The Little Mermaid - What is the Difference?
The Disney renaissance kicked off in 1989 with The Little Mermaid.
Disney's version had been in work since the 1930s, 60-year development period that would make any Hollywood executive shutter.
But the source materials dates back 100 years before Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale of the same name.
It's time to ask,what's the Difference?
The year is 1985. Both Walt and Roy Disney had long ago ascended to that big Sleeping Beauty castle in the sky.
Superstar animator Don Bluth had left as well, not to go to heaven like dogs of a film he released in 1989, but to launch his own animation studio.
Walking out the door with nine of Disney's best sketch and ink men.
Their combined departures resulted in years of lackluster box office performance that put the studio that Walt built-in grave danger of being forced to shut down their animation normal together.
Luckily for children across the globe, Disney reverted to Walt's tried and true formula, make movies based on popular folklore intellectual properties that stand the test of time.
Such as Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales, The Princess and The Pea, Thumbelina, and of course, The Little Mermaid, to name a few.
And those Disney's and Hans' telling the story revolves around a young mermaid who falls in love with a handsome prince she rescued from a shipwreck.
Making a deal with the sea witch, she trades her voice for
a pair of human legs, so she can walk on land and woo her Prince.
And if she fails in her romantic quest, she'll suffer a grim fate.
And it is here that the fairy tales diverge as Disney exercised a bit of creative license in its retelling.
For instance, in Disney's Little Mermaid, Ariel was forbidden by her father, King Triton, from venturing up to the surface since Merpeople as a whole considered human to be harpoon hurling barbarians, feasting on fishy meat.
However, in Hans' fairy tale, the little mermaid, who wasn't named Ariel because there were no names in the original fairy tale, waited patiently for her 15th birthday.
For that was when the daughters of the sea king were allowed to swim up to the surface to gaze upon the world of men.
The merpeople in the fairy tale also find humans to be a little boring.
After a month, the Little Mermaid's sisters tire of spying on humans and declare it was much more beautiful down below and pleasanter to be at home.
Ariel receives no such dissuading from her sisters in Disney's version as they are wholly de-emphasized as characters.
But she still receives the message loud and clear with an Oscar-winning show stopper from everybody's favorite Jamaican crustacean, Sebastian, the musical crab.
In a faithful retelling, another fan-favorite song and swim number would have ended up on the chopping block as well.
In the Danish version, it's the sisters who are enamored by items left behind by shipwrecks, not the Little Mermaid.
She only has eyes for a white marble statue of a prince in her garden.
If Disney had made Ariel solely a fan of sculpture and not human trinkets, we would have lost out on dinglehoppers, and Part of your World.
But the greatest differences between the two fish-scaled classics don't come down to characterization.
They're concentrated on the narrative itself, both with alterations of the plot as a whole and how Disney mercifully pulled back the reins when it came to the gruesomeness of some specific beats.
It all starts with the sea witch, Ursula, who was rumored to be modeled on a drag queen, Divine.
In Disney's adaptation, she's half-octopus, half-brassy sorceress, who maliciously uses Ariel as a pawn to get revenge on King Triton, for casting her out of the kingdom.
In the fairy tale, the sea witch is more of a practitioner of magic than pure tentacled evil.
In fact, she actually warns the Little Mermaid that what her heart seeks, being united with the human of her dreams, will bring her nothing but sorrow.
Nevertheless, she agrees to help the Little Mermaid.
But the specifics of the payment for the spell are slightly different.
The point is in both telling; the Little Mermaid must sacrifice her voice.
In the original, well, we told you what went down.
But in Disney's animated version, Ursula's dark arts merely
extract the glowing essence of Ariel's voice to be imprisoned in a seashell.
The terms of the magical deal significantly differ as well.
In Disney's version, Ariel has only three days to receive the kiss of true love from her Prince Eric.
If she fails in her quest by sunset on the third day, she will turn back into a mermaid, and her soul will belong to Ursula.
Instead, in the original, the mute Little Mermaid must win the Prince's hand in marriage.
If she fails and he marries somebody else instead, she'll die and turn into sea foam.
Robbing her of the rest of her natural 300 merperson lifespan.
The little mermaid's longevity gamble gets further complicated by the fact that humans have short lifespans, but they're immortal souls ascend above the clouds when they pass on.
And if the Prince marries her, he would give a soul to you and retain his own as well.
So when she steps on to dry land, the Little Mermaid isn't just pursuing princely human love, but a shot at immortality.
Once again, this discrepancy between the stories, marriage versus kiss of true love results in a song.
And thankfully, in her legged life in the Disney version, Ariel doesn't suffer the constant torment that the little mermaid did in the famous fairy tale. As a side effect of the sea witch's spell.
The single biggest contrast between the two versions was an entirely different climax/third act.
In Disney's Little Mermaid, the Prince takes a shine to Ariel, despite her voicelessness, and it seems their kiss is all but an inevitability.
So Ursula intervenes by assuming the form of a beautiful brunette and sings with Ariel's voice to enchant the Prince.
Convincing him that she was the one who saved him from the shipwreck.
He falls in love and demands a hasty wedding, but Ariel's animal friends come to the rescue to stall the nuptials, break Ursula's shell, and Ariel regains her voice.
The Prince realizes that she's the one that he loves, but Ariel doesn't get that smooch in time, and Ursula takes control of her soul.
King Triton swaps him for his daughter's, Ursula snatches his crown and trident, then full-on Godzilla's from the depths as the dark queen of the sea.
But Prince Eric saves the day by goring her in the guts with the bow spread of a resurfaced shipwreck.
Ariel doesn't make a single proactive decision in the last third of The Little Mermaid.
One hundred fifty years earlier, Hans was far more empowering.
In his version, the Prince also takes a shine to the little mermaid after she dances for him since she can't communicate with her voice.
Unfortunately, he only considers her as, and these are his words, his dumb child.
He lets her sleep on a velvet cushion outside his bedroom while he continues to pine for the woman who rescued him from the sea.
Who he conveniently decides is the gorgeous princess his parents make him visit in a foreign kingdom.
The night of the wedding, the Little Mermaid's sisters surface above the waves.
They traded their hair to the sea witch for an enchanted knife.
All the Little Mermaid has to do is plunge it into the Prince's heart while he sleeps beside his new queen.
And then she'll turn back into a mermaid and live the rest of her 300 years with her family.
The Little Mermaid takes the knife,
Creeps into the bridal bedchambers and tosses it overboard. And herself after it.
At which point, by the rules of the story, she's supposed to turn into sea foam.
But Hans tosses us the all Danish dance and a curveball.
Hundreds of transparent, luminous daughters of the air come to her rescue.
You see, they spend their existence seeking good deeds from children to shorten their 300-year waiting period to make it into heaven.
Since the Little Mermaid epitomizes such good behavior, they make her one of them, with one little moralizing wrinkle to cup up the whole story.
Since the Little Mermaid was a fairy tale for children, Hans Christian wraps up his story with a quota to keep the kiddos on their best behavior.
The acts of which children subtract a year from the daughters of the air's 300-year waiting period to get into heaven.
But a naughty child makes them cry, and a day is added to their wait for each tear.