Little Mermaid a great big second chance.

Arun said...

I heart The Little Mermaid. It was my favourite movie as a kid and I try to watch it once a year. Just watched it with my sister and her friend and two of them were in tears at the end!

Julia said...

Since seeing it at the age of 6, "The Little Mermaid" has remained my favorite movie, period. It's funny that you mentioned the movie now serves as a reminder of how you've lost your innocence; for me, "The Little Mermaid" always seemed to transcend its flaws, and bring me back to my six year old world - where problems were simpler, a sixteen year old girl could stand up to her father and get married, and people really do live happily ever after.

In any case, loved the article!

Bruno Packer said...

Great article! Though not of my favorites, still The Little Mermaid is a great film!

By the way, Oliver & Company made over $70,000,000 at the U.S. boxoffice alone; how isn't that a success?

NATHANIEL R said...

oh, i may have misled there a bit. But are you sure the $70 doesn't include rereleases? Disney films box office has a notorious habit of not looking like it originally looked since they used to rerelease all of them at regular intervals, adding to their totals.

Bruno Packer said...

You are right Nathe. $70,000,00 is counting their re-release back in 1996. Still, the original sum is pretty darn good. Over $50,000,000 back in 1988 (not including rentals nor international releases).

Ali said...

I was obsessed with The Little Mermaid as a child, and insisted my parents buy me all the merchandise: books on tape, Flounder plush dolls, the soundtrack, the video cassette, etc. My mother was so surprised that she wrote to Mark Henn (the illustrator of Ariel) and asked for an autographed drawing for me. He actually invited us to meet him at the Walt Disney World Studios when we were next there.

So eventually I met him, and he drew me an Ariel sketch that still hands over my bed to this very day.

Ali said...

Oh, and an absolutely fascinating piece of commentary, Nathaniel. I look forward to watching the film again with all your impressions and arguments in mind.

Anonymous said...

This was just an incredible article... very nostalgic.

kristoferrobbin said...

What fun! "The Little Mermaid" is definitely in my top five Disney films. Of the Disney Princesses, Ariel is my favourite, 2nd being Esmerelda from the grossly under rated "The Hunchback of Notre Dame".You rock Nathaniel!!!

Nick Davis said...

The Hunchback of Notre Dame was indeed terrific, at least as I recall it.

What a great story, Ali!

Apparently, I'm responding to readers on N's blog, because my own is totally Out Of Service after the beta-blog conversion blew up in my face. Don't mind me, speaking out of turn in the corner.

NATHANIEL R said...

hey it's all about call and response baby. just ask jamie foxx
ohhh. please come back to blogging nick. we miss you.

and feel free to use this blog commenting as your vessel whenever.

NATHANIEL R said...

I should probably tell you, who were wondering, about why this article is not about Ursula (everyone's favorite part)... it threatened to be about halfway through but in the end it was like a three act play where the middle act is just totally unrelated so off it went.

god editing can be painful.

The Liz said...

This is an amazing article. When I watched this film as a child, I adored it and think I understood the themes you describe on a subconscious level... I knew it was sexy, but I didn't know what "sexy" was yet. This film is imprinted on my memory, and your article is such a revelation. You described all those latent childhood emotions I couldn't describe. Bravo!

Sharp said...

I was 23 when LM came out but I was utterly transfixed by it on all levels: animation, music, story ... sex! As you noted, it was the first animated film to universally cross generations. And its sexuality was definitely above board. I must admit there were a few times when I thought, "Dude, she's a cartoon." Although it was lost on his preschool age daughter one of my friends even commented (uncomfortably), "Don't you think she was drawn kind of ... uhm ... pretty?"

Kyle said...

You are a talented writer and I thoroughly enjoyed reading your article. But then I am something of an Arielholic, so I love reading anything concerning TLM.

Oh, and as a side note...I found it interesting how you referenced Akira. I've read the original graphic novels (they are indeed novels), but I never knew they made a movie. I'll have to track down a copy of it sometime.