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Western Animation / The Little Mermaid (1992)

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A Saturday-Morning Cartoon by Disney, based on their 1989 film of the same name, which ran on CBS from September 11, 1992 to November 26, 1994. It was the second (after TaleSpin) in Disney's 90's-era series of TV spinoffs of their more popular movies.note  Unlike TaleSpin (but like later entries), however, this cartoon typically keeps continuity with its theatrical source, and acts as something of an Expanded Universe, giving backstories to many characters, fleshing out relationships, and allowing them to go on new adventures. It is a direct prequel to the movie, being set before Ariel met Prince Eric (but after the subsequent Direct to Video movie The Little Mermaid III: Ariel's Beginning, which retcons some elements introduced in this cartoon, notably how Ariel met Flounder).

As is typical of Disney's TV spinoffs, the tone of this cartoon is considerably lighter and more comedic than the movie on which it's based, but unlike many Disney TV series spin-offs, it kept one element of the first movie: the musical format, as the series was gifted with a new musical number in almost every episode. It also contained more obvious (and bizarre) shout outs a recurring comic villain was called Lobster Mobster, complete with an Edward G. Robinson imitation voice.

After three seasons totalling 31 episodes, it went into reruns on the Disney Channel. It later ran on Toon Disney and Disney Junior. In 2018, the entire series was released on iTunes and Amazon Video, remastered in 16x9 HD. The series is also available on Disney+.

The show is animated by two different studios: Walt Disney Japan (19 episodes) and Wang, Taiwan (12 episodes).

Provides examples of:

  • Always Chaotic Evil: The Sharkanians and Ursula's people, the Octopids, as both of them are obsessed with conquest, destruction and war.
  • Anachronism Stew: Beside the historical cameos, and the Lobster Mobster, characters also do activities like bowling (which they apparently invented), and eat seaweed doughnuts.
  • Art Shift: The differences between the first half by Walt Disney Animation Japan and their subcontractorslist  and the second half of the series by Wang Film Productions is stark, to put it lightly. The main differences include muddier colors and some less than fluid animations at points.
  • Babysitting Episode: "Double Bubble" features Ariel, Sebastian and Flounder babysitting two young mer-twins; only for them to be lured off by The Lobster Mobster as part of an attempted kidnapping plot.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Hans Christian Andersen ventured deep into the ocean to verify the existence of Ariel's species using a primitive submarine he invented.
  • Big Eater: Adella, one of Ariel's numerous sisters. Trust it to be her only defining personality trait, too.
  • Biography Clef: "Metal Fish" provides an Origins Episode for Hans Christian Andersen where Ariel the Little Mermaid saves him and in response inspires her author to write her story.
  • Call-Forward: "Thingamajigger" has a couple examples. Trying to learn about the eponymous object, Ariel observes a young man (really Prince Eric) save a dolphin caught in a net, which causes her to realize not all humans are bad and solidifies her interest in the surface world. The episode ends with her storing the boots in her hidden collection of human treasures, with Sebastian openly worrying what Triton will do if he ever finds out about this.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Evil Manta, to the point that he disapproves of his son going to bed without throwing a tantrum because that's not what an evil manta is supposed to do.
  • Cartoon Whale: A whale modeled after Monstro appears in the episode "Resigned to It". Sebastian flosses the teeth of the massive behemoth by using a strand of seaweed. Because of its length, it ends up tickling his gums, causing him to suck in Ariel, Flounder, and Sebastian, releasing them with a powerful sneeze.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: The 12-issue comic published by Marvel Comics. The comic takes place presumably between the first half of Season 2 and the series finale.
  • Confronting Your Imposter: In "Urchin", Lobster Mobster and Da Shrimp want to succeed in their plot of "taking over" something in order to impress their ally Crab Louie (whom they've apparently never met in person) when he arrives, and finally manipulate Urchin into being their aide - "taking over the kid". At one point, Sebastian appears before them and claims he is Crab Louie, trying to trick them into releasing Urchin. Soon enough though, the real Crab Louie arrives and is not amused by his impersonation attempt.
  • Cute Mute: Gabriella, a deaf mermaid who used sign language (her octopus sidekick served as a translator) and appeared in two episodes.
  • Dramatic Irony: Ariel realizes not all humans are bad when a young Prince Eric (who she only sees from behind) saves a dolphin.
    Ariel: I wish I could've seen his face.
  • The Exile: "Metal Fish" features Archimedes, a merman collector of all human objects and alleged expert on the human world. Because of Triton's prejudice against humans, he was exiled.
  • False Innocence Trick: Evil Manta used this and got released by Ariel. Another monster unsuccessfully tried this after making Triton a child.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: In "A Little Evil", Ariel flat-out kills the Manta's brain sponge by crushing him into goo with a boulder. This is shown entirely on-screen.
  • Fantastic Racism: The problems that occurred in "The Evil Manta" could be interpreted as symbolism for racism.
  • Foreshadowing: At the end of "Double Bubble," Ariel successfully covers up that the mertwins she babysat were in serious danger several times, and quips that she hopes they won't remember enough to resent her for it when they get older. In "Red," she has to play the mother to King Triton when he's youthened into a child, and notes that she's acting as overprotective as he normally does. Years later, being overprotective and lying to cover up a danger to a child gets her a lot more resentment than she'd worried about.
  • "Freaky Friday" Flip: Between Flounder and Sebastian in "Giggles".
  • Friendship-Hating Antagonist: The Evil Manta. His first appearance revolves around him turning everyone in Atlantica from friends into enemies, just for the sake of it. When this plan is foiled, he openly rants about how much he hates things like friendship and love.
  • Friendship Song: "In Harmony" in "The Evil Manta".
  • Green Gators: Ebb and Flo from are green, although Ebb is darker than Flo.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The antagonist in "Giggles" curses Ariel so that a seaquake occurs every time she laughs. After some destruction at her home, she tracks down this sorcerer to his home and pleads with him to undo the spell. He refuses, so she forces his compliance.
    Sorcerer: Why? What are you going do about it?
    Ariel: I can't have fun! I can't play with my friends! I can't enjoy anything! You've ruined my life! So there's only one thing for me to do: 'laugh about it''.
  • Hold Your Hippogriffs:
    Triton: What under the sea  is going on?!
  • Imagination Destroyer: The Evil Manta has a pet called Brain Sponge which he tries to unleash on Ariel to sap her imagination. Since his son Little Evil interferes, it's the Evil Manta who nearly gets his brain drained, but Ariel and Little Evil defeat the Brain Sponge and save him.
  • Love Before First Sight: Prince Eric makes cameos, but he and Ariel never see each other.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Triton gets a minor one in "Charmed" when he learns that his attitude towards Ariel's interest in human things scared her into not wanting to come home when she got a charm bracelet stuck on her wrist.
    • Ariel gets a little one in "A Little Evil" when she sets Evil Manta's own brain sponge on him.
  • Mythology Gag: In the Episode, "The Metal Fish", after Ariel rescues Hans Christian Andersen, inspiring to write his version of the Little Mermaid Story, Ariel can be seen sitting on a rock, in a very similar manner to the "Little Mermaid" stature in Copenhagen.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Evil Manta, Ursula.
  • Our Mermaids Are Different: "Charmed" features a One-Shot Character who is a light green-skinned merboy with an eel tail instead of the typical tail fin.
  • Our Werebeasts Are Different: Howling Hairfish.
  • Pet Baby Wild Animal: Ariel temporarily adopts a Killer Whale, then a wild Sea Horse (which according to the show, is like a regular horse, but underwater). There's also a "bad luck" creature which Ariel rescues from Ursula's wrath and calls her Lucky.
  • Pretend to Be Brainwashed: Flounder gets one of his moments of awesome by pretending to have been brainwashed by the Evil Manta in the episode "The Evil Manta" into becoming prejudiced against mermaids such as Ariel.
  • Rousing Lullaby: Subverted with "Evil Lullaby," which is sung by Evil Manta to his son, Little Evil. The song is about Manta telling his son to dream about torturing sea creatures, in hopes that Little will grow up to be just as evil as his father. Since Manta is a Card-Carrying Villain who runs on Bad Is Good and Good Is Bad, this actually succeeds in making Little fall asleep.
  • Samus Is a Girl: Lucky, the creature from "Against the Tide", is believed to be male at first, but is later revealed to be pregnant at the end of the episode.
  • Satan: The Evil Manta has some very strong shades of this.
  • Seahorse Steed: Naturally, the show has Ariel tame an uncontrollable purple seahorse named Stormy. Other episodes had merpeople riding seahorses as well. Averted with Herald the seahorse, however.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The king of a kingdom neighboring Atlantica is obviously based on Yen Sid.
    • The episode "The Beast Within" is obviously based on the movie The Wolf Man (1941).
    • The sea serpent in the episode "Heroes" bears some resemblance to Dragon Maleficent at the end of Sleeping Beauty.
    • Much of the episode "Beached" is similar to the film Home Alone.
  • Sinister Stingrays: The most recurring villain is The Evil Manta, a demonic manta ray merman.
  • Title Drop: Towards the end of "The Evil Manta" when his scheme is foiled:
    Evil Manta: I hate singing. Hate it! I hate love and friendship! And do I ever hate that little mermaid!
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Evil Manta.
  • Verbed Title: The episode, "Beached".
  • Villain Song: The Lobster Mobster and Da Shrimp get two and the Evil Manta & Ursula gets one each.
  • Voice for the Voiceless: The deaf-mute mermaid Gabriella has her octopus friend Ollie translate her sign language.
  • Was Too Hard on Him: As in the movie, Triton will dish out major punishment in the heat of the moment and then feel guilty about it when he calms down. He's positively miserable in "Beached" when Ariel and Arista miss the carnival because he punished them for constantly fighting with each other.
  • You Are Grounded!: Or, as they put it in Atlantica, "beached". This happens to Ariel and/or one of her older sisters in the episodes "Beached" and "Eel-Electric City".
  • Young Future Famous People: More like a historical cameo for Hans Christian Andersen and his amazing submarine. Also, there was a guest appearance from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in an episode.
  • Your Tomcat Is Pregnant: Throughout the episode "Against the Tide," Lucky the Bad Luck Creature is referred to as "him"... until the end, when she gives birth to a litter of babies.


Video Example(s):


Daring to Dance

Ariel expresses her wishes at having two tails to do the ballet like they do on land.

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Example of:

Main / IWantSong

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