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Trivia / The Little Mermaid (1989)

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  • Acting for Two:
    • Jodi Benson voices both Ariel and Vanessa (Ursula's alter-ego).
    • Caroline Vasicek voices Attina and Aquata in the original English version. Hilariously enough, Vasicek would later go on to voice Ariel in the 1998 Austrian German dub.
    • Patti Edwards voices Flotsam and Jetsam.
  • Ascended Meme: The "Hipster Ariel" image macro got turned into an officially licensed Disney toy.
  • Creator Backlash:
    • James Baxter was embarrassed by most of his animation of Ariel, particularly the scene where she says "Daddy, I love him!"—in his own words, he said he made her look like a fish eyed freak and apologized to her head animator Glen Keane for drawing her too Off-Model.
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    • Animator Will Finn enjoyed working on The Little Mermaid, but he stated on his Small Room blog that he was not happy with his animation of Grimsby, saying there are only one or two scenes he did that don't make him cringe today.
    • Ariel's character designer and animation industry veteran, Dan Haskett, said in a 2005 interview that Sebastian had several distasteful traits shared with stereotypes of black people, Jamaicans especially, namely his exaggerated accent, protruding lower lip and popping eyes. Haskett had a rather dim view of Disney and the coworkers who were in charge of conceptualizing Sebastian.note .
  • Crossdressing Voices:
    • Flotsam and Jetsam, both male eels, are voiced by Paddi Edwards. Averted in the Japanese dub, where they're voiced by Shūichirō Moriyama.
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    • In the Latin American Spanish dub, Ursula was voiced by Ángel Garza, who was credited under Serena Olvido. Ironically enough, he is an actual Drag Queen. The Arabic dub also had a male actor provide her singing voice.
  • Cut Song: "Silence is Golden" was an early song for Ursula, cut because the creators didn't like it. The musical has this trope in spades "Where I Belong" (Eric, later restored as part of "Fathoms Below" in the revised production) and Ursula's reprise of "Her Voice" were cut after the tryout in Denver. The post-Broadway revision cut "Human Stuff" and the reprises of "The World Above" and "Sweet Child", and replaced "I Want the Good Times Back" with "Daddy's Little Angel". 3 cut songs that still got to the public, via leaked demo tape are: "Wasting Away", "All Good Things Must End" and an alternate version of "Poor Unfortunate Souls (Reprise)". There are several the public has never heard, such as "That Oughta Show Her" and a reprise for it, and "Ursula's Incantation II".
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  • Cross-Regional Voice Acting: The 1998 Austrian German dub retains Beate Hasenau, Ron Williams, and Oliver Stritzel as the respective voices of Ursula, Sebastian, and Flotsam & Jetsam from the dub produced in Berlin and Munich. Meanwhile, local actors from Vienna were used for the rest of the cast.
  • Dawson Casting: Jodi Benson was in her mid-twenties voicing the sixteen-year-old Ariel. However it's an aversion for Christopher Daniel Barnes, voicing Eric, as he actually was sixteen at the time.
  • Deleted Scene:
    • The "Fathoms Below" number ran longer and revealed that Ursula was actually Triton's sister, making her Ariel's aunt.
    • A scene just before the concert where Sebastian discovers that Ariel is missing.
    • An extra bit of Ursula/Ariel dialogue before "Poor Unfortunate Souls" explaining why Ursula was banished.
    • More of Sebastian getting lost in Eric's castle.
    • Sebastian giving Ariel even more advice.
    • The original climax was slightly different. Ariel would have knocked the Trident out of Ursula's hands to prevent her from attacking Eric, Flounder and Sebastian, but would have been knocked unconscious in the process. Ursula would then fight Eric (in normal size) and Eric would defeat Ursula by obtaining the Trident from Sebastian and using it to impale her. Ursula's shell would then fall to the sea floor, restoring Ariel's voice and bringing her back to life.
    • In addition, after Ursula's defeat, Ariel would have had a short scene where she apologizes to Triton.
    • Ariel transforming into a human at the end would have her walking on the beach singing a Triumphant Reprise of "Part of Your World", which then segues into the wedding.
  • Development Hell: Walt Disney himself commissioned an early storyboard that hedged much closer to the Andersen original, which the crew of the final version eventually discovered. You can see these sketches on the DVD.
  • Died During Production:
    • Divine, the famous drag queen who Ursula’s design was based on, was originally announced as the voice of Ursula. However, he succumbed to an enlarged heart on March 7, 1988, so Pat Carroll was cast instead.
    • Ben Wright, who played Grimsby, died of complications from heart surgery in July 1989, four months before the film's release.
  • Dueling Dubs: The film was dubbed into German three times:
    • The first was produced in 1990 at Berliner Synchron in Berlin, with Dorette Hugo and Ute Lemper as the respective speaking and singing voices of Ariel.
    • Eight years later, two more dubs were produced: one at FFS Film-& Fernseh-Synchron in Munich and Berlin, and the second at Tonstudio Heinz in Vienna. To this day, it is the only Disney film to feature an Austrian German dub.
  • Dueling Movies:
    • Released just a few days before All Dogs Go to Heaven, and unlike the last Walt Disney vs. Don Bluth matchups, the Disney film would be the most successful.
      • An interesting point of Irony: All Dogs Go to Heaven ends with Charlie B. Barkin having lost his chance of getting into heaven, and nevertheless sacrificing himself to save Anne-Marie, but then that selfless act actually gets him into heaven. Thematically, this is more in the spirit of Andersen's fairy tale than the Disney film that's actually based on it.
    • In 1997, The Little Mermaid again entered a competition against Don Bluth, when it returned to theaters on the same day that Anastasia premiered. Anastasia earned a higher gross.
  • Dueling Dubs: In some countries, such as Finland, France, Germany and Greece, the film has been dubbed twice with the original dubs being released in 1990 and redubs in 1998.
  • Enforced Method Acting: When Jodi Benson sang "Part of Your World", she recorded the song in a darkened room to get that "under the sea" feeling.
  • Executive Meddling: Jeffrey Katzenberg caused the animators and others working on the film quite a bit of grief. One memorable instance was his insistence that the whole "Part of Your World" sequence be excised from the film, saying that he found it "boring" and also because he saw a child drop a box of popcorn and then struggle to clean it up during that moment in a test screening. Animator Glen Keane eventually persuaded Katzenberg to let them test the film again with a more adult audience and that scene intact, and the positive response convinced Katzenberg to leave it in. He admitted in a 2006 interview that the whole experience was "deeply embarrassing."
  • Fake Nationality: Samuel E. Wright, the voice of the Rastafarian crab Sebastian is actually from South Carolina.
  • Image Source:
  • In Memoriam: The Sirius XM station Disney Hits began frequently playing "Under The Sea" and "Kiss The Girl" after the passing of Samuel E. Wright, who played Sebastian. It got to the point where the latter became the 11th most-played song on the station over a 30 day period.
  • Method Acting: Jodi Benson had the lights in the studio dimmed while recording "Part of Your World" in order to help imagine she was underwater.
  • Multiple Languages, Same Voice Actor: Sissel Kyrkjebø, better known for her classical crossover songs as well as Titanic, voiced Ariel in the Norwegian and Swedish dubs. She also provided the character's singing voice in the Danish dub.
  • The Other Darrin:
    • Flounder has been replaced various times during the franchise, due to being (most of the time) voiced by a real kid. Jason Marin played him in the first film. Edan Gross played him for the first half of the television series, and was replaced with Bradley Pierce (Chip, from Beauty and the Beast). Courtland Mead voiced him for merchandise released in the '90s (including the Animated Storybook CD-ROM, as well as a few toys), Cam Clarke voiced him in the sequel (due to him being an adult), and Parker Gloris played him in the prequel and the Kingdom Hearts series.
    • After Buddy Hackett died in 2003, Chris Edgerly took over for all of Scuttle's subsequent appearances in the Disney theme parks.
    • In the Norwegian dub, Sissel Kyrkjebø received wide acclaim for her performance as Ariel, but she was replaced by Guri Schanke both in the sequels and the TV series.
  • The Other Marty: The first choice for Ursula went to drag performer Divine, fresh off of his role in Hairspray, however, he died of an enlarged heart before he could record any lines. Broadway performer Elaine Stritch was chosen next, but due to her refusing to perform "Poor Unfortunate Souls" at Ashman's tempo and her alcoholism, she was replaced with Pat Carroll.
  • Posthumous Credit: Ben Wright, Grimsby's voice actor, is given a credit in this film since he completed all of his scenes before dying of complications of heart surgery in July 1989.
  • Promoted Fanboy: Pat Carroll had longed to voice a Disney character and being chosen as Ursula was a "dream come true" for her.
  • Quote Source:
  • Role Reprise: Queen Latifah modeled as Ursula in the "Disney Dream Portrait Series" in 2011 and fully performed as her in the 2019 ABC live show.
  • Throw It In!:
    • Ursula's "Pathetic." from her Villain Song lyrics aside to Flotsam and Jetsam was actually ad-libbed by Howard Ashman while he was coaching Pat Carroll.
    • According to this interview, Samuel E. Wright attempted to do this in the initial recording for Sebastian, only to be chided for doing so and told "You're not Robin Williams." Soon after, Disney had a change of heart and invited Wright back to perform a special recording session where he was told to go wild with Sebastian however he pleased. As a result, much of his unscripted material made it into the final film.
    • Ariel's gestures when she meets Eric and tries to communicate with him were improvised by actress Sherri Lynn Stoner during the shooting of the live-action reference material. Some of Ariel's reactions, such as her blowing her hair in frustration during the same scene, were also unscripted and inspired by Sherri's own mannerisms in real life.
  • Troubled Production: Because of how labor intensive it would have been. Disney sent the animation of the bubbles to a Chinese-based facility, which just so happened to be located near Tiananmen Square just as the Beijing student uprising occurred. Everything ultimately went according to plan, but the labor was what convinced the studio to make the full transition to Pixar's CAPS digital ink-and-paint for future films.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • The original version of "Part of Your World" had Ariel specifically naming several objects, but co-director John Musker pointed out that this wouldn't make sense alongside the gag of Scuttle's ridiculous explanations of them, so Howard Ashman replaced the words with the likes of "gadgets and gizmos".
    • "Part Of Your World (Reprise)" was originally conceived as a more morose and bittersweet song, where Ariel acknowledged that she was already starting to develop feelings for Eric and lamented that they would seemingly never get to be together, compared to the Triumphant Reprise it wound up becoming in the final film, where Eric gave Ariel new hope and convinced her to try harder than ever before to make her dreams a reality.
    • Melissa Fahn read for the role of Ariel, but her voice was considered "too young" for the character.
    • Matthew Broderick and Jim Carrey auditioned for the part of Prince Eric before the casting of Christopher Daniel Barnes.
    • After Divine (Actor)'s death, directors John Musker and Ron Clements approached Bea Arthur to voice Ursula, but her agent turned it down. Then, the directors briefly considered Roseanne Barr and Nancy Marchand before they eventually selected Charlotte Rae. Jennifer Saunders auditioned, which eventually led to her being cast in Shrek 2. Meanwhile, lyricist Howard Ashman unsuccessfully convinced Disney to hire Joan Collins to play Ursula, so he went with Elaine Stritch. After Rae and Stritch sang "Poor Unfortunate Souls", the latter signed on to play Ursula. Due to her alcoholism and clashing with Ashman, however, Stritch was ultimately dismissed.
    • Bill Maher and Michael Richards were considered to voice Scuttle before the casting of Buddy Hackett.
    • Ursula's design was going to be based off a lion fish or rockfish in the original stages of development. Another idea was for her to have a snake-like appearance. When the artists saw a documentary on octopi, they realised the tentacled appearance worked much better for the character they were trying to create. Saleen, a villain from the Aladdin: The Series, is based off Ursula's old concept art. In fact, they went through several designs before deciding on the octopus.
    • A deleted draft detailing an alternate version of the ending had Ariel and Flounder trying to rush to the wedding barge, only for Glut (the shark from earlier in the film who got stuck in an anchor ring) to ambush them, causing Flounder to gain a second wind, deliver an already exhausted Ariel to the ship, and bait Glut into chasing him with the barrel still lassoed onto his back (hint: it's actually a gunpowder barrel), causing Glut to bite the barrel and get caught in an explosion (reminiscent of how the shark dies in Jaws note ).
    • Ariel was imagined as a blonde early on, but the animators didn't want to be seen as ripping off Splash too closely.
    • During the production of Ariel's Beginning: a storyboard from the film was presented. It appears that someone has Eric, Ariel, and Sebastian hunting for a white whale and Sebastian isn't happy about it. There's also a woman in the storyboard who gets seasick like Grimsby in the beginning of the first film. It's implied that some talking parrot character will not get along with Sebastian and it's also stated that Ariel and Sebastian are "still angry with Eric". This was intended for another idea called "Ariel's Undersea Adventures".
    • Ariel was originally going to lose her Seashell Bra after first being transformed into human, and sport Godiva Hair for the rest of the sequence. For whatever reasonnote , this idea was abandoned.
    • Ariel's mother had a different backstory. One concept created by Peter David had her called Atlanta, and while she would've had some resemblance to Ariel, she was going to have brown hair (young Triton had red hair, just like in the show). She befriends a human artist named Duncan, and once he starts painting her, he becomes famous. His rival Kole, jealous of his fame and discovering the mermaid, tries to kill him by pushing a boulder above him. However, Atlanta performs a Heroic Sacrifice and pushes him out of the way. Triton kills Kole and spares Duncan, but takes his painting. After a week of solitude (that a 6-year-old Ariel convinces him to get out of) his hair has turned gray, and he now has a hatred of humans.
    • Vanessa's role went through a few radical changes. She would originally only lightly hypnotize Eric and merely persuade him to choose her over Ariel - as opposed to her outright mind control in the final film. Eric would introduce her to Ariel, and would actually try to comfort her as she runs away crying, but Vanessa would kiss him to distract him (she would also wear a scarf to hide her necklace from Ariel). At the wedding, she would be more wary of fighting back - afraid of blowing her "sweet little girl" cover. And in this case she would be busted by her true reflection being shown in sea water that some of the creatures had brought on board. For some reason, in this version, Ariel doesn't get her voice back until the end of the film.
    • Vanessa and Eric's wedding was originally scripted to happen in the castle, with Ariel watching from upstairs. Presumably they changed it to the boat to add a sense of urgency.
    • Ursula's death was supposed to have her getting impaled by the trident itself - essentially what happens to her in Kingdom Hearts II (which is based on the original storyboard). This was apparently changed because Jeffrey Katzenberg saw Die Hard and got inspired. She was also not originally supposed to have remorse for accidentally killing Flotsam and Jetsam. Ariel would also die during this ending, and Triton would use the trident to resurrect her.
    • Sebastian was written to have an English accent at first. However, they decided to make him Jamaican, so as to have a calypso-themed song in "Under the Sea".
    • The work tape demo version of "Les Poissons", found in the Legacy Edition of the movie's soundtrack, reveals that the scene at one point took place during a cooking class Chef Louis was teaching, as opposed to him cooking alone like in the final version.

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