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.
Nouvelle cuisine 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 Hee-hee-hee, hon-hon-hon 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!
After Elsa accidentally injured Anna with her ice powers when they were both small children, their parents made the decision to close the castle up and raise the two girls away from the outside world. So for the next 10-15 years (I’m not sure how old Elsa is at the start of the film), the pair are raised in near isolation, which only increases when their parents die. But now it’s the day of Elsa’s coronation as Queen of Arendelle and the castle gates are finally going to be opened! Of course Anna is completely excited about the prospect of meeting new people (any new people) and possibly encountering true love. This is the set up for “For the First Time in Forever”:
The window is open, so’s that door I didn’t know they did that anymore Who knew we owned eight thousand salad plates?
For years I’ve roamed these empty halls Why have a ballroom with no balls? Finally, they’re opening up the gates
There’ll be actual real live people It’ll be totally strange Wow, am I so ready for this change?
‘Cause for the first time in forever There’ll be music, there’ll be light For the first time in forever I’ll be dancing through the night
Don’t know if I’m elated or gassy But I’m somewhere in that zone ‘Cause for the first time in forever I won’t be alone
I can’t wait to meet everyone! (Gasps) What if I meet the one?
I’ve said it before but it bears repeating, Anna at the start of the film is the stereotypical Disney princess. She wants to meet her Prince Charming, she wants the fairy tale romance, etc. And she’s even envisioned the perfect way for it to happen:
Tonight, imagine me gown and all Fetchingly draped against the wall The picture of sophisticated grace
I suddenly see him standing there A beautiful stranger, tall and fair I wanna stuff some chocolate in my face
But then we laugh and talk all evening Which is totally bizarre Nothing like the life I’ve led so far
For the first time in forever There’ll be magic, there’ll be fun For the first time in forever I could be noticed by someone
And I know it is totally crazy To dream I’d find romance But for the first time in forever At least I’ve got a chance
The fatal flaw in Anna’s plan is visible from the start: she’s dreaming about meeting “a beautiful stranger” and falling in love like that. But we all know, you don’t fall in love with strangers and it takes more than a fun evening to really get to know someone. To be sure, you can start getting to know someone in a single night, but enough to propose marriage? Nope, not a chance. Now, contrast Anna’s optimism with how Elsa feels about today. Unlike her sister, who’s mostly retained her optimism, Elsa has lived in increasing fear and depression about keeping her ice powers hidden and under control. The worst part? She can’t even tell her own sister about what’s bothering her:
Don’t let them in, don’t let them see Be the good girl you always have to be Conceal, don’t feel, put on a show Make one wrong move and everyone will know
But it’s only for today (It’s only for today) It’s agony to wait (It’s agony to wait) Tell the guards to open up the gate… (The gate…)
For the first time in forever (Don’t let them in, don’t let them see) I’m getting what I’m dreaming of (Be the good girl you always have to be) A chance to change my lonely world (Conceal) A chance to find true love (Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know)
I know it all ends tomorrow So it has to be today ‘Cause for the first time in forever For the first time in forever Nothing’s in my way…
Basically, Elsa and Anna have opposite perspectives on today: Elsa is only opening the gates because her duty requires it, she just wants to get through the day with her secret intact. Anna, meanwhile, is ecstatic and wants the day to never end. With opposing mindsets like this, it was only inevitable that things would end badly (and boy did it ever!) I really like “For the First Time in Forever,” it’s Disney musical at its finest (and I’m so glad Disney brought this style of music back).
Time for some trivia! Eugene and Rapunzel from Tangled make a blink and you’ll miss it cameo when Anna comes running out of the gates. Also, the painting of the lady on a swing that Anna jumps in front of is another Tangled reference, as the real life painting served as a visual inspiration for the animation style of that film. I’ve also read that the bust that ends up in a cake bears some resemblance to the statue of Prince Eric in The Little Mermaid. I sort of see it (and it makes sense since Hans Christian Anderson also wrote The Little Mermaid) but it wasn’t the first thing that came to my mind.
Let me know what you think about “For the First Time in Forever” in the comments below and have a great day!
“Part of Your World” is a type of song that can be found in many Disney films. This is the song you hear when the hero/heroine laments how unhappy they are with their lives and how they wish things could be different. Similar songs include “Out There,” “Go the Distance,”“How Far I’ll Go,” and “When Will My Life Begin?” Actually it was “Part of Your World” that started the tradition of heroes/heroines expressing their desires early in the film (although I do feel like Aurora’s “I Wonder” is this type of song as well and that song pre-dates The Little Mermaid by 30 years).
In this song, Ariel is going over her beloved collection of human artifacts and wishing that she could go be with the humans on the surface. Unknown to Ariel and Flounder, Sebastian overhears the entire song, which is a big problem since he could tell King Triton about Ariel’s fascination with human items (which isn’t allowed).
Look at this stuff. Isn’t it neat? Wouldn’t you think my collection’s complete? Wouldn’t you think I’m the girl, the girl who has everything?
Look at this trove, treasures untold How many wonders can one cavern hold? Looking around here, you’d think Sure, she’s got everything
I’ve got gadgets and gizmos a-plenty I’ve got whooz-its and whats-its galore You want thing-a-mabobs? I’ve got twenty But who cares? No big deal. I want more!
I wanna be where the people are I wanna see, wanna see ’em dancin’ Walkin’ around on those… What do you call ’em? Oh, feet
Flippin’ your fins you don’t get too far Legs are required for jumpin’, dancin’ Strolling along down the… What’s that word again? Street
Up where they walk Up where they run Up where they stay all day in the sun Wanderin’ free, wish I could be part of that world
What would I give if I could live outta these waters? What would I pay to spend a day warm on the sand?
Betcha on land they understand Bet they don’t reprimand their daughters Bright young women, sick of swimmin’ ready to stand
And I’m ready to know what the people know Ask ’em my questions and get some answers What’s a fire and why does it… What’s the word? Burn?
When’s it my turn? Wouldn’t I love, love to explore that shore up above? Out of the sea, wish I could be part of that world
The song does reveal a bit of naïveté on Ariel’s part (I draw your attention back to the line “Bet they don’t reprimand their daughters”). Ariel seems to be under the impression that if she lived on land with the humans then she would be free to do as she pleased (as opposed to living under the sea forced to abide by her father’s rules). It’s a nice thought, but it’s hardly accurate (note that Ursula doesn’t do too much to dispel Ariel’s romanticized notions of surface life either in “Poor Unfortunate Souls”). It’s also fascinating to see what Ariel has in her grotto as I’m pretty sure books and paintings would not long survive exposure to sea water (however it is a Disney movie so things like this just happen).
Believe it or not, “Part of Your World” almost didn’t make it into the final cut of the film. Jeffrey Katzenberg, then head of Disney, thought the song was boring and that it would go over the heads of children. Fortunately, Glen Keane and Howard Ashman fought to keep the song included and won. Another interesting piece of trivia: that shot of Ariel reaching through the hole at the top of the grotto was the very last shot to be completed and it took four tries to get it right. And to record this song, Jodi Benson actually sang in the dark to get a proper feeling of being “under the sea.”
What do you think of “Part of Your World”? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!
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.
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.
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 🙂
The Little Mermaid is universally acknowledged to be the film that launched the Disney Renaissance (a period that lasted from 1989 until Disney’s Tarzan in 1999). The Academy Award winning score was composed by Alan Menken, who collaborated with lyricist Howard Ashman on the songs.
It’s a big day in the undersea kingdom of Atlantica. The court composer Sebastian (a Jamaican crab) is putting on a concert starring the daughters of King Triton, with tonight being the debut of the youngest, Princess Ariel. King Triton, benevolent ruler of the Seven Seas, makes a grand entrance into the crowded concert hall in a seashell chariot pulled by several dolphins, lighting up the chandelier with a burst from his magical trident.
King Triton is most excited for this concert as he’s been looking forward to Ariel’s first performance. Sebastian insists that he is excited too (though he quietly mumbles that it would be helpful if the princess attended more rehearsals). Despite his grumblings, Sebastian takes the stage and the show begins with six of Triton’s children appearing out of clam shells singing (appropriately enough) “Daughters of Triton”:
Oh, we are the daughters of Triton Great father who loves us and named us well: Aquata Andrina Arista Attina Adella Alana And then there is the youngest in her musical debut A seventh little sister, we’re presenting her to you To sing a song Sebastian wrote, her voice is like a bell She’s our sister Ari…
Whoops! The concert comes to a crashing halt as the final clam shell opens to reveal…no one! Ariel isn’t here! Her sisters gasp in shock, the audience is befuddled, Sebastian is mortified and King Triton is understandably upset, bellowing out “ARIEL!!!” very angry that his youngest daughter has seemingly skipped out on an important event. Where IS Ariel? Well, as it turns out, she’s been busy hunting for human artifacts with her best friend Flounder (even though she’s been told repeatedly to stay away from anything related to humans).
Originally this scene was going to play out differently. In an earlier storyboard, the scene was going to start with Sebastian going backstage to check on the sisters as they are warming up for their performance. He would then notice that Ariel isn’t there and grow frantic when Andrina mentions that no one has seen her in quite some time. The crab races off to tell King Triton the bad news, but a spotlight illuminates him before he can reach the king, so the crab resigns himself to the inevitable and begins the show. It was decided that the scene would play better if Ariel’s absence was a complete surprise for everyone.
Due to how the scene ends, this is a rare example of a Disney song that ends abruptly (another good example is “A Girl Worth Fighting For” from Mulan).
I always found the ending of this scene to be awkward as a kid, with the way the music comes to a sudden halt and how awkward everyone acts with the revelation that Ariel has no-showed the concert. Now that I’m older I can appreciate this scene better, as it starts a quasi-tradition of Disney princesses not being where they’re expected to be (for example, Pocahontas isn’t waiting to meet her father when he comes back from battle; Mulan is late to meet the matchmaker, you get the idea).
What do you think of “Daughters of Triton”? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below 🙂
Thirty years after the so called “Golden Age” of Disney ended with Sleeping Beauty, the studio leapt into a new age of glory with the premiere of The Little Mermaid in 1989. Loosely based on Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale of the same name, the film raised animation to a whole new level. As a very young child, I lived and breathed The Little Mermaid, following Ariel’s adventure with rapt attention. And yet…after seeing the film a hundred times, something strange began to happen: I didn’t enjoy the film as much, in fact I became downright scared of it and would rather watch anything but that film!
Being only three, my fear was attributed to the scariness of Ursula at the climax of the film, and this is partially true. But even before Ursula transformed herself into a colossus, I developed a fear of an entirely different scene. Now that I’m grown up, I look back at this scene and recognize the disturbing elements that led me to reject this scene and ultimately the film as a child. And that scene is King Triton’s destruction of Ariel’s grotto.
Ariel, the youngest daughter of King Triton, keeps many secrets from her loving but overprotective father. The biggest of these secrets is that she has a secret grotto full to the brim with human artifacts that she has salvaged from various human shipwrecks on the ocean floor. This is a huge problem because Triton has strictly forbidden contact with anything from the human world, up to and including anything made by humans. Sebastian, Triton’s court composer, discovers the grotto during “Part of Your World” but is initially persuaded by Ariel to keep it a secret. But when it becomes clear that Ariel has fallen in love with the human Prince Eric, Sebastian reluctantly informs King Triton of the truth.
Triton’s confrontation with Ariel coincides with Flounder surprising his best friend with a statue of Prince Eric that was on the shipwreck that Ariel saved the prince from earlier in the film. The princess is delighted with her present and she twirls about in delight, only to come face to face with her very angry father. As a single father, King Triton has done his best to raise seven daughters, but Ariel’s stubbornness has him at his wits end. He tries, as best he can, to convince his daughter that her love for the prince can’t possibly come to anything, that humans are dangerous. As the famous line goes “Have you lost your senses completely? He’s a human, you’re a mermaid!” When Ariel retorts that she doesn’t care (about the difference), Triton decides desperate measures are in order.
“So help me Ariel, I am going to get through to you. And if this is the only way, so be it!”
What follows disturbs me to this day. Full of anger, King Triton proceeds to destroy most of the grotto, with several shots devoted to various items disintegrating from the power of the trident. That part alone is heartbreaking because we already know Ariel loves her collection very much. But what makes this scene disturbing is how Triton changes. As he finishes the line with “so be it”, the glow of the trident first under-lights his face, creating a scary look. Then, for the rest of the destruction, the king is drawn as a dark figure surrounded by a dark red background, destroying everything in spite of Ariel’s anguished pleas for him to stop.
This is disturbing because, for this moment, Triton has become a monster in the eyes of Ariel and the audience. Fathers aren’t supposed to hurt their children, even if they have done something wrong. And while it is true that Triton did not lay a hand on Ariel, destroying her prized possessions right in front of her must have done severe psychological and emotional damage.
To be fair, Triton expresses remorse almost immediately afterward, as he is seen glancing back with sadness when he hears Ariel sobbing, but nevertheless, the damage is done. Ariel’s private sanctuary has been destroyed, and she doesn’t feel like she can trust anybody since Sebastian betrayed her secret. Hence, this is the perfect opportunity for Ursula’s hench-eels, Flotsam and Jetsam, to sneak their way in and invite Ariel to visit their mistress.
What do you think of Triton’s destruction of the grotto? Did he go too far? Did you find it disturbing as well? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
I think I’ve mentioned before that the Disney films made between Sleeping Beauty in 1959 (the end of Disney’s Golden Age) and The Little Mermaid in 1989 (the start of the Disney Renaissance) often get overlooked or underrated because they’re not quite up to the standards of either era (or at least that’s the perception). A classic example of this is 1981’s The Fox and the Hound, a good film that is criminally neglected and yet it has one of the most disturbing sequences I’ve ever seen.
In summary: The Fox and the Hound is about…you guessed it…a fox and a hound who become friends (despite being natural enemies). The fox, named Todd, is eventually set loose in a game preserve to keep him safe from a gruff hunter and his hound Copper (formerly Todd’s friend). But the hunter wants to kill Todd for nearly getting his other hunting dog Chief killed and so he trespasses onto the preserve to hunt the fox down, laying a series of steel traps by a secluded watering area.
The trap nearly works, but at the last moment Todd senses the danger and runs for it. In the ensuing chase (including another disturbing moment I’ll cover next time), the hunter believes he has Todd cornered in some bushes, but he is so very wrong. Instead of the fox, the hunter has cornered THIS:
Even referring to this bear as “a bear” is an understatement; he’s practically a monster in the way he’s presented as this huge snarling mass of muscle and teeth (the demonic red eyes add to the monstrous impression). And then there’s the SIZE of this beast; even though the bear is colored black, in size he’s really more like a grizzly bear (which doesn’t make sense as I believe this story is supposed to be set in Appalachia).
The sheer viciousness of the bear’s assault is terrifying, and also not surprising, considering he’s been disturbed by this raucous hunter (and also shot). But the disturbing part comes when the hunter’s foot gets caught in one of his own traps and the bear comes closer and closer for the kill. Even though he’s an antagonist, this hunter is facing a pretty agonizing way to die and he can’t do a thing about it.
And then there’s the fight between Todd, Copper and the bear. This huge bear is just THROWING these two around like nothing, and it’s painful to watch. The entire sequence has me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end, especially when the bear has Todd cornered on a fallen tree perched halfway up a huge waterfall (the ominous music tells you this will end badly). This bear is an excellent example of Disturbing Disney (I hope you enjoy the full scene up above).
What do you think of the bear in The Fox and the Hound? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear about it 🙂
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)
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).
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!)
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.
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 🙂