Oh, God, what is the matter with me? What is it about the old Disney movies that make a person well up and get chills down their spine?
Is it the beauty in the bright colourful artwork? The swelling opening track, written by Alan Menken? Or just the fact that you will be thrown back to those early childhood days where times were simpler, less filled with bills and serious schoolwork. Not just colouring in.
Correction: it’s a combination of all of them.
It’s always the music that starts me off. With every single old-school Disney film. They just know how to make an emotive swell of a hook, don’t they? Men-kennnnnn…. *shakes fist with watery eyes*
So, here I am. Watching The Little Mermaid. Childhood classic, even though it had already been out 3 years by the time I’d been born. I haven’t watched it since I was about 6 or 7. When you’re much smaller, you look for exciting stories, lovely songs, and pretty princesses with awesome costumes that you want want want for Christmas from Santa Claus. And Ariel, the darling redhead that she is, provides it all! (Although, maybe the shell bra isn’t entirely appropriate for small children. Maybe a halterneck top, yeah?)
According to Disney, they chose Ariel to be a redhead to distinguish her from Daryl Hannah’s blondie mermaid in Splash. But Ginger Parrot ain’t complaining! The red hair is Ariel’s trademark, along with a stonking set of pipes to sing with. And she’s constantly combing her magnificent mane with her “dinglehopper.” It sounds like a euphemism, I KNOW, but it’s just a fork.
The hilarious thing about watching any Disney film in your adult life is finding all the dirty jokes. There was a massive hoo-ha when this film was released because the merpeople palace on the poster looked rather…er…phallic in nature. Someone did put their hands up and say “I was in a rush when I was drawing it! It was an accident!”
Oh, suuuuuure. And I suppose Ursula was just borrowing Ariel’s voice, she would’ve given it back eventually, wouldn’t she?
I can’t deny, in my old age, I picked up on a few more serious themes other than true love and happy endings. There’s a messed-up scene where King Triton loses his cool and basically destroys her temple of human stuff, which basically implies domestic violence, right? I was waiting for the usual teenage “I hate you! No one understands me! Get out of my life!” comebacks. But the final line “I love you, Daddy” gives it away. It’s a little bit about growing up, coming-of-age, and dare I say the F word?
Oh, all right…FEMINISM.
I consider myself a feminist, but I’ll be honest, I do get confused when it comes to feminism in movies. Are you a feminist by standing up for what you want? What if what you want happens to be a man? She starts out a bit rebellious, and ends up saving the man she loves from a horrific storm at sea. Yeah! That fishtail’s got balls! And she takes all these measures to make sure she gets her human man! Who, let’s be honest, is a bit lush, as cartoon princes go! You go, mergirlfriend!
But then, evil gets all eight-tentacled in the form of Ursula, who, quite frankly, has a little too much back fat for such a revealing dress. She takes Ariel’s voice in payment for her humanisation, with a song and dance about how men don’t really care what comes out of your mouth as long as you’re pretty. My aged, cynical, cat loving self had to suppress the “Mmmmhmmm, yo’ preachin’ to the choir, sista” response extremely hard. So Ariel doesn’t say a word, and yet still manages to almost get a kiss and a proposal?
It’s hard to pinpoint the moment when Disney princesses started getting less princess-y and more empowered. Some argue that it never happened, others say it was always there. Personally, I think it started whiffing of something different with Ariel. She wants a new world, to make her own tracks with proper feet, and sings all about it in Part of That World. My favourite line is “Bright young women, sick of swimming/Ready to stand.” Now that’s what I call feminism.
This is an epic film. A Rastafarian orchestra-conducting crab, a silly seagull, a damned good villain with mental hair, daddy issues that rival a Woody Allen movie, and songs that you’ll be humming for a good fortnight.
And a princess with a scarlett shock of locks. What more do you want?
And one lady has come forward claiming that she is the real Ariel. Check her out!