The Little Mermaid

At the end of the 80s, Disney began the Disney Renaissance (89-99) with The Little Mermaid. Disney hadn't had a hit movie in years, maybe that's why other toy companies rejected the project unaware of the future success of The Little Mermaid. According the memories of Tyco's then marketing vicepresident Woody Browne, Disney told them: "You (Tyco) are the 11th stop on my list of top 7 toy companies" Newsletter BuildingQ 1/15 The Little Mermaid doll was made by Tyco in record time and ready for the movie premier. It was a hit and, thanks to the release of the movie in VHS and the series, the doll stayed like that but it ended when Mattel, aware of the success, got the rights of all the Disney Characters including The Little Mermaid's. But that Ariel from Tyco always remained in the imagination of many children of that time with her adolescent appearance and those beautiful and brightly colored printed tails that remind us more of the caribbean fabrics than of the general wardrobe line of the film. The Little Mermaid was in Disney's radar since the 40s. The genius artist Kay Nielsen saw potential on a rich underwater world while working on Disney and made a project with exquisite draws in his unique style that went from his nordic origins to artbnouveau and art deco and his love for the Ballet Russes. Disney hired him in 1937. He worked on Fantasia but Kay was too dark and detailed what meant costly to produce so he was out in 1941. War came so The Little Mermaid was abandoned, Kay died in 1957 poor and forgotten but at the end of the 80s his materpiece was rescued from the dust of the archive. Disney renaissance began with TheLittleMermaid. They made the story less tragic, gave the starr a name, Ariel, and Glen Keane draw her inspired by his wife but doting her the teen spirit of actresses such as Alyssa Milano. The executives wanted her blonde but the movie first challenge was to darken colors underwater, and red was easy to work with plus suited better the special tail hue Disney created and red gave her a pre-raphaelite flair like Waterhouse painting "A Mermaid", "comb" included! But what would this movie be without its villain Ursula? Ursula was inspired by Divine, a drag queen embodied by the actor Harris Glenn Milstead (Hairspray). They didn't want a villain too pretty because later in the plot she was to became a pretty girl, Vanessa, so they did some different sketches for Ursula like a Joan Collins inspired manta ray or a scorpion fish but one of them inspired specially the lyricist and one of the strong men then at Disney, Howard Elliot Ashman for her great resemblance with Divine whom he was familiar with, being both of them from Baltimore. “She looks like a Miami Beach matron, playing Mah Jong by the pool.” Howard Elliot Ashman And it is that Howard E. Ashman not only outlined Úrsula, he also changed the origin of Sebastián, who was originally going to be English, for a Jamaican origin that allowed them to incorporate Caribbean rhythms into their songs with great success. Of course neither Úrsula nor Sebastián were in the much darker original story of Hans Christian Andersen. In there humans live far less than mermaids and go to heaven, but the souless mermaids just cease to exist after 300 years of life span to become sea foam. The Little Mermaid exchanges her voice for legs that will hurt like walking on knives and part of the prince soul will pass on her if she wins his heart, but she doesn't. The prince marries a princess who he thinks his saviour and the witch gives the mermaid a dagger to kill him to earn her tail again and live a long life. The Little Mermaid can't do it so throws herself into the sea becoming an air spirit thanks to her selflessness and, after 300 years of good deeds, she'll rise to heaven. Of course The Little Mermaid would have been very different from having been made in the 1940s, especially if it had been closer to the original story. We will never know what it would have been like but perhaps it would not have had the impact that it had in the 80s that made us children of that time want to relive that world under the sea in our little rooms.