Sunday, July 15, 2012

D52 - Week 28 - The Little Mermaid

There isn't much to say about the plot that The Nostalgia Chick hasn't already hit right on the nail. And yeah, when you break down the plot it is all rather silly and though I've watched it a few times I still don't understand exactly why Ursula wants those limbo soul creatures exactly? But...dang, it has a great soundtrack, doesn't it? I don't care. It makes it all worthwhile. It's like how a thoroughly entertaining musical was made from the really dumb story of Roger Corman's Little Shop of Horrors! I bet the composer and writer of The Little Mermaid must've been inspired by Little Shop. It certainly doesn't hurt that the art style and animation is clearly improving around this time. Except for...oh, I wish I could make or find a .gif of it. But, if you happen to get the chance, slow-motion the carriage horse as he's going into the tunnel. Those frames are hilariously awkward. But it does remind me of how, with hand-drawn animation created by many hands, you get characters that sometimes look slightly different in different scenes. A more realistic Ariel some time after or before a more cartoony one. This is one of those things you don't really get in CGI productions. Is it a good thing in that it helps you appreciate the different people who worked on it or a bad thing because of its distractingness?
I suppose I would call it a guilty pleasure in the sense that normal society dictates that it's weird for a straight man to appreciate a masterfully created musical. Hey, if Brony culture can be a thing, how about a subculture for men of all ages who appreciate the music of The Little Mermaid? We just need some sort of amalgamistic name.
It's already been pointed out that WALL-E is similar to Ariel, what with his finding human things and coming up with unexpected uses for them, and immediately falling in love with the first being of other origin he sees, and all. But I'll add that Remy the Rat is Arielish, too. What with his rebelling against his father for despising humans* but in the end helping him understand that not all humans are so bad. Though I do wonder. If Prince Eric eats seafood, does Ariel at some point after the marriage bring up the issue? As in, "hey, don't eat that lobster, I knew him!"?

Tidbits: Is it just me, or does Prince Eric look, no. He is. He is Dave Seville from the 1980s Alvin & the Chipmunks series. The same person. Ditched the Chipmunks, changed his name, became a prince. That's what happened.
Also: "Leave no shell unturned?" Wh...why can't you use the expression "leave no stone unturned?" There are stones under the sea, aren't there?
*Remy's distaste for humans makes perfect sense but what of King Triton's? He says it's because they kill and eat fish but...don't many sea creatures themselves eat fish too? Does Triton hate whales, then?
Favorite character: I would say Ursula, but I know Amanda would pick her too anyway, so for the sake of another vote, Sebastian. Note how he happens to have a Jamaican accent, but by being uptight and not-at-all relaxed, he goes against the typical Jamaican stereotype. It's a nice change from, say, Oliver and Company's Tito.
Least necessary character: What did Flounder do, again? I mean, besides flounder.

Overall: The Little Mermaid might just be a contender for one of my favorite Disney movies. It makes me want to sing alo - I mean, uh, because Ariel is totally hot. Yeah, that's it.

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I am a female and therefore I am obligated to like this movie.

However, I have a brain and therefore I am also obligated to consider the reasons for liking this movie.  I think a lot of it has to do with the very formulaic approach brought by the Broadway musical duo of Menken and Ashman.  A stage musical requires certain key elements to always be present if it wants to make a big impression and these two men had all but mastered them by this point in their careers.  Watch or listen to the soundtrack of any successful musical (and when I say successful I mean if you can name it and any random person on the street recognizes it) from Gilbert and Sullivan to Sondheim and you'll notice it.

First of all, Ariel is an everymerwoman of the era.  During the late eighties and early nineties American culture was such that fitting in was either equally or less important than standing out. I should know because I grew up in it.  Ariel perfectly fit in because she was beautiful, had a nice family, had impressive talents, and a couple close friends to act as sidekicks.  She stood out because she was fascinated with the human world and collected the things she saw there and that goes against her father and society at large.  In essence she stood out because what she had wasn't enough. She sings a song that expresses her deep desires and the audience is basically given the chance to understand her very soul and fall in love with the character and have her dreams be their dreams and let her success be their success.

Next up, when chance throws a big old opportunity her way, her dreams are magnified and perhaps she sees them as attainable.  We're all rooting for her!  At the same time, we are introduced to one of the most over the top, indulgent, entertaining villains that we both love to hate AND love to love!  She has a dark lair and she broods and talks to herself and sums up everything she sees so that the audience has a super easy time following the plot!  Her scheming and sidekicks bring the heroine and villain together and one of my all time favorite villain songs gives us all the information we need to understand the ticking clock of the second act.

Finally, a huge exciting battle involving disguises and magic opens up an ending in which our heroine is finally understood and accepted by her old society and her family and everyone wishes her well and she lives happily ever after the end!

Good feelings all around.  And do you see the formula? Endear the main character. Express her desires. Introduce the conflict. Have a big and clear climax. Happy ending. (And there's a song for nearly every one of these steps that isn't just frivolous.)

Favorite Character: Ursula... thanks Kevin for letting me have her all to myself.  She's based on a drag queen! I mean come, ON!
Least favorite Character: I agree. Flounder is pretty useless.  If Sebastian can get all those animals to make music in the lake, why couldn't he just ask a random passing dolphin to pull Ariel?  It seems like the only purpose he served was to accidentally tattle on Ariel for talking to a seagull.  I see no reason why she couldn't have accidentally outed herself.
Overall: Watch the nostalgia Chick because she makes some good points, and then go ahead and enjoy this movie anyway because it's fun and it's a classic and it's pretty obviously the turning point that cuts the ribbon for the new and exciting Disney Renaissance.

1 comment:

  1. Also, there's that point where Ursula uses "tentacles" in place of "hands", even though she....also has hands, which she uses far more often than her tentacles, really....


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