Sunday, December 9, 2007

Disney’s Ultimate Fairytale Princess - The Little Mermaid

When it comes to animation there are few that can top Walt Disney in his skill to create an entertaining story, brilliant animation and music. Over the years the quality of Walt Disney's animation has waxed and waned. We've seen some cinematic triumphs and some stinky duds.

The story I wish to focus on is 1989's, "The Little Mermaid". It was the culmination of a type of story that Walt had been struggling with since his first animated feature: the princess tale. Obviously "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" was his first crack at the story and while the movie is a classic and a marvel of animation, it looks a bit rough compared to his later works. Disney returned to the idea again with "Cinderella". What is interesting here is that the movie is really less of a showcase for the princess as it is a highlight for the supporting cast. The prince barely gets any screentime and there is little chemistry between them. This was improved with Disney's final attempt "Sleeping Beauty". Here the Princess Aurora seems to be a bit flat, but Prince Philip (the first prince with a decent name) is fleshed out pretty well and we get a great villain with Maleficent. The music and animation are wonderful, but the story seems a bit too familiar. Maybe it's because it's the third crack at it.

"The Little Mermaid" manages to give us a solid princess with Ariel, a good leading man with Prince Eric, and one of the best modern Disney Villains, Ursula. The animation is pretty detailed but lacks the polish of "Aladdin" or "The Lion King". But the movie has it's own look, one that works completely in it's own world. The songs and score are classic and fit well into the story. As it stands this is the best showing of a princess in a Disney movie and the best telling of the classic Princess tale. Sadly Walt wasn't around to see this version of the film. However it did usher in a new age of Disney animation and bring a lot of little girls back to the grandeur of the Princess story. It also showed everyone the potential to tell a great entertaining story in a medium that had been in decline in America.

Do you agree, or do you think Disney actually told the best version of the story later or before?

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