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Fridge: The Little Mermaid

The Disney movie

Fridge Brilliance
  • Remember the polyps in Ursula's cave? How they grabbed onto Ariel? They were trying to SAVE HER.
  • This troper has always wondered why Eric's boots came off in the ocean, and he's barefoot when Ariel brings him ashore, as boots cannot come off in the water that easily. Then it hit me. Eric's bare feet being seen is meant to highlight something Eric, a human, has, but Ariel, a mermaid, does not have, which is obviously something (along with legs) she'd need if she wanted to be with him!
    • Which would explain why she spends so much time looking at her toes after she stops almost drowning.
  • Ursula the Sea Witch angrily refers to Ariel as "the little tramp" because she almost got Prince Eric to kiss her, even though she can't speak. Well, Charlie Chaplin, the brilliant silent movie star, was most famous for his "Little Tramp" character, who of course was never heard speaking. Dendarii Dame
  • In the beginning scenes of the movie, the sailors and Eric are commenting on the perfect sailing weather, and the sailors say that it must be because Triton is in a good mood, letting Eric know that Triton was, in legend, king of the sea. While they were either joking or being superstitious, Triton was in a good mood: he was about to watch his youngest daughter's musical debut. When she didn't show up and he found out that she went to the surface instead, he was furious at her and later got upset over how harshly he'd spoken to her. So maybe it is the sailors' superstition, but Triton happened to be in a bad mood when Eric and his men got caught up in the storm at night.
  • Ursula is supposed to be half-octopus, but she has six tentacles instead. That is, unless if you count her arms as limbs, which means that she actually indeed has eight limbs from the start.
    • Octopuses are one of those animals that mutate horribly easily - they've been found with less than eight, right up to dozens of tentacles.
  • During the chanting part of Ursula's song, one of the words she says in the song is laryngitis a.k.a. the disease that makes you lose your voice!
    • The line is "Larynxes, glossitis, ad max laryngitis, la voce to me." Larynx is the voicebox, glossits is an inflammation of the tounge, la voce is Italian for voice, etc.
  • Ursula's human alias is Vanessa. Vanessa is a genus of butterfly. Butterflies are well-known as the masters of metamorphosis and mimicry. 
    • Adding to this, the main ingredient in the potion she uses to change herself is a butterfly.
  • While this version cut out much of the darker material in Hans Christian Andersen's story, it does include a sly reference to the tale's Bittersweet Ending. The film names the mermaid Ariel, which at first glance is simply a reference to the air-spirit of the same name in The Tempest. But at the end of Andersen's original story, the mermaid makes a Heroic Sacrifice to save the prince she loves and throws herself into the ocean to become sea foam; instead of ceasing to exist, she's rewarded for her goodness by becoming an air spirit. - TechnicolorPachyderm
  • When you remember that Ursula was inspired by a cross-dresser it makes a lot of sense why she wants Ariel's voice; so she can be more of a woman.
  • At first the whole "three days to fall in love" concept sounds a bit trite, especially since it takes a lot more than three days to love someone truly. But then you remember that Ursula never wanted Ariel to fall in love. She probably knew true love would take more time to develop and made it three days to ensure Failure Is the Only Option!
  • Ursula's example in "Poor Unfortunate Souls" of the wimpy guy and fat girl, who she makes buff and thin respectively: their story is "this one longing to be thinner, that one wants to get the girl". They didn't need her magic. He already wanted her just the way she was and she only wanted to be thin to be attractive! This nicely illustrates Ursula's tactic with Ariel. Ursula is the one who says the only way to win Eric's heart is for her to become human, and then immediately sets a deal in front of her to make it happen.
  • Various small moments in the film seem to show Eric ruling over a seafaring kingdom. If Ursula hadn't been destroyed, her power over the ocean would have caused devastation on land. Following that logic, in addition to protecting Ariel, Eric saved his entire kingdom by destroying Ursula.
  • Ariel signed the contract with Ursula, right? Then why didn't she think of writing a message for Eric?
    • We still don't know if Atlanticans use the same written alphabet of Danish people: in a different medium this tropers remembers a piece in Aquaman where Vulko, the resident sage, mentions that the Atlantean's alphabet is a complex system with vocals, consonants and alcerips (basically a third kind of letter used for diphthongs). At least two thirds of Ariel's attempts could have ended in random squiggles.
      • Yes, we do. She signs her name on Ursula's contract (in appropriately-princesslike calligraphy, even!)
  • Ariel was able to climb up the wedding barge (offscreen, but still) which only had a few skinny poles. Why? She's been climbing up all sorts things before (Eric's ship, the rock during the reprise, getting Eric's body on shore) and is used to improvising. Not to mention that was all done mostly with her arms, which were unchanged by Ursula.

Fridge Horror
  • When Ariel gets the shark stuck in the anchor, it's obvious he can't go forward, but sharks can't swim backwards
    • It's possible that once he heard Ariel's story, Triton sent some hunters out to finish him off; see below.
  • When Sebastian sees the stuffed crabs in the palace kitchen. It's Played for Laughs, but how would you feel if you encountered roasted human corpses torn open and stuffed with herbs and breadcrumbs?
  • Ursula's first appearance has her lamenting that she's "wasted away into nothing," and "practically starving." At first, you laugh at it, seeing how, er—big, she still is. But wait... if she genuinely believes she's wasted away and feels starved...how big was she beforehand??? Oh God, please don't tell me her One-Winged Angel form was her previous true form, oh God, please...
    • It could be taken metaphorically - when she lived in the palace she was wealthy and powerful and respected - probably the equivalent of the court magician - and now she's become a nobody.
  • Ariel signing that contract is effectively her signing away her soul. And without your soul you become a polyp. When I was young, I always figured that was what people look like without souls. When I heard about the sad ending of the original where the Little Mermaid dissolved into foam at the end because mermaids apparently don't have souls, it just made even more sense.
  • So Ursula is supposed to have an octopus lower torso. But if you consider the fact that in real life, that's where the octopus' mouth is supposed to be, what is supposed to be the octopus' mouth in real life becomes's Ursula's anus!
    • Maybe it's supposed to be a hint to the audience that, as a chronic liar seeking to destroy Ariel for her own pleasure and profit, she's talking out of her ass when she's making the deal?
    • The boring part is that it was hard to animate eight tentacles. That's why Morgana, animated eleven years later, got 8—they were able to handle it.
  • This may not be fridge for some of you, but it just occurred to me recently: Ursula is probably gay. Her design is based on a drag queen, her voice actress, who already has a low voice, lowered her voice for the role, she's extremely flamboyant, and she has a creepy amount of sexually suggestive scenes/comments regarding Ariel, as well as a growing obsession with her. With that all in mind, watch Poor Unfortunate Souls again, you know, the scene where the villain takes the helpless young girl into her shady lair, gropes her with her tentacles, and finally takes her voice, thus removing her ability to say no and ultimately puts Ariel directly in her power? Not as obvious as Hellfire, but chilling nonetheless.
    • Actually, this makes even more sense when you learn from the supplements that she may or may not have been in love with Ariel's father. 
      • They may or may not be siblings, which is even more horrific. Nobody mentions it in the movie or sequel, Ursula isn't in Ariel's Beginning, and they are siblings on Broadway.
    • Her being a rather sadistic Depraved Bisexual seems a bit more likely; she clearly enjoys seducing Ariel into a Deal with the Devil, but she also makes clear from the start that it's really Triton she wants to see suffer the most, and Ariel is the means to that end. (Besides, if you put a male who's into other males into a female body, doesn't that kind of make him... straight again? Ursula seems like she'd be just as depraved if she were male.)
  • Their mother's name is Athena. The goddess Athena had a problem with the god of the sea, Poseidon. The mother is never shown. Um, wait, what?
    • But the mother is shown in the prequel and I'm not sure what the Fridge Horror of that is anyway.
      • It is possible the original post refers to one of the many, many interpretations of Greek myth where Poseidon raped Athena and then stole the children from her that he fathered. It must be pointed out that Athena being present in tie-in films means nothing to the 75% of the fandom that denies their very existence - this Fridge Horror entry works especially well if you believe that there is only one film in which Areal's mother is practically never mentioned. 
    • Her father is Triton whose the son of Poseidon and while Athena does hold grudges in the stories she doesn't tend to punish Poseidon's children for it. 
  • What exactly do Merfolk eat? Because before anyone replies with the answer a diet of seaweed and other assorted underwater plants I will point to the fact that they very clearly have evolved meat tearing teeth; if they were designed to eat nothing but roughage their teeth would be large and flat just like every other herbivore. So... all those completely and absolutely sapient, laughing singing and dancing, brightly colored jolly fish would have at some point in recent history been a Mermaid's dinner. And they were probably begging for their life as they did it. This not only casts a whole new light on the Merfolk hatred for humans (a past they would rather forget perhaps?) it actually makes Ariel's relationship with Flounder seem rather creepy in retrospect. 
    • Kelp. They eat kelp.
    • Perhaps krill. They're a good source of protein and too small to converse with on a one on one basis.
    • How about sharks? The one that attacked Ariel and Flounder certainly didn't seem all that sentient, and shark meat is somewhat popular at seafood restaurants. Assuming they are omnivorous, the mermen and mermaids might well enjoy turning the tables on a predator by eating him. In fact, under other circumstances, Triton might even have congratulated Ariel and Flounder for trapping such a massive shark; that's enough meat for a banquet!
    • Perhaps it's similar to The Lion King, where a deleted scene shows Mufasa talking to an antelope with the following exchange: "Catch you later!" "Not if I can help it!" Circle of life and all that...
    • Evolved? This is a setting with species-changing magic. The original merfolk may well have been created from humans by a reversed version of the spell cast on Ariel.
  • So, Ariel's got three days to charm True Love's Kiss out of Eric, right? But she doesn't really know the guy at all, he's just a pretty face that she's projected her love of the surface onto. What would have happened if he'd fallen in love and kissed her, but she had realized in that time that she wasn't truly in love with him?
    • Send Flounder or Sebastian to get her father and have him change her back. Sure, she'd still be mute and Eric would be heartbroken but that's just something she'd have to live with.
  • The confrontation between Ariel and Triton when he discovers her grotto full of human treasures is unsettling enough at first. Then he pulls out his trident and starts blasting them all to pieces directly in front of her. With him in a rage and her desperately trying to stop him, and then trying to save her things from being destroyed - in all the chaos, it's not hard to imagine how easily she could have accidentally gotten in his line of fire...
  • Ursula, being extremely Genre Savvy for a Disney villain, removes the one thing that her victims would find most helpful to fulfill their contract to her. In Ariel's case it was her voice to make it ridiculously hard for Eric fall in love and impart that one true kiss. So what the hell did Ursula take away from that Mermaid who just wanted to be thinner during Poor Unfortunate Souls in order for her to fail her contract? Because I have horrible images of the poor thing gorging herself to bursting point after Ursula stole her self-control.
    • Or her hunger entirely, or her ability to eat and/or digest food...
  • When Ursula dies, what happens to that gigantic body that sinks into the sea? Does it just rot away, or does she turn into lobster food, or what?
    • An awful lot of scavenging hagfish can't believe their luck, probably.
    • Free calamari, anyone?
  • Wouldn't Morgana's ice prison eventually melt?
  • Let's just be glad Ariel wasn't wearing pants when her legs decided to turn into a tail again.

Fridge Logic
  • A conversation of the creepy things Disney gets away with in kids movies brought me to the sudden realization that the Little Mermaid is, at heart, a watered down version of Faust. Both protaganists feel they've reached the heights of their current lives, both make a Deal with the Devil to pursue a life they believe will bring them more happiness, both fixiate on a love interest which leads to them messing up royally, ruining the lives (permanently or temporarily) of a bunch of people, both end up being redeemed at the end. The original Hans Christian Anderson version of the Little Mermaid even more strongly parallels this, as much of the mermaid's motivation was to receive a soul, and at the end of the story she did, sort of. After suffering and dying, instead of just being dead, she is made into a spirit and given the chance of eventually earning soulhood and going to Heaven. In Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and subsequent adaptations, Faust's soul is eventually redeemed after he goes to great lengths to make up for the guilt of ruining Gretchen. In fact, Anderson could have drawn from elements of Faust, as he was well educated, and the legend of Faust predated him by at least 200 years.
  • Upon a rewatching with friends this troper remembered Ariel's age, 16. At the end of the film she gets married. At least in the sequel we don't know how old she is when she had her daughter.
    • It could be worse. In some parts of the USA people can marry as young as 14. In some Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia, girls can legally be married off as young as nine and in a few places such as Pakistan, there is no minimum age for marriage in the law. Yeah, think about that for a minute...
      • Note: in the U.S. where marriages below 18 are allowed parental consent is required for those that are not legal adults. Anyways, concerning Ariel's age, people used to grow up much faster than they do now, the concept of 'teenager' as we know it being a relatively recent thing. If it bugs you enough, feel free to imagine a bit of a time skip between Ariel's second transformation into a human and the wedding.
    • Please remember this also takes place in the 1600-1700's; so, it's Values Dissonance.
    • In fact, one of the curiosities of this movie is that Ariel's whole personality would be a lot less typical of a 16-year-old girl back in the 17th or 18th century than nowadays. Might the writers be secretly hinting that Triton's underwater kingdom is actually a few centuries ahead of Eric's in development of its social mores?
  • This troper's noticed a lot of people commenting on Ariel's reaction to breathing air the first time after being turned into a human. Thing is, she just came up from probably a good few dozen feet below sea level, propelled by two small sea creatures and what little movement she could do with her legs(having been used to fins her whole life). She was probably was under for a few minutes at least. Now think of how you would feel if you had held your breath for that long, if you hadn't passed out beforehand.
  • Judging from their existence in her collection, Ariel has never seen a knife, fork, or spoon before, and presumably has no idea what they're for (considering she takes Scuttle's word that a fork is a hair-styling tool called a dinglehopper). So... do these supposedly cultured and advanced merfolk just eat with their hands? How do they craft their clothes, their instruments, their furniture, if something as simple as a blade is foreign to Ariel (and thus, one would assume, to merfolk in general)?
  • Scutttle gets the uses of a fork and a comb mixed up. given that he's he's fairly unfamiliar with both, that's fair enough, but where does he come up with the name dinglehopper?
    • Ass Pull on Scuttle's part. He doesn't actually know what any of the human objects are called (or what they are for), but he still wants to look smart. So he just makes up a name.

The TV Series:

Fridge Brilliance
  • In episode 2 when visiting the Sharkanians, Ariel emphasises that Sebastian is the ambassador. She never tells them that she is Triton's daughter or uses her authority as a princess. The brilliance? She knows the Sharkanians are devious and not to be trusted, and telling them she is the princess is likely to get her kidnapped or ransomed.
  • Sebastian shows that he has somewhat of a way with children in "Double Bubble". Of course that's why Triton chooses him to keep an eye on Ariel in the movie.
  • As noted under Villain Decay, Ursula isn't quite as menacing as she is in the movie. In the movie when Ariel first gets asked to go to her, she knows Ursula is bad news (her treatment of the Bad Luck Creature). But she still reconsiders, which she wouldn't have done if Ursula had been as menacing as in the film.

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