The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning

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Rating: G

Starring:
Jodi Benson as Ariel (voice)
Lorelei Hill Butters as Queen Athena (voice)
Jim Cummings as King Triton (voice)
Sally Field as Marina
Parker Goris as Flounder (voice)
Kari Wahlgren as Alana (voice)
Samuel E. Wright as Sebastian (voice)

Special Features:
Deleted Scenes
Disney Song Selection
Mermaid Discovery Vanity Game
Personality Profile Game
“Splashdance”:Behind-The-Scenes Featurette
“The Little Mermaid: Under the Sea and Behind the Scenes on Broadway” — Meet Members of the Cast and Go Backstage to See the Magic Behind the Broadway Musical Hit “The Little Mermaid”

Other Info:
Widescreen (1.78:1)
DTS 5.1 Surround Sound
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Spanish and French Languages
Running Time: 77 Minutes

Synopsis:
The following is from the official synopsis of the film:

“See how it all started for one of Disney’s most beloved characters in the all-new movie, ‘The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning.’ Imagine a time long before Ariel met Prince Eric and walked on land — a time when music was banned from the underwater kingdom of Atlantica. Torn between family duty and her love of music, Ariel must make the most difficult choice of her life. With the help of her friends, Sebastian and Flounder and her six amusing sisters, will the young mermaid be able to restore music, friendship and love to the kingdom? An all-star cast returns, including Jodi Benson (Ariel) and Samuel E. Wright (Sebastian) — plus meet the deliciously wicked villain Marina Del Rey — in a marvelous musical adventure teeming with surprises, breathtaking animation and all-new songs.”

“The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning” is rated G.

Mini-Review:
Having grown up with two younger sisters and now having a daughter, I’m pretty well versed in “The Little Mermaid.” You name it, I’ve seen it. So I was curious to see what “Ariel’s Beginning” would have to offer. There was no question that little girls would like it, but was there anything entertaining here for the adults forced to sit through it? The answer is yes… sort of.

Disney made the good move of bringing back Jodi Benson as Ariel and Samuel E. Wright as Sebastian. They lend a bit of authenticity to this movie that many Disney straight-to-video sequels don’t have. It’s like revisiting old friends. The addition of Sally Field to the cast as the governess Marina was also a good bit of casting. She seems to be a natural at voice acting and I was very surprised to see that her only other cartoon role was on an episode of “King of the Hill.” As for the animation, it’s better than most TV animation or straight-to-video films, but still nothing groundbreaking. Fortunately, the weaker animation is compensated with some decent songs. One is a lullaby from Ariel’s dead mother (yes, they continue the Disney tradition of murdering parents of their lead characters) and a musical number from a secret undersea club.

So what’s the down side? Well, the story is a little weak. It focuses on King Neptune banning music from his kingdom after Ariel’s mother is killed by Captain Jack Sparrow… at least I think it was him. It was a pirate, anyway. The point is it’s not a real engaging plot. This film also lacks the timelessness of the previous “Little Mermaid” movie. As much as I liked Sally Field as Marina, at one point her character sings disco, dances in front of the Eiffel Tower, and does other things that don’t fit the setting. It takes the story from being a fairy tale to yet another cartoon that tries too hard to be funny. Throw in the OK animation and songs that you pretty much forget when the movie is over and you see why this one probably won’t get the ‘Classic’ label.

That being said, kids will love it. Even my young boys enjoyed watching it with their older sister. In short, if you need to entertain some kiddies for a while, this will do.

There’s a decent selection of bonus features on the DVD. There are two Deleted Scenes entitled “Sebastian Waking the Girls” and “Ariel Follows Flounder.” There is also database on Ariel’s sisters an a personality test to determine which sister you’re most like. “Splashdance” details the making of the movie and how dancer Peggy Holmes transitioned to director of this feature. Finally, “The Little Mermaid: Under the Sea and Behind the Scenes on Broadway” is pretty self-explanatory. It’s a look at the stage play.

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