Okay, guys, I'm totally going to geek out here. In an embarrassing way. I am a middle-aged woman who is a big fan of The Little Mermaid. The Disney one. I was totally obsessed with that movie when I was a little girl, watching it over and over, endlessly. Then my parents made the mistake of giving me the cassette of the soundtrack, so I proceeded to listen to that endlessly on our long road trips, belting out the songs and clips of dialogue. As a result, I can still karaoke any Little Mermaid song without looking at the screen, still feeling a little rush of excitement and delight. I remember playing mermaid in the pool with my friends, linking my feet together like flippers. I didn't really watch the sequels - like with Aladdin, another great Disney remake, I find the follow-ups to just be kind of sad substitutes.
Weirdly, my husband just gifted me the DVD a few days ago (I didn't own it because my much-watched VHS version is at my parents' house) - and now I find out that it's the movie's 25th anniversary!
In case you didn't know, Ariel's story is not originally a Disney creation (not a big shocker there). It's actually based on a much darker story, "The Little Mermaid," written by legendary Danish fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen in 1837. Instead of the happy ending typical of a Disney movie, in which Ariel gets to keep her legs and live happily with her prince, the mermaid in the original tale does not get her happy ending.
**Spoiler Alert Here**
In Andersen's version, the prince ends up marrying a neighboring princess through a misunderstanding, and the heartbroken little mermaid has to choose whether to save herself and become a mermaid again by killing the prince and his bride, or to face death. She can't bring herself to do it, she throws herself into the sea, turns into foam, and becomes a spirit.
Grim, right? Fun fact here - that version of the story is featured prominently in one of the best K-Dramas out there, Secret Garden. I almost exclusively prefer the original versions of stories, but in this case - I think I'll take Ariel, despite all the possible complicated social commentaries one could make about it. I just can't help but love it!
Lauren Duca wrote a great piece about the creation of Disney's Little Mermaid for the Huffington Post, including insight from co-writers and directors Ron Clements and John Musker on how they turned Hans Christian Andersen's disturbing fairy tale into a classic children's movie. It's linked here - I recommend the article as a great inside look at Ariel's origin story and at the mermaid as a pop culture phenomenon.
Now go find it somewhere and indulge in some Under the Sea magic - you know you want to!