As a general rule, I pride myself on having a pretty good memory where Disney’s animated films are concerned. Having grown up on them, and seen most of them dozens of times each, I can quote most of the songs in each film, if not entirely then at least their general premise. That’s why I’m so ashamed to say…I completely forgot about “Les Poissons” in The Little Mermaid. And when I say forget, I mean I completely forgot this sequence even existed (except for a vague memory of Sebastian being coated with flour).
Today I’m rectifying this lapse in memory by looking at a short song that would be purely funny in any other film, but actually takes on aspects of horror given the audience (Sebastian). The premise is simple: Sebastian, sneaking into the castle to keep an eye on Ariel, finds himself (to his horror), in the kitchen, where Chef Louis is happily preparing food for Prince Eric and company. Chef Louis was voiced by the late René Auberjonois, and at first appears to be a completely harmless character. That is until he starts chopping fish. Given how Sebastian has already sung a song to Ariel (“Under the Sea”) hinting at what happens to fish on land, this song is like all of the crab’s worst nightmares brought to life.
Les Champs-Élysées, Maurice Chevalier
Les poissons, les poissons
How I love les poissons!
Love to chop
And to serve little fish.
(*Chop, chop, chop!*)
First I cut off their heads
Then I pull out their bones.
Ah mais oui, ça c’est toujours délice.
Les poissons, les poissons
With a cleaver I hack them in two.
(Sebastian examines a dead fish’s head and gasps)
I pull out what’s inside
And I serve it up fried.
God, I love little fishes, don’t you?
(Louis adds cooked fish to a platter)
Here’s something for tempting the palate
Prepared in the classic technique.
First you pound the fish flat with a mallet.
(Louis pounds the table hard)
Then you slash off their skin.
Give their belly a slice.
Then you rub some salt in
‘Cause that makes it taste nice.
Wow, for being a mere chef, Louis really does like to swing that cleaver around doesn’t he? Given how most of this song is scene from Sebastian’s perspective, the shadows, the entire scene really does come across as something like horror (and for a crab like Sebastian, that’s exactly what it would be). And like any horror film, it only gets worse for our little crab…
(Louis removes a leaf from the counter and finds Sebastian hiding underneath)
(Spoken) Zut alors ! I have missed one!
(Louis picks up Sebastian)
Sacrebleu ! What is this?
How on earth could I miss
Such a sweet little succulent crab?
Quel dommage, what a loss!
Here we go in the sauce.
Now some flour-I think just a dab.
Now I stuff you with bread.
It don’t hurt, ’cause you’re dead
And you’re certainly lucky you are.
(Sebastian spits out the stuffed crab filling)
‘Cause it’s gonna be hot
In my big silver pot
Tootle-loo, mon poisson, au revoir!
In fitting Disney fashion, Sebastian quickly gets his revenge on Chef Louis, and a hilarious chase ensues, bringing the brief episode of “Les Poissons” to a close. Having rewatched the video several times, I can’t believe I ever forgot about this scene and I’m glad I finally revisited it. Let me know what you think about this song in the comments below and have a great day!
The Little Mermaid “Daughters of Triton” (1989)
The Little Mermaid “Part of Your World” (1989)
The Little Mermaid “Poor Unfortunate Souls” (1989)
The Little Mermaid “Vanessa’s Song” (1989)
Disney/Dreamworks/Pixar/etc. Soundtracks A-Z
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