The Little Mermaid

A Valley-girl mermaid, living underwater with an imperious king for a father and a diminutive black servant (a Jamaican crab), falls in love with a surfer-type above-water prince against the wishes of her dad and strikes a deal with a witch that entails giving up her voice in exchange for an all-human form. This is the premise of the Disney studio’s lively and tacky 1989 animated feature, very loosely based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, written and directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, with songs by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken. Other colorful characters include a befuddled seagull (with the voice of Buddy Hackett), a sadistic French chef, and a friendly fish called Flounder. The plot sticks pretty closely to the usual Disney formula, although a few concessions to contemporary traumas are worked in; e.g., when the wicked witch deprives the king and other characters of their powers, they turn into fetuses. Within the apparently necessary aesthetic and ideological limitations (such as making the hero and heroine Americans surrounded by foreign servants a la Pinocchio), the animation manages to be fairly energetic. (JR)

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