A 2008 Direct-to-Video Prequel to Disney's The Little Mermaid, and the last of a very long chain of DTV Disney Animated Canon sequels, prequels, and midquels after John Lasseter took charge of Disney's animation department and killed any future films of this nature.note This film reveals the cause of King Triton's fear and hatred of humans to be the death of his beloved Queen Athena, Ariel's mother.
During a family excursion on the surface, Triton gives his queen a music box. A pirate ship appears, and Athena is killed while attempting to save the music box. Heartbroken, Triton bans all music from Atlantica.
Years later, a now teenage Ariel, dissatisfied with life, joins an illicit music club. Meanwhile, the princesses' governess Marina Del Ray, with the help of her manatee assistant Benjamin, is plotting to get Sebastian's job as Triton's right-hand man.
Followed in chronological order by The Little Mermaid.
Please move any character tropes to the appropriate character page.
The Little Mermaid III: Ariel's Beginning contains examples of:
- Accidental Pervert: Before the song "Just One Mistake", Benjamin is massaging Marina Del Rey's back when she gets up, this results in him briefly and accidentally massaging her butt before he recoils in surprise.
- Alliterative Family: Athena and her daughters Alana, Adella, Aquata, Attina, Arista, Andrina, and Ariel.
- Almost Kiss: In the opening scene, Triton and Athena nearly kiss each other but are stopped by Ariel and her sisters watching them.
- Ambiguously Evil: Did the pirates run over Athena by accident, or was it intentional? Since it is implied they were actively plundering the merfolk for their no-doubt invaluable instruments made of precious metals, it may very well have been the latter.
- Ambition Is Evil: Marina isn't satisfied as a governess and wants Sebastian's job.
- Artistic License Biology: There are some... ...problems with how Marina's pet electric eels are portrayed. Not only do they look more monstrous and threatening than the real deal, they clearly are oversized and live in the ocean, whereas they actually inhabit freshwater habitats.
- Ascended Extra: Ariel's sisters receive more focus than the other movies and TV show combined.
- Bare Your Midriff: Seems to be the standard for mermaids, due to the Seashell Bras.
- Batman Gambit: Sebastian, of all people, pulls one off when leading Ariel, Flounder and the Catfish Club Band to the place where the lost music box sank, in the hope that Ariel would find it and return it to her father, which in turn would remind him of the happiness music brought with it.
- Big "NO!": Triton lets out one just before Athena gets crushed by the pirate ship.
- Big Sister Instinct: Stern but well-meaning Attina, who is the oldest and as such, the next in line for the Atlantican throne.
- The Cameo: Scuttle makes a two-second appearance in one very brief scene.
- Casting Gag:
- Tara Strong, who voiced Ariel's daughter Melody in the second movie, voices Ariel's sisters Adella and Andrina.
- In the European Spanish dub, Alana is voiced by Sara Polo, who had her break earlier in the year playing another mermaid in Luchia Nanami from Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch.
- Changed My Mind, Kid: The Catfish Club Band at first don't want to risk going back to Atlantica with Ariel, Flounder and Sebastian. They change their minds and show up just in time to save Ariel and Flounder from the electric eels.
- Deadpan Snarker: Played with via Andrina, the second youngest. She is good-natured but is a known wisecracker who is perfectly capable of deadpan.
- Disney Death: Ariel, after a Diving Save for Sebastian. She awakens as Triton sings "Athena's Song".
- Doomed by Canon: Anyone who watched the film this story is a prequel to already knows Marina won't keep Sebastian's job or even her previous one as a governess.
- Downer Beginning: The prologue ends with Queen Athena being crushed to death by the pirate ship, leading to King Triton forbidding all merfolk from going to the surface again and banning all music from the kingdom.
- Dumb Blonde: Subverted with Arista, the third youngest. She is simple-minded, but when the sisters hit the Catfish Club together, she shows off her musical talents and plays a mean saxophone.
- Famous Last Words: Athena just moments before her tragic sacrifice.Athena: Our song.
- Fantastic Racism: King Triton's hatred of humans is due to his wife's death at the hands of pirates.
- The Fashionista: Alana, the second oldest, who is highly interested in glamour and makes her own beauty products.
- Fiery Redhead: Ariel is more than willing to make known her dissatisfaction with her father's laws.
- Foregone Conclusion: Since this film takes place before The Little Mermaid, we already know that Athena will die, Triton's xenophobia will remain, and Sebastian will keep his job as a composer.
- For Want of a Nail: If Athena hadn't tried to save the music box when the pirate ship attacks, or if she would've taken the music box with her before escaping underwater, she wouldn't have been killed and music wouldn't have been banned in the first place.
- Gory Discretion Shot: The screen quickly fades to black just as the pirate ship kills Athena. Yikes!
- Grand Finale: Of the Disney Animated Canon's sequel/prequel films until Ralph Breaks the Internet in 2018.
- Informed Species: Nope, real electric eels don't have those big, predatory fangs, nor such enlarged tailfins.
- Karma Houdini: The pirates receive no comeuppance for killing Athena.
- Killed Offscreen: We never actually see Athena's death.
- Little Sister Heroine: Ariel herself, the youngest of the seven.
- Massive Numbered Siblings: Ariel has six older sisters: Aquata, Andrina, Arista, Attina, Adella, and Alana.
- Misplaced Wildlife: Electric eels are purely freshwater dwellers.
- A Minor Kidroduction: The film opens with Ariel and her sisters as young children, then has a decade Time Skip.
- No Body Left Behind: Athena's death comes off as this; her body was nowhere to be seen after the ship crash.
- Nostalgic Music Box: King Triton gives his wife a music box as a gift. She is then killed while trying to save it from being crushed. Later, Ariel finds the music box, and its haunting melody helps persuade her father to lift the ban on music by reminding him of his late queen.
- Punny Name: Marina del Rey (Rey, not Ray) is the name of a seaside town near Los Angeles.
- Pursuing Parental Perils: Athena is killed during a visit to the surface while trying to save a music box. Ariel shares her mother's love of music, and in the TV series and the original movie she is infatuated with the surface world.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Ariel joins Flounder, Sebastian, and the Catfish Club Band after escaping from Atlantica.
- Say My Name: Triton cries out, "ATHENA!!" in sadness as she sacrifices herself to save the music box.
- Seashell Bra: As in the first movie, this is standard mermaid attire. One of the sisters even has a "lucky" Seashell Bra.
- Sibling Team: Ariel and her sisters. Each of her six older sisters has their personalities differentiated to an extent not yet seen in previous Little Mermaid literary, TV or film installments.
- Skewed Priorities: At the beginning, whilst Ariel's family tries to get away from the ship, Athena goes back to grab her music box. She ends up being crushed and killed by the ship because of this. It did have sentimental value to her and Triton, but she still died for a music box.
- Strong Family Resemblance: Ariel strongly resembles her mother, only Athena has green eyes.
- Theme Music Powerup - I Remember, which is Ariel's first (chronologically in the Little Mermaid series timeline) signature song and goes a long way towards revealing her beliefs and personality. (It also has an element of a Lonely Piano Piece before it slowly but surely shifts into gear.)
- Villain Song: Marina Del Ray's "Just One Mistake", which could also double as a villainous "I Want" Song.
- Water Is Air: Merpeople swim down the 'streets' in a completely upright posture, as if they were walking on feet, even though their tails don't touch the ground.
- Widely Spaced Jail Bars: Sebastian can clearly fit through the bars of the jail cell he and the Catfish Club Band are stuck in. It's even pointed out by one of the prisoners trying to convince him to pick the lock.