Tag Archives: The Little Mermaid

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.

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The Little Mermaid “Ursula’s Transformation” (1989)

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.

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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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The Little Mermaid- Eric announces he’s marrying Vanessa (1989)

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!

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

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).

 

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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 “Poor Unfortunate Souls” (1989)

For more Disney songs, see here

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The Little Mermaid “Daughters of Triton” (1989)

*the links in this post contain affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.

Atlantica

King Triton’s Entrance

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.

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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”:

The Little Mermaid ‘Daughters of Triton’ (1989)

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…

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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 🙂

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See also:

The Little Mermaid “Poor Unfortunate Souls” (1989)

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

For more Disney songs, check out the main page here

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Disturbing Disney #16: King Triton destroys Ariel’s grotto

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King Triton destroys the grotto

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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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!

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Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

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

See also:

Disturbing Disney #1: The Coachman in Pinocchio (1940)

Disturbing Disney #2: The truth of Pleasure Island in Pinocchio (1940)

Disturbing Disney #3: Escaping Monstro from Pinocchio (1940)

Disturbing Disney #4: Dumbo loses his mother (1941)

Disturbing Disney #5 The death of Bambi’s Mother

Disturbing Disney #6: Faline vs. the dogs (1942)

Disturbing Disney #7: Cruella wants to do WHAT??

Disturbing Disney #8: The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met (from Make Mine Music, 1946)

Disturbing Disney #9: Dr. Facilier’s Fate (The Princess and the Frog, 2009)

Disturbing Disney #10: The rat in Lady and the Tramp (1955)

Disturbing Disney #11: Clayton’s Death in Tarzan (1999)

Disturbing Disney #12: The Bear from The Fox and the Hound (1981)

Disturbing Disney #13: “Smoking them out” in The Fox and the Hound (1981)

Disturbing Disney #14: The Salt Trap in The Jungle Book (1994)

Disturbing Disney #15: Night on Bald Mountain from Fantasia (1940)

The Little Mermaid “Poor Unfortunate Souls” (1989)

*the links in this post contain affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.

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.

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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).

The Little Mermaid “Poor Unfortunate Souls” Part 1 (1989)

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 Little Mermaid “Poor Unfortunate Souls” Part 2 (1989)

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 (the voice of Ursula) 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 to be worked out, 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 every time. 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 closer and finally 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 🙂

Become a patron of the blog at: patreon.com/musicgamer460

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

See also:

The Little Mermaid “Daughters of Triton” (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