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Dustin Putman

Dustin's Blu-ray Review
The Little Mermaid  (1989)
Reviewed by Dustin Putman

The Film
3.5 Stars
(Release Date: October 1, 2013) - When "The Little Mermaid" was released on November 14, 1989, to critical acclaim and solid box-office returns, it marked the beginning of a new Disney renaissance that promptly followed with 1991's "Beauty and the Beast" (the first animated feature to be nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award), 1992's "Aladdin," and 1994's "The Lion King." Twenty-four years later, this irresistible Hans Christian Andersen adaptation still holds up beautifully. The songs by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman (including "Part of Your World," "Under the Sea" and "Kiss the Girl") are just as wonderful and catchy as they always have been, the hand-drawn animation is simple but effective, and the movie's 16-year-old heroine, Ariel (voiced by Jodi Benson), is one of the most sympathetic in the Disney canon. Today, it might seem kind of antiquated that the story falls back on Ariel's desire for a strapping lad, in this case Prince Eric (Christopher Daniel Barnes), to fall in love with her, but there is enough surrounding this plot point for it to not become too terribly irksome.

Mermaid Ariel dreams of what it might be like to have legs and live on dry land. She doesn't feel like she fits in with her stern, disapproving father, King Triton (Kenneth Mars), and her gaggle of giggling older sisters, and gets into trouble when her dad discovers she has been to the ocean's surface and has gathered a collection of found artifacts and trinkets from the human world. When Ariel saves the handsome Prince Eric from drowning, she falls head over heels for him. Desperate to become human, she makes a deal with Ursula the Sea Witch (Pat Carroll) to turn her human. Stripped of her voice, Ursula gives Ariel three days to receive "love's first kiss," or risk returning to the mermaid world and becoming her property forever.

It is easy to see why "The Little Mermaid" has become such a classic. Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, Disney's 28th animated movie is the kind of splashy, effortless entertainment that one can watch over and over and never tire of its charms. Children and adults alike seem to love this fairy tale, its touching coming-of-age story, good-natured humor, lively supporting characters (including Ariel's sidekick, Flounder, and the loopy, misguided seagull, Scuttle), swoon-worthy romance, and malevolent villain of Ursula all playing invaluable roles in the film's major success. At 84 minutes, "The Little Mermaid" flies right by, one of those special and rare animated pics that does just about everything exceedingly well.

Blu-ray Picture/Sound

Disney's animated Blu-ray releases are almost always visually lavish affairs, though many of them also have their detractors who do not approve of the DNR process they go through, being scrubbed so clean that drawn lines and details previously seen in former incarnations seem to be lost in the process. Few will be able to complain with this new 1080p remastering of "The Little Mermaid," however, which features a balanced and accurate grain field throughout and a major uptick in high-definition information. The only debit of note comes right at the start, the fog surrounding Eric's ship and the initial moments of Ariel swimming underwater looking comparatively soft and undistinguished in comparison to the aesthetic riches to follow. With no other anomalies or dirt/debris and the colors always popping, it is a safe bet that "The Little Mermaid" has never looked so beautiful. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio might not be as bold or immersive as an action blockbuster, circa 2013, but this lossless new mix is still mighty attractive. Dialogue is crystal-clear, sound effects are full bodied (if mostly kept to the front speakers), and the songs sound every bit as good as they deserve. Well done.

Special Note: "The Little Mermaid" is also being released on Blu-ray in a 3D edition. I did not watch this version and cannot speak to its virtues and faults, though, as a rule, I am not a supporter of vintage movies being converted into this format. The film was not meant to be seen that way back in 1989 and is, simply put, unnecessary. The film looks terrific in two dimensions, and that is how it should remain.

Blu-ray Features
Audio Commentary with Directors John Musker and Ron Clements and composer Alan Menken; "Part of Your World" Music Video, Performed by Carly Rae Jepsen (3:39, HD); "@DisneyAnimation" Featurette (10:45, HD); Disney Intermission (15:35, HD); Deleted Character: Harold the Merman (2:05, HD); "Under the Scene" Featurette (13:13, HD); "Howard Ashman's Lecture" Featurette (16:27, HD); "Part of Her World: Jodi Benson's Voyage to New Fantasyland" Featurette (4:45, HD); "John and Ron Make Caricatures" Featurette (1:05, HD); "Animators Comment" Featurette (1:42, HD); "Handshake" Featurette (0:32, HD); "Treasures Untold" Making-Of Documentary (45:33, SD); "Storm Warning" Featurette (8:40, SD); "The Little Mermaid: The Story Behind the Story" Featurette (11:29, SD): "Under the Sea" Early Presentation Reel (2:35, SD); Original Theatrical Trailer (2:15, SD); Seven Deleted Scenes with Introductions by the directors (26:29); Disney Song Selection (10:29, HD); "Kiss the Girl" Music Video, Performed by Ashley Tisdale (3:30, SD); "The Little Match Girl" Animated Short (6:39, HD); "DisneyPedia: Life Under the Sea" Featurette (8:25, SD); "Under the Sea Adventure" Featurette (4:15, SD); "Behind the Ride" Featurette (5:54, SD)

Bottom Line
It has been a long wait for "The Little Mermaid" to make its grand entrance on Blu-ray, and this Diamond Edition release is a sparkling joy to behold: it is resplendently rendered, gorgeous to look out, and filled to bursting with quality special features that will inform viewers on everything they could possibly want to know about this film and its genesis. For fans of Disney, of "The Little Mermaid," and of top-tier Blu-ray releases in general, this is a must-buy.

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© 2013 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman