Tag Archives: Poor Unfortunate Souls

The Princess and the Frog “Friends on the Other Side” (2009)

Well, it’s been a long time since I did one of these, but I thought it was high time I got back to blogging about the amazing songs one can find in Disney’s animated films. And I decided to start with a film that I really should have covered several years ago back when the blog is new and that’s The Princess and the Frog. This 2009 film is an update of the classic tale of a prince turned into a frog, all set in the city of New Orleans.

There were a number of songs I could’ve started with in this film, but I decided to start with my favorite: “Friends on the Other Side.” This is the song that introduces Dr. Facilier, the film’s villain, to the story and sets Naveen’s dilemma (being turned into a frog) into motion. This song has striking similarities to “Poor Unfortunate Souls” from The Little Mermaid, in that Dr. Facilier is offering Naveen a deal in exchange for what the prince thinks he wants and he uses his magical voodoo powers to make it happen.

Watch for yourself:

Keith David absolutely kills it as Dr. Facilier. Like any good Disney villain, Dr. Facilier oozes charm and menace in equal proportions and this song shows off both sides. Also, like any classic villain, Dr. Facilier cannot STAND to be disrespected, which is made pointedly clear in the beginning of the song:

Don’t you disrespect me, little man
Don’t you derogate or deride
You’re in my world now, not your world
And I got friends on the other side


(He’s got friends on the other side)


That’s an echo gentlemen.
Just a little something we have here in Louisiana
A little parlor trick. Don’t worry.

Sit down at my table
Put your minds at ease
If you relax it’ll enable me to do
Anything I please

I can read your future
I can change it ’round some, too
I’ll look deep into your heart and soul
(You do have a soul, don’t you, Lawrence?)
Make your wildest dreams come true

I got voodoo, I got hoodoo,
I got things I ain’t even tried
And I got friends on the other side


(He’s got friends on the other side)

Now while Dr. Facilier might initially come off as a charlatan (indeed Lawrence accuses him of being as much right before the song starts), what’s coming up with the cards implies that there really is some magic at work here. Note how Facilier twists the images to match everything Naveen seemingly wants (namely, money, which he’s currently cut off from until he gets married).


The cards, the cards, the cards will tell
The past, the present, and the future as well
The cards, the cards, just take three
Take a little trip into your future with me


Are you ready


Now you, young man, are from across the sea
You come from two long lines of royalty
I’m a royal myself, on my mother’s side
Your lifestyle’s high, but your funds are low
You need to marry a lil’ hunny whose daddy got dough
Mom and Dad cut you off, huh playboy?


Eh, sad but true.

And if the similarity to “Poor Unfortunate Souls” wasn’t already clear, that last line above from Facilier to Naveen about the latter being cut off from his money is another callback, because it reminds me very much of the comments Ursula made during her song (Remember her “Pathetic” line?)


Now y’all gotta get hitched but hitchin’ ties you down
You just wanna be free, hop from place to place
But freedom takes green

It’s the green, it’s the green
It’s the green you need
And when I looked into your future
It’s the green that I seen

But it’s this last verse below that really makes things interesting. Dr. Facilier is pulling double duty in this song, as not only is he offering a deal to Naveen, he’s also offering one to Lawrence, Naveen’s butler. Pay close attention to Lawrence’s reactions in this last verse, as it quickly becomes clear that the butler isn’t nearly as loyal as he looks (more like Edgar from The Aristocats than Grimsby from The Little Mermaid if you get my drift).

On you little man, I don’t want to waste much time
You’ve been pushed ’round all your life
You’ve been pushed ’round by your mother
And your sister and your brother.
And if you was married you’d be pushed around by your wife
But in your future, for you I see
Is exactly the man you always wanted to be

Shake my hand, c’mon on boys
Won’t you shake a poor sinner’s hand
(both Naveen and Lawrence shake Facilier’s hands)
Yes…
Are you ready?


(Are you ready?)

One last note, I find it really cool how Dr. Facilier transforms his face to do his voodoo magic. It’s a simple transition but oh so effective. Plus, it makes Facililer ten times scarier. Also, I can’t help but notice the fear on poor Naveen’s face once he’s tied up by the magical snakes, he realizes far too late that he’s in way over his head.


Are you ready?
Transformation Central
(Transformation Central)


Reformation Central
Reformation central!


Transmogrification Central

Naveen:
(As Facilier’s Talisman bites him) Ow!


Can you feel it?

You’re changing, you’re changing,
You’re changing all right
I hope you’re satisfied
But if you ain’t, don’t blame me
You can blame my friends on the other side
Ha, ha, ha


(You got what you wanted)
(But you lost what you had)
(Ohh…Hush!)

It’s really interesting how the film holds off from showing the result of Naveen’s transformation (even though the trailer kind of gives it away). Lawrence’s reaction is really telling: even though he’s basically agreed to betray his master, I don’t think he was expecting THIS. He’s clearly spooked by Facilier’s voodoo and probably wondering something along the lines of “What on EARTH have I gotten myself into??”

And there you have it, my thoughts on “Friends on the Other Side” from The Princess and the Frog. It felt nice to get back to reviewing Disney songs and I can’t wait to do more.

See also:

Disney/Dreamworks/Pixar/etc. Soundtracks A-Z

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The Little Mermaid “Vanessa’s Song” (1989)

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When Ursula made the deal with Ariel to make her human for three days so she could attempt to earn True Love’s Kiss from Prince Eric, I’m fairly certain the sea witch thought it was one of the easiest deals she’d ever made. Knowing full well that Ariel had practically no reliable information about life in the human world, Ursula likely thought that Ariel would make a fool of herself and never come close to earning any kind of kiss from anyone, let alone Prince Eric.

So imagine Ursula’s surprise and indignation when Sebastian and Flounder help set up “Kiss the Girl” and come within inches of getting Eric and Ariel to kiss; whether it would have been True Love’s Kiss we don’t really know and Ursula wasn’t willing to find out as she made sure Flotsam and Jetsam (her minion eels) sabotaged the moment by capsizing the boat. The sea witch is furious!

“Oh, she’s better than I thought. At this rate, he’ll be kissing her by

sunset for sure. Well, it’s time Ursula took matters into her own tentacles!

Triton’s daughter will be mine – and then I’ll make him writhe. I’ll see him

wriggle like a worm on a hook!”

Ursula quickly begins preparing a spell and, laughing, transforms into a beautiful human woman with dark brown hair, but still wearing her nautilus shell.

Later that same evening, Prince Eric is still moping about the fact that he hasn’t found that mysterious woman who saved his life (you’d think despite the lack of voice that he’d simply recognize Ariel but it’s never that simple). Grimsby, his long-suffering butler, sympathizes with the prince, but he also gently reminds him that while his mystery woman may never be found, there’s a very real woman inside the castle (indicating the silhouette of Ariel getting ready for bed).

Left alone again, Eric contemplates Grimsby’s words before chucking his flute into the sea and turning to head inside. But before he can leave, a mysterious song begins floating up from the beach. A strange woman  with dark brown hair and a nautilus shell necklace is walking along the beach and singing with Ariel’s voice. A golden tendril of magic flows out from the shell and visibly enchants the prince.

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To Ariel’s horror, Eric announces the next morning that he’s found the woman who saved his life and they’ll be getting married that evening. Ariel cannot see the nautilus shell and so she believes that Eric is genuinely in love with another woman, meaning her entire plan has been for nothing!

As the wedding barge gets under way that evening, Scuttle flies out to check out the ship and is attracted by a beautiful, but strange song coming from one of the cabins. Vanessa (the mysterious woman Eric is marrying) is getting ready for the wedding and singing to herself:

What a lovely little bride I’ll make
My dear, I’ll look divine
Things are working out according to my ultimate design
Soon I’ll have that little mermaid
And the ocean will be mine!

As the blushing bride examines her reflection in the mirror, the laughing face of Ursula peers out instead!! Scuttle can’t believe his eyes, Eric is about to marry the sea witch, Ariel needs to know about this! The frantic bird flies off to warn Ariel and her friends before it’s too late.

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Given that Ursula is using Ariel’s stolen voice, it’s no surprise when I say that Jodi Benson also provided Vanessa’s lines and also performed “Vanessa’s Song” which is really a brief reprise of “Poor Unfortunate Souls” (a melody you can hear just as the brief song ends). It really just serves to confirm to the audience and reveals to our heroes that this is indeed Ursula in disguise (though I don’t think there was ever really any doubt for the audience given we witnessed the start of Ursula’s transformation back in her lair).

What do you think of “Vanessa’s Song”? It’s one of the shortest “songs” in any Disney film, but it is one of my favorite moments as well. I remember as a little kid I would always gasp when the mirror tilted up to reveal Ursula’s reflection. Given her magical skills, it’s a wonder she didn’t keep herself looking like that (or similarly) on a permanent basis. Let me know your thoughts on this song in the comments below 🙂

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See also:

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 “Les Poissons” (1989)

For more Disney songs, see here

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The Little Mermaid “Poor Unfortunate Souls” (1989)

Disney villains have come in many different varieties over the years. Some have been downright scary (The Horned King from The Black Cauldron (1985) comes to mind), some have been rather funny (Captain Hook from Peter Pan (1953) is one of those) and then there’s Ursula from The Little Mermaid (1989):  she has moments of humor combined with moments of extreme scariness and pure evil. All of which is showcased in her song “Poor Unfortunate Souls.” This song was created by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman.

The setup is simple: After seeing her precious grotto destroyed by her father, King Triton, Ariel is persuaded to visit “the sea witch” Ursula, because (according to her eel minions Flotsam and Jetsam), she can give Ariel what she wants: the ability to get to Prince Eric. Extremely bitter for what her father did, Ariel agrees to go (much to the horror of Sebastian and Flounder, who follow along to see what will happen).

Ursula lives far away from the city of Atlantica in a cave/reef that looks reminiscent of dinosaur bones. The sea witch herself is not, as many believe, half octopus. If you count her tentacles, you’ll see she has only six, which would make her half-squid (it was done this way on purpose because six tentacles were easier to animate than eight).

The witch assures Ariel that she can give the little mermaid exactly what she wants…for a price of course. As the song begins, she explains that the only way Ariel can get Prince Eric is to become a human herself.

My dear, sweet child, that’s what I do
It’s what I live for
To help unfortunate merfolk like yourself
Poor souls with no one else to turn to
 
I admit that in the past I’ve been a nasty
They weren’t kidding when they called me, well, a witch
But you’ll find that nowadays
I’ve mended all my ways
Repented, seen the light, and made a switch
True? Yes
And I fortunately know a little magic
It’s a talent that I always have possessed
And here lately, please don’t laugh
I use it on behalf
Of the miserable, the lonely, and depressed (Pathetic)
 
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Poor unfortunate souls
In pain, in need
This one longing to be thinner
That one wants to get the girl
And do I help them?
Yes, indeed
Those poor unfortunate souls
So sad, so true
They come flocking to my cauldron
Crying, “Spells, Ursula, please!”
And I help them
Yes I do
 

I really love “Poor Unfortunate Souls.” Pat Carroll delivers a thrilling performance as the villain-disguised-as-helper to “those poor unfortunate souls.” As Ursula tells it, she USED to be a bad person, but now she’s turned her life around and spends all her time helping less fortunate merfolk by giving them their heart’s desires.

Of course, “once or twice” these poor merpeople couldn’t pay her price so she “had to rake ’em cross the coals” (i.e. she turned them into those seaweed creatures trapped at the entrance of her home) but other than that she’s this great do-gooder. (Actually, I think Ursula can’t possibly have cheated EVERYONE she’s helped, because if everyone who went to see her disappeared, people still wouldn’t be going).

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what IS it with Disney villains and the scary eyes!!??

Now it’s happened once or twice
Someone couldn’t pay the price
And I’m afraid I had to rake ’em ‘cross the coals
Yes I’ve had the odd complaint
But on the whole I’ve been a saint
To those poor unfortunate souls

I’m not asking much, just a token really, a trifle
What I want from you is your voice
But without my voice, how can I-
You’ll have your looks, your pretty face
And don’t underestimate the importance of body language, ha!

The men up there don’t like a lot of blabber
They think a girl who gossips is a bore
Yes on land it’s much preferred for ladies not to say a word
And after all dear, what is idle prattle for?
Come on, they’re not all that impressed with conversation
True gentlemen avoid it when they can
But they dote and swoon and fawn
On a lady who’s withdrawn
It’s she who holds her tongue who gets a man
Come on you poor unfortunate soul
Go ahead
Make your choice
I’m a very busy woman and I haven’t got all day
It won’t cost much
Just your voice!
You poor unfortunate soul
It’s sad but true
If you want to cross the bridge, my sweet
You’ve got the pay the toll
Take a gulp and take a breath
And go ahead and sign the scroll
Flotsam, Jetsam, now I’ve got her, boys
The boss is on a roll
This poor unfortunate soul!
 

Ariel is very tempted by all of this, and her lingering concerns over never seeing her family again are quickly brushed over by Ursula because in return she says “you’ll have your man.” Of course, there’s still the matter of payment, and Ursula really isn’t asking all that much. All she wants from Ariel is…her voice! Now, that doesn’t sound like too much, but keep in mind part of what made Prince Eric fall in love with Ariel at first sight was that song she was singing to him. Without her voice, how is Eric going to know it’s really her? Ariel is wondering the same thing, but Ursula again brushes this off, saying that all Ariel needs is some “body language” and she’ll be fine, because women aren’t expected to talk on the surface anyways (it’s a total lie, but Ariel doesn’t know that).

Beluga sevruga
Come winds of the Caspian Sea
Larengix glaucitis
Et max laryngitis
La voce to me
 
Now, sing
Aa-aa-aah, a-aa-aah
Keep singing!
Aa-aa-aah, a-aa-aah
 

Oh yes, there is one other detail. Once Ariel is made human, she will have three days to get Prince Eric to give her “the kiss of true love.” If this happens, the transformation will be permanent, but if not, then Ariel will turn back into a mermaid and belong to Ursula forever! (Talk about killer fine print!)

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A contract magically appears, wherein Ariel would grant Ursula her voice “for all eternity.” To Ursula’s delight, Ariel signs the contract and the deal is done! Now comes my favorite part, the transformation! Ursula sings/chants this powerful spell that sends chills down my spine. As she finishes, a pair of ghostly hands appears and she commands Ariel to sing. And as the little mermaid sings, the hands come closer and ease Ariel’s voice out of her and into Ursula’s magical shell. With payment granted, Ariel is seized and given a pair of human legs (all the while Ursula laughs maniacally, because in her mind Ariel is as good as hers, you know she has no intention of letting that “kiss of true love” happen). Of course, now that she’s human, Ariel can’t breathe underwater anymore, so it’s up to Sebastian and Flounder to race her to the surface.

Trivia Time!

Ursula herself was based on the appearance of a drag queen named Divine (1945-1988).

There were originally a few lines inserted to insinuate that Ursula was King Triton’s sister (and therefore Ariel’s aunt) but this was deemed one subplot too many and the lines were removed.

During the recording, Pat Carroll adlibbed a few words throughout the song (I know her use of “pathetic” early on is a definite adlib), and Menken and Ashman liked her rendition so much that they kept it as is.

And that’s “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” definitely my favorite song from The Little Mermaid. I hope you enjoyed reading about it and listening to it 🙂

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Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

See also:

The Little Mermaid “Daughters of Triton” (1989)

The Little Mermaid “Part of Your World” (1989)

The Little Mermaid “Les Poissons” (1989)

The Little Mermaid “Vanessa’s Song” (1989)

*all images are the property of Walt Disney Studios

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For more great Disney songs, check out the main page here: Disney A-Z