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Western Animation / The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea

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This page contains unmarked spoilers for The Little Mermaid. You Have Been Warned!

Ten years ago, a mermaid dreamed of life on the land. Now, her daughter dreams of the sea.

A 2000 Direct-to-Video sequel to the Disney Animated Canon hit The Little Mermaid, this film is about Ariel and Eric's daughter and her wish to become a mermaid.

The film begins with a newborn Melody being presented to her grandfather, King Triton. "Ursula's crazy sister", Morgana, shows up, trying to take Melody and use her as a hostage to gain Triton's power. Ariel decides to hide Melody from her mermaid past to prevent her making the same mistake she did.

Melody soon finds evidence of her seaborne ancestry, and decides to go find out about it, thus playing into Morgana's plans, and forcing Ariel to become a mermaid again to save her daughter.

Followed in production order by The Little Mermaid III: Ariel's Beginning.

Please move any character tropes to the proper character page.


Return to the Sea provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Ariel shows a bit more of it than in the first film. Melody also.
  • Actor Allusion: Tip's being a Timon Expy is even more blatant when one remembers that his voice actor, Max Casella, played Timon in the Broadway adaptation.
  • Adult Fear: Ariel and Eric get this twice: When baby!Melody was taken hostage by Morgana and threatened with being eaten by Undertow. The second was when Melody runs away and they are scared for her safety.
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: "Someone" by Eiko Matsumoto is the theme song for the Japanese version.
  • An Aesop:
    • Hiding the truth from your loved ones will just make things worse.
    • Be Yourself. Don't change yourself to gain acceptance.
  • And I Must Scream: This seems to be Morgana's fate, as she is trapped in a block of ice. Her eyes can move, but her body can't. She also is last seen with the line "Mommy?" spoken.
  • Advertisement:
  • Ax-Crazy: It's worth noting that between her and Ursula, Morgana is considered the crazy one.
  • Bare Your Midriff: Melody in to a lesser extent than her mother. Her full clothes do cover her midriff, but after she becomes a mermaid her shirt turns out to be too short to conceal it without her pants.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Triton takes on a look of apoplectic fury when Melody is put in danger, then launches a bolt of lightning and freezes Morgana into ice. If you value your life, things you do not do includes harming any of his family.
    • Ariel, for her part, uses a goddamn sword to bring down the rigging of a ship onto Morgana to save her child.
  • The Big Damn Kiss: Ariel and Eric at the end.
  • Big "NO!": Morgana when Melody gives the trident back to Triton.
  • Bullying a Dragon: The children who ridicule and laugh at Melody during her birthday party. At best, that's no way to curry favor with royalty, especially with her parents watching. At worst, she could order them to be thrown in the castle dungeons—or worse. Luckily for them, she's nice enough not to do such a thing.
  • Call-Back:
    • Morgana refers to Ursula as "poor and unfortunate" a reference to Ursula's song in the first movie.
    • Melody making a deal with a sea witch after Ariel caused her to run away harkens back to when Triton unwittingly caused Ariel to make her own deal with the sea witch's sister.
    • Melody throws her head back in the same fashion as her mother when she reaches the surface.
    • When Ariel's looking for Melody, she briefly encounters the very same spot where her grotto (very likely rebuilt by Triton) used to be and the very same places where the "Under the Sea" and "Part of Your World" songs took place, as well as the sunken ship where she and Flounder got chased by Glut.
    • A lot of shots of Melody swimming are pretty much exactly the same as Ariel in the first movie. As well as the scene when Melody turns back into a human. If compared to Ariel becoming a human side by side, they are exactly the same.
  • The Cameo: Many background characters of the first movie show up here too.
  • Chromatic Arrangement:
    • The 3 snooty kids had their own, signature colors: The skinny boy (green), the fat boy (blue), and the blonde girl (orange).
    • Alex and his 2 merteen friends each have different colored fins: Alex (green), the brunette girl (pink), and the brunet, Asian boy (purple).
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: The whole plot could have been avoided if Ariel just simply told Melody that Morgana would kill her if she were to explore the sea. Or if they were to just move inland, away from the ocean. Ariel does lampshade that she should have told Melody the truth.
  • Counterpoint Duet: Melody and Ariel sing such a song, "For a Moment".
  • Damsel in Distress:
    • The baby penguin who Tip and Dash try to save.
    • Lampshaded by Dash in regards to Melody.
  • Dark-Skinned Blond: The handsome merboy that Melody meets in Atlantica and immediately falls for.
  • Dartboard of Hate: Morgana uses starfish to hit a picture of Ursula out of resentment..
  • Deal with the Devil: Melody makes a deal with Morgana to become a mermaid. It doesn't work out so well.
  • Dramatic Irony: In Ariel's reprimand for Melody into the sea despite it being forbidden for her, she states that the sea is dangerous. Melody, in anger at the comment, shouts that Ariel couldn't know that since she's never been in it.
  • Easily Forgiven: Melody forgives the three kids who ridiculed her at her birthday party.
  • Evil Is Deathly Cold: During the 12-year Time Skip, Morgana and her minions hide out in an ice fortress up north. When she gets the trident, she uses it to create massive spires and structures out of ice, in an apparent mockery of Atlantica.
  • Excessive Evil Eyeshadow: Morgana.
  • Expy: Tip and Dash are essentially the oceanic version of Timon and Pumbaa.
  • Fade Around the Eyes: Morgana does this when Melody starts her quest for Atlantica. Maybe being dramatic runs in the family.
  • Fat and Skinny:
    • Dash and Tip, respectively.
    • The two snooty boys at Melody's birthday party.
  • Fearless Infant: Baby Melody laughs and giggles for all of her screen time, including when she is held hostage by Morgana and threatened to be fed to Undertow.
  • Forgotten First Meeting: Justified. When Melody meets her grandfather (Triton) after twelve years, she doesn't remember him, because she was only a baby when he had to leave. She did, however, get a feeling that he didn't seem like a bad guy.
  • Girliness Upgrade: Ariel's come quite a long way from her curiosity/teen rebel phase, to the point where her own daughter has superseded her when it comes to the Tomboy Princess trope.
  • Good Parents: Despite how they handled keeping Melody's true heritage, there is no doubt that Eric and Ariel deeply love Melody, and raised her right.
  • Graceful Ladies Like Purple: Ariel's dress for Melody's party.
  • Happily Married: Ariel and Eric. This movie shows that they have a stable and loving marriage, despite any dangers that they face.
  • History Repeats: The movie's conflict happens when Melody's parents decide she can't know anything about the sea—just like King Triton wouldn't let Ariel go into land. In both cases, the child finds out about it anyway, and hiding it did no good.
  • Identical Stranger: Melody dances with a young man at the ball, who is creeped out by her when he sees her talking to Sebastian. Later she meets a merboy, named Alex, who looks just like him at Atlantica, and runs off just after meeting him. It's never made clear if they just happen to look the same, or if he's also a merman and was just pretending to not recognize her.
  • I Knew There Was Something About You: Melody tells her new fish friends that she's really a human. Tip responds with: "I knew there was something un-fishy about you!"
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Melody has close friendships with her mother's friends: Scuttle, Sebastian, and Flounder.
  • Interspecies Romance:
    • It's pretty clear that Melody and Alex, the merboy she meets in Atlantica, have feelings for each other.
    • The failed one she was developing with the blond human prince.
  • Intimate Hair Brushing: Ariel and Melody have a heart to heart while Ariel is brushing Melody's hair before her birthday party.
  • Invisible Parents: Whoever the mother of Flounder's children is remains a mystery, as she never makes an appearance and is never brought up by Flounder.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Taken Up to Eleven at Melody's 12th birthday party.
  • Kill It with Ice: Once King Triton regains his trident Morgana is frozen in ice and sunk to the depths of the ocean.
  • Kneel Before Zod: During the climax Morgana forces all Sea Folk present to bow before her, including Ariel and Triton.
  • Like Parent, Like Child: After a near-death experience out in the open sea, Ariel decided to keep her daughter locked away and hide the knowledge of the mermaid world, like Triton did with her except from the human world.
  • Load-Bearing Boss: Morgana's entire ice fortress shatters and collapses upon her defeat.
  • Loophole Abuse: In their argument, Ariel finds out that Melody went over the wall. Melody retorts she went under it.
  • Magic Pants: Melody's pants disappear when her legs are replaced with a tail, but reappear when she regains legs. Perhaps it could justified by magic, but one wonders then why Ariel emerged half-naked during her leg-gaining.
  • Mama Bear: Ariel uses a goddamn sword to bring down the rigging of a ship onto Morgana to save her child and then, when Melody runs away, scours the entire goddamn ocean to find her.
  • Maybe Ever After: Melody meets up with Alex again at the ending, and his mutually awkward, loving smile implies he is attracted to her.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: The protagonist, Melody, is seen as a newborn infant in the first few minutes of the movie before the 12-year Time Skip.
  • Misplaced Vegetation: The film features a massive tropical coral reef beneath friggin polar ice sheet.note  Actual polar marine ecosystems can sometimes appear quite lush, but definitely not tropical coral reefs with colorful fish. That's a pinch from the movie's big geography mess-up. Wait... complete with ice-hating giant clams.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: There aren't any polar bears in this movie, but the map Morgana gives Melody clearly shows that Morgana's hideout is north of Atlantica, so it must be in the Arctic. However, there are penguins living in the area; penguins are only found in the southern hemisphere of the world. Also, the Hammerhead Shark and the Barracuda shouldn't exist in polar waters.
  • Missed Him by That Much: During the search for Melody, this happens at least twice.
  • Missing Mom: The wife of Flounder and mother of their guppies doesn't make an appearance.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Ariel gets this when she realizes that Melody had ran away from her without even telling the truth about her heritage.
    • Melody after Morgana, holding the trident, reveals her true evil nature and takes her mother hostage, and imprisons her in an ice cave.
    Melody (sobbing): Oh, Flounder. I've ruined everything!
  • Never Say "Die": Keeping in tone with the usual Lighter and Softer treatment of Disney sequels, though it was done in a fairly decent way.
    Morgana: Ursula would've loved to have come, but something came up.. now what was it.. oh yes, you all SHISH-KEBABBED HER!
  • Never Trust a Trailer: In the original trailer, the scene of Melody becoming a mermaid actually consisted of reversed animation of her changing back into a human.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: While Melody did make the mistake of letting the Obviously Evil sea witch talk her into stealing Triton's trident, it is Ariel's own decision to keep Melody's entire heritage a secret from her for her whole life that prompts her daughter to run away out of spite and in turn take Morgana's word over her mother's. When Ariel finally reveals her true mermaid self to Melody, it is the last straw for Melody and she angrily gives Morgana the trident before realizing the severity of her mistake. If not for Ariel's shortsighted decision, everyone might've been spared a lot of trouble.
  • No Name Given: We don't know the names of few (arguably) vital characters in the sequel:
    • Tip's main family, who are implied to also be Dash's adopted family.
    • The three snooty kids at Melody's birthday party.
    • Flounder's children.
    • The two other merteens, not including Alex, that Melody befriends.
  • Off-Model: Ariel doesn't look the same in some scenes. The updated re-release solved this though. In the scene where Melody and Flounder are trapped beneath Morgana's ice trap, Flounder briefly looks exactly like he was in the first movie, whereas all the other scenes show him as bigger and fatter because he's an adult now. Several background characters from the first film appear here but with the wrong colors; for example,the snails that sing in the "Under the Sea" music number, and the tuba-playing fish (the one which says "yeah") appears too in the final song,but its colors are all mismatched.'
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Ariel when she realizes that Melody has found her locket in the ocean.
    • Ariel, Triton, Flounder and Sebastian have a Mass "Oh, Crap!" moment when Melody steals Triton's trident.
    • Ariel and Melody are utterly shocked when the latter impulsively gives Morgana Triton's trident to spite Ariel for lying about her heritage.
    • Melody has a moment of terror when she realizes that she is about to be transformed back into a human.
    • Morgana when Triton is about to trap her into a block of ice forever.
  • Papa Wolf:
    • Eric was ready and willing to take on Morgana with a sword when he learned she had something to do with Melody's disappearance.
    • Want to make Triton angry? If so, hurt Ariel. Then, he'll utterly own you. If you want to really piss him off, hurt his granddaughter. Then, he will utterly own you and make you pay for all eternity in a MAHOOSIVE block of ice.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Ariel has a white and gold dress at the beginning of the film. She and Melody wear similar dresses for Melody's birthday, except Ariel's is purple and Melody's is pink.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Melody is never told why she's not to go beyond the seawall. This becomes extremely problematic once Melody finds her grandfather's gift to her.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Triton yells "Never again will you or yours threaten my family! There will be no escape for you... ever!" as he freezes Morgana in a block of ice.
  • Princesses Prefer Pink: Melody's party dress is pink.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • Speaking to animals can be interpreted as strange. Just ask Melody.
    • Melody not remembering the locket even after seeing her name on it makes sense, since she was only a baby the last time she saw it.
    • Ariel making the choice of keeping Melody ignorant of her heritage left Melody open to easy manipulation by Morgana, since Melody was never informed that Morgana was a threat. Melody even called Ariel on this, but forgives Ariel at the end when her impulsive decision to give Morgana the Trident nearly dooms Atlantica. Moral of the movie: Keeping secrets from those you care about can cause the person being lied to not to trust them again. It also makes things worse.
  • Red Filter of Doom: At Melody's birthday party, when she looks around and the camera swivels in a wide circle to show everyone laughing at her.
  • Redhead In Green: One of the teens at Melody's birthday party is a redheaded girl wearing a green dress.
  • Remember the New Guy?: "Ursula's crazy sister" Morgana is introduced as the Big Bad. Of course, she was never shown in the first movie, there wasn't even a clue to Ursula having a sister, and the old characters already know her.
  • Retcon: At one point in mermaid form, Ariel sings in her grotto—which Triton destroyed in the first movie. Though it's possible he fixed it up as a token of apology.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: After regaining his trident, Triton ultimately gets rid of Morgana by encasing her within a big block of ice which promptly sinks into the dark, frigid arctic waters. And she's completely conscious and aware of everything happening around her. Yep, don't mess with Triton.
  • Seldom-Seen Species: While at the Arctic, Melody, recently transformed into a mermaid, briefly comes across a female Harp Seal and her cubs. Undertow himself also counts, given he is a tiger shark. And while his species in Real Life are quite dangerous and believed to be notorious man-eaters, they rarely show up in media.
  • Shown Their Work: In the opening sequence, Morgana uses her ink the same way real octopodes do: As a Smoke Out.
    • The harp seal family whom Melody briefly encounters is correctly colored. The mother has a grey coat with dark spots while her cubs are all white.
  • Strong Family Resemblance:
    • Melody combines her parents features, such as having her mother's face and hair shape, but her father's eyebrows and hair color. She and her mom also have the same nose and similar ears, as well as the same mouth and the same eyes.
    • One of the sons of Flounder looks exactly like the younger Flounder. In fact, the boy looked so much like Flounder, that Ariel initially mistook him for Flounder.
  • Take a Third Option: At the end of the film, King Triton offers Melody a choice to either live with him in Atlantica as a mermaid, or stay human and live with her family. She chooses neither; instead using his trident to dissolve the castle's seawall so both humans and merfolk can live together, with her presumably getting to spend her teenage years switching between human and mermaid form.
  • Tentacle Rope: Morgana grabs and holds Ariel using her tentacles.
  • Terrible Trio: Morgana's henchmen: Undertow, Cloak, and Dagger.
  • Those Two Bad Guys: Cloak and Dagger the Manta rays, who also fill the roles of Butt-Monkey and Unlikely Heroes.
  • Those Two Guys: Tip and Dash, a walrus and a penguin.
  • Time Skip: The film opens with Melody's birth and then skips ahead 12 years.
  • Token Trio: The merteens Melody meets in Atlantica: Alex is Ambiguously Brown, the brown-haired brunette mergirl is white, and the black-haired brunette merboy is Asian.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Flounder. In the first film, he was terrified of everything, but in this film he refuses, point blank to leave Ariel and tells her that "wild seahorses couldn't keep [him] away" when she asks for his help.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: The snooty kids who marginalize Melody end up playing with Melody in the water at the end. Implying that Melody had forgiven them and the trio had made amends.
  • A Tragedy of Impulsiveness: Melody's impatience and unwillingness to listen to Ariel's advice ends up causing her to make a Deal with the Devil with Morgana and almost dooming the kingdom.
  • Two Guys and a Girl:
    • An interspecies example: Melody (mer-human), Tip (penguin), and Dash (walrus).
    • The snooty kids at Melody's birthday party.
    • Alex and the other two merteens that Melody befriended.
  • Updated Re-release: The Special Edition DVD tweaks a few scenes to make Ariel look less Off-Model.
  • Villainous Face Hold: Morgana has Ariel caught in one of her tentacles and grabs her jaw to make her look at her, in order to mock Melody.
  • Villain Has a Point: Undertow can be surprisingly insightful. Telling Morgana that she cannot keep trying to blame Ursula for her own failures, and asking Melody what kind of friends Tip and Dash are if they would abandon her at the first sign of danger.
  • Villain Song: There is a Deleted Scene with this, "Gonna Get My Wish".
  • The Voiceless:
    • Morgana's henchmen, Cloak and Dagger, don't speak. But they do cackle.
    • The short, fat snooty kid at Melody's birthday party also has no lines.
  • Warm-Hearted Walrus: Dash the walrus is a kind-hearted simpleton, pretty much the sea mammal version of Pumbaa.
  • Water Is Air: It appears that Tip and Dash can breathe underwater... though they often do spend a great deal of time underwater, penguins and walruses cannot breathe in it and need to surface regularly to do so.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Just like her father, Ariel's motives were to protect her daughter.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Melody's protection with also meant Ariel would be unable to visit Atlantica again, not without the risk of revealing her true origins.
  • "You!" Exclamation:
    • Chef Louis to Sebastian, who follows up with a squeak of "You!" when Chef Louis recognizes him.
    • Morgana also does one to Melody when Melody sneaks up on Morgana and takes the trident back.
  • Youthful Freckles:
    • One of Flounder's kids could be seen with freckles.
    • The fat, short kid of the snooty kid trio was the only one with freckles.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): The Little Mermaid II


Melody's Idea

When King Triton gives Melody a choice to live with him in Atlantica or return to her home on land, she has a better idea.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

Main / TakeAThirdOption

Media sources:

Main / TakeAThirdOption