25 Weeks of DisneyToon Sequels: Week 25
This week, we watched The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning, the third entry in The Little Mermaid franchise, and the only prequel. Released in 2008, this was the last of the direct-to-video sequels to be released by DisneyToon Studios, a tradition that was broken after making them for almost 15 years. Following this film, DisneyToon moved their focus to the Tinker Bell and Planes franchises before eventually closing down after John Lasseter’s exit from the company in 2018. However, The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning was a great film to go out on, featuring an original story, great animation, and quality music.
Though Disney had spent quite a bit of time in The Little Mermaid world up to this point, both with the television series and the first sequel, this introduces characters and provides context for the story that we see in the 1989 film. Here we get to meet Queen Athena, Ariel’s mother and the wife of King Triton. This is a character that we previously knew virtually nothing about and having her in this film was an excellent choice. The original song that was written for her and King Triton is quite pretty, as is the score as a whole. Jodi Benson returns to the role of Ariel and puts in a wonderful performance, as always. The only other major cast member to reprise their original role is Samuel E. Wright as Sebastian. Kenneth Mars, voice actor of King Triton, has been replaced by Jim Cummings here. The new character of Marina Del Rey is voiced by Sally Field, who is is a lot of fun, despite the song written for her being less than stellar. Another new character is her sidekick Benjamin, who is hilarious.
The script for this film is commendable, and much better than that of the first sequel. Here we have an original story, with some genuinely surprising and even heartbreaking moments which makes this of interest for adults as well as kids. The characterizations of the familiar characters feel right across the board, which adds to the believability of the story. The animation is gorgeous, with the quality nearing that of theatrical standards.
As I said above, this was a great film to close out the DisneyToon sequels that were made between 1994 and 2008. If you are a fan of The Little Mermaid, I highly recommend watching this movie, regardless of whether or not you have seen The Little Mermaid II.
For those of you who have been watching along with us since Week One, thank you! This has been an enjoyable ride and I look forward to discussing more Disney animation in the very near future!