We enjoyed the original Little Mermaid in 1989. So much so that we refused to watch the direct to video sequel Return to the Sea in 2000. That was a time when Disney was cashing on on all their franchises and even classics by cranking out such releases. (Come on, Sleeping Beauty 2! Do not do that to our favorite classic.) However it seemed that The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning was a genuine attempt to relaunch Ariel for a new generation, so we gave it a whirl.
Jodi Benson continued to voice Ariel and as the song goes, her voice is like a bell. But she really does not sing too much as music has been banned in mer-city after the first few 5 year-old Ariel scenes.
Yup. So that is the biggest hump to get over after 10 years have gone by; mer-city has been pretty much turned into a police state. King Trition overcome with sadness has swordfish enforcers on the hunt for any music. Those who love it must resort to secret underground clubs. If it all sounds a little like prohibition, we think that was the feel they were going for.
The antagonist never filled out in my opinion. She, like Ursula used electric eels as her personal enforcers. We think some sort of reference to the sea witch would have helped fill out the franchise lore a bit, but there was none. For the most part, until Triton’s heart warms at the end, the colors are subdued.
As mentioned there is not a ton of music in the film, and what there is does not approach the quality of the original’s songs. We know that is a high bar, but we think they could have got closer than they did. And while we are nitpicking we will say that the film could have tranmitted a greater feeling of “travel”. We feel as though too much of the movie takes place on roughly 3 sets.
On the brighter side it was good to fill out the personalities of Ariel’s sisters. Not a lot mind you, but enough to give each a distinguishing characteristic. We especially liked the depiction of Atina, the eldest.
The antagonist’s drool sidekick did not annoy like that character stereotype sometimes can. The pacing, while not peppy enough was consistent. The content was suitable for even the youngest kids as any violence or injury is only implied.
Overall we are not disappointed with Ariel’s Beginning. They treated the characters and for the most part the franchise with respect. We would not go into this movie with expectations high, however it will definitely do the job of endearing a new generation of kids to Ariel. It would have done more so if there was some “Part of Your World” like solo song. We mean come on, you hired Jodi Benson. Take advantage of those soothing pipes.