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Little Mermaid, The: Ariel's Beginning Print E-mail
Friday, 05 September 2008
ImageIn 1989, "The Little Mermaid" introduced a whole new generation of viewers to the wonderfully animated world of Disney.  Based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, Alan Menken brought the story to life with songs that are still memorable decades later.  "Under the Sea" and "Part of Your World" are still as powerful today as they were 20 years ago.  This film is a must release on the Blu-ray format.

Now, 19 years later, Disney has released an all-new Little Mermaid tale, Ariel's Beginning.  Hoping to rekindle the emotions felt when watching the original film, Disney takes us back to the beginning, in a time when music was not the center of life.  Unfortunately, the premise for this film blocks the truly great part of the Little Mermaid series.  Even "The Little Mermaid II" was moderately successful as a direct-to-video release.  This third installment may struggle with newcomers, but may be a treat for those lovers of the original film.

The film opens strong.  King Triton, now voiced by Jim Cummings, is ruler of Alantica, along with his beautiful wife, Queen Athena.  The couple lives happily in the kingdom with their seven daughters, including Ariel, the youngest.  That is, until one day when humans enter their world and, as is Disney's style, Queen Athena gets caught in the crossfire.  Flash-forward ten years to when King Triton's daughters are nearly fully-grown and motherless.  Love 'em and hate 'em Sebastian is back as King Triton's right-hand crab.  New to the cast is Marina, voiced by Sally Field, who longs to replace Sebastian.  The world of Atlantica is now bland and boring, as music has been outlawed in the kingdom.  Naturally, this leads to the formation of an underground blues club.  Ariel, longing to find happiness once again, follows a new acquaintance to this club.  Who is the new acquaintance?  Why, its Flounder the guppy of course.  Now voiced by Parker Goris, a frighteningly similar voice to the original Flounder voice, Jason Marin, Flounder is still the same loveable guppy.

The story is pretty straightforward, as the film is meant for the kids.  A rebellious teenage daughter sets out on her own, so as to be free of her father's strict lifestyle.  That's basically it.  The film is not nearly as enjoyably as the original.  I think this new installment was meant more as film for kids to enjoy vibrant colors.  Even with the lacking storyline, the film definitely could have benefited from some more song and dance numbers.  The same song was used several times throughout the film.  And with the movie's premise being, "no music allowed," the amount time music can be used in the film is limited.

Still, the film does succeed in making you reminiscent of the original "Little Mermaid" days.  As she did in the original, Jodi Benson is a blessing on the ears.  Her voice is golden, and made the original "Little Mermaid" what it has become today.  Ariel would not be the same without her voice.  Sadly, due to the storyline of this film, Benson is unable to truly showcase her voice talent.

As a straight to DVD release, no Blu-ray release at this time, the video presentation is fairly solid.  The colors are vibrant for the most part.  However, there are occasional scenes that seem to suffer, most likely due to a creative decision.  There are some jagged edges due to compression, as well as some artifacts.  However, these artifacts are sparse due to the films animation nature.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the DVD contained both a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track as well as a DTS 5.1 track.  I found the DTS track to be solid.  The dialogue is easily heard.  I did find myself longing for more ambiences in the surround channels, especially with the film taking place entirely underwater.  The subwoofer could have also used a boost in the audio track.

The disc is limited in its special features.  There are two deleted scenes in storyboard format, each one introduced by director Peggy Holmes.  The next special feature, a common occurrence in animated musical films, is the song selection feature.  This tidbit displays onscreen lyrics.  Under Games and Activities, there is the Mermaid Discovery Vanity game in which you explore each of Ariel's sisters' vanity mirrors in search of Flounder.  Lastly, there are a couple featurettes in "Backstage Disney," that examine Peggy Holmes and the voice talents of Jodi Benson and Samuel E. Wright, and take us behind the scenes at the Little Mermaid adapted form the screen to the stage.

Overall, "The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning" is entertaining for the kids.  For adults, it is going to be a bit of disappointment.  This third installment doesn't destroy the legacy of The Little Mermaid original, but it definitely doesn't add anything either.  Enjoy the movie for what it's worth, a direct-to-video sequel.

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