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Tear Jerker / The Little Mermaid

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The Short Story

  • It's a Hans Christian Andersen story. It doesn't just jerk tears out of you, it reaches into your eye sockets and claws them out of you. Then it makes you feel guilty for crying by having the mermaid — now a daughter of the air trying to earn her freedom — serve another day for every tear shed over a misbehaving child.

The Anime

  • Marina sings a dark reprise of her song on the night of her death.
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  • The ending to the anime is possibly worse than the short story. Right after Marina jumps into the sea, the Prince remembers her... but it's too late. Fritz is left to tearfully chase the sea foam that was Marina.
  • Right after said ending, the narrator attempts to dry everyone's tears by stating that Marina gained a soul and ascended to Heaven, unlike the short story, where her soul will be stuck in limbo for 300 years. Slightly reassuring, but it doesn't change the fact that Marina had friends and family who loved her dearly and have lost her.
  • The ever faithful Fritz promises Marina that if she ever needs him, she should shine her pearl hair pin high in the air as a signal. In her desperate hour she shines it, and not a moment later Fritz swims straight for her. All along he has kept watch over his friend, always nearby. The scene that follows is a literal tear jerker for the two characters, but the fact that Fritz must have spent months patroling the shore in case of Marina's need is heartwrenching.
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  • The sisters appearing with their hair cut short, which was done by the sea witch in exchange for a magical knife. They appear because they want to help their youngest sister, but it's all for nothing, because Marina can't bring herself to kill the prince.

The Disney film
"Poor child", indeed.
  • "Part of your World". Especially at that Last Chorus Slow-Down towards the end.
  • Ariel sobbing after Triton destroys the grotto and everything in it. And then Flotsam and Jetsam show up...
    • Made even worse when, as an adult, you realize that outside of a Disney universe, what Triton did qualifies as straight-up emotional abuse. Destroying your child's property, even in anger, has the potential to scar them for life. It doesn't help that it easily allowed Flotsam and Jetsam to take advantage of her either.
    • Sebastian's grief over the whole thing, as he indirectly caused the incident when he accidentally blurted out Ariel's secret.
      Sebastian: Ariel, I—
      Ariel: Just go away.
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    • Later followed by
      Ariel: (coldly) Why don't you go and tell my father? You're good at that!
    • Even Triton seems to have realized what he has done was too far witnessing her sobbing. His face after seeing what he's done and broken her heart is awful.
    • One from the sequel that technically fits here; in the sequel, Ariel sings in her Grotto. This means that Triton either fixed everything he smashed... or went up to the human world willingly and obtained them. Either way, he's restored the pride and joy of his teenage daughter!
    • Even before he destroys everything, the argument between father and daughter. Ariel is basically being yelled at for saving someone's life. Her father - a man she clearly loves, adores and respects - is telling her she should have let an innocent boy drown just because he was a human.
    • And after Ariel blurts out "Daddy I love him!", she has a look of horror on her face and hides behind the statue of Eric. She obviously didn't mean to say that, she's sensed that she's going to be punished and she's terrified.
  • Triton's Adult Fear over Ariel and Sebastian's disappearance has "My God, What Have I Done?" written all over it. He even sobs the words to himself when he's alone, confirming he has realized he went way too far.
  • When Ursula wages a deal with Triton to hand the kingdom over to her to get Ariel back. Seeing how his own actions caused this chain of events, he sadly hangs his head down and willingly signs the contract.
    • Then Ariel being forced to watch her father turned into another of Ursula's shrivelled minions as a repercussion of her hasty actions. From that point she snaps.
  • Ariel excitedly running down stairs, only to see Eric being romantic with "Vanessa".
  • In a strange sort of way, Ursula mourning the loss of her minions and the Mama Bear-fueled rampage she commits afterward.
  • The entirety of the ending. Yes, all of it. Though, in this case, it's more of a case of happy tears. It's the one moment that you realise that Disney, despite a few films that we do not mention, can do tearjerking scenes!
    • Triton finally realises that Ariel does love Eric and changes her into a human, no deals made and no strings attached, so that she can be free and happy, no matter how much it hurts him while bells toll victoriously in the background. The look on Ariel's face is one of sheer and utter joy and Triton smiles sadly, yet happily for his daughter. And Sebastian - he's so happy!
      Triton: Then, I guess there's just one problem left.
      Sebastian: And what's dat, Your Majesty?
      Triton: [sadly] How much I'm going to miss her. [changes Ariel into a human]
    • Max licking Ariel's face after she and Eric are married; this time, there's no fear from her - and he's utterly and completely thrilled to be correct - he knew Ariel was the one who saved Eric and he's done it, they're together!
    • Carlotta bawling her eyes out with joy into Grimsby's tie.
    • Every single merperson and many aquatic creatures that knows Ariel, along with all her sisters, waving goodbye; one of them actually looks to Triton and shares a smile.
    • Flounder's sad face and Scuttle's wink as the two return to the sea after Ariel kisses the former and ruffles the hair of the latter.
    • Sebastian, holding the bride and groom figurine on the wedding cake, with tears in his eyes.
    • Triton rises from the water to embrace his daughter - hesitating a moment to look at her, knowing she's leaving for good - and then, Ariel says the one line that - if you heart already wasn't broken - breaks your heart:
      "I love you, Daddy."
    • The look on Triton's face after he and Ariel separate and, a Triumphant Reprise of "Part of Your World" blasts at us. Then, Eric bows to Triton and the Sea King bows back with Ariel smiling happily. Yes, he bows to a human - a member of the same species that killed off his wife, showing just how much Triton has changed. Then, he cups his daughter's face gently and lowers himself back to the sea... while his daughter blows a kiss.
      "Now we can walk, now we can run, now we can stay all day in the suuuuunn, just you and me, and I can be, part of your woooorrrrrlllllllddddddd"
    • Even more so in the international dubs that feature Ariel's voice singing the end reprise along with the choir.
    • Finally, as the boat leaves and the happy couple waves, Triton fills the air with a rainbow and Ariel and Eric end the film with true love's kiss.
      • The final shot of Ariel and Eric kissing is a meta example, as it was the final piece of "true" cel animation in a Disney film. Starting with The Rescuers Down Under, Disney switched to the Computer Animation Production System (CAPS), which utilized various digital techniques, and was used in all of their 2D animated films until Home on the Range.

The TV Series

  • The deaf mermaid Gabriella was based on a real deaf girl, a fan of the show who died during the first season's run. In her first appearance, "Wish Upon a Starfish", she's heartbroken to realize that the great wishing starfish can't actually grant wishes, which means that she'll never be granted a voice. As it turns out, she doesn't feel she can fully express herself without one. Luckily, Ariel reassures her that her sign language is as beautiful and expressive as speech would be.
  • The episode where Ariel feels she can't go home because a bracelet got stuck on her arm and she doesn't want her father angry with her.
    Ariel: I... I can't go home.

The stage musical

  • The song "If Only" in the second act. Ariel, Eric, Sebastian, and Triton all sing about how much they wish they could understand someone they care about.
    Ariel: If only it were true, if only for a while. If only you would notice how I ache behind my smile. I guess you never will. I guess it never shows. But if I never find a way to tell you so...oh, what I would give, if only you could know.
    • Eric despairing over how how he has to meet the girl who saved his life. Turns out, now he doesn't want to find that girl (unaware that it's Ariel herself)...because he's falling in love with Ariel, who as far as he knows, doesn't have the beautiful voice he wants.
    Eric: Maybe I'll find that voice...but I'll lose her...
    Sebastian: I'd give my life up to make it happen.
    Triton: I'm just getting over losing her dear sweet mother
    • Better yet, in the revised script:
    How could I have pushed her to the point of having no one left to turn to?
    What if I have lost her, and its all my fault she's gone!?
  • When Ariel approaches Eric during the ceremony where he's meant to choose a princess to marry and tentatively dances for him, the other princesses in attendance mock and laugh at her.
  • The Finale's extended reprise of "Part of Your World" is even more of a Tears of Joy-jerker than the film's finale:
    Ensemble: And now at last, love has surpassed each tribulation
    Mermaid and man finally can join and be one
    Now they can smile, walking the aisle, here at their wedding celebration
    Eric: Sailing forward, Ariel: Standing steady,Both: Starting life completely ready!
    Ensemble: Now they can be who they're meant to be
    Now they can gaze on a new horizon
    Here between ocean and sky, forever and on
    Now they can walk
    Now they can run
    Now that at last their story's begun
    Eric: Just you and me
    Ariel: And I will be


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