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Category:    Home > Reviews > Animation > Children > Fantasy > Musical > The Little Mermaid - 2 Disc Special Edition DVD Set

The Little Mermaid - 2 Disc Special Edition DVD Set

 

Picture: B-     Sound: B-     Extras: C     Film: B

 

 

Finally, The Little Mermaid has been re-released on a 2-Disc, Special Edition, digital restored DVD.  With the classic Hans Christian Anderson storyline, mesmerizing artwork and memorable musical scores The Little Mermaid stands above many animated features of yesterday and today.   There was a period prior to the late 1980’s when the Disney Corporation’s animation department was in a very stagnant state.  With the coming of Oliver and Company in 1988, which infused Disney artwork with the musical sound of Billy Joel, it was obvious that Disney was about to drastically improve.  This feature film now on 2-Disc Special Edition highlights why the world has fallen in love with the world of Disney.

 

The Little Mermaid was the spark which ignited the flame for a new generation of Disney.  Slues of hits were to follow right in line with the innovative nature of The Little Mermaid such as Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992), and The Lion King (1994).  This little spark made a huge flame for future films to benefit from; winning two Academy Awards of its own, then Beauty and the Beast being the first animated film ever to be nominated for Best Picture, and The Lion King being the highest grossing traditional animated film of all time.  Disney was finally growing again, having a solid and groundbreaking animation and musical team.

 

The Little Mermaid is a captivating tale of something that many experience; the want or urge to be part of a world where they know they do not belong.  Issues, watching the special features, that we find the original author (Hans Christian Anderson) had himself being in love with an upper class woman where he was a mere, penniless, author.  Examining the past we find that Walt Disney himself had intentions of making The Little Mermaid back in 1941, having higher artist to paint watercolor storyboards and concept art.  Walt Disney’s original 1941 storyline focused more heavily on Anderson’s morbid and darker concepts, such as the mermaid giving up her voice by allowing the sea witch cutting off her tongue and in the end never getting the prince.  In the end, the 1989 Disney staff making a smart and family friendly choice that we have grown to know Disney for opting for a more mystical edge and happy ending.

 

The music direction of this feature animated film is what ingrains The Little Mermaid in our memory.  Only consisting of four songs the film elicits such an incredible musical vibe that it seems like much more, jumping form one song to the next.

 

Overall, this is in the top ten Disney classics (if not all animated classics) of all time.  The degree of skill and heart which transcended into this picture is a work of art.  The Little Mermaid being cleaned up in sound and picture quality for this special/limited issue by Disney was a very good choice.  Expect similar treatment for Peter Pan in March of 07’ and The Jungle Book next October 2007.

 

With Disney spouting left and right about cleaning up picture and sound I wish more effort would have been put into doing so.  For much of the picture it seems that certain scenes (such as the musical) were heavily concentrated on and others were left in poor, untouched condition; which is very sad.  At times the picture is way too dark and grainy, loosing much of the art quality that is in the scenic backdrops of the underwater world.  The sound is presented in Disney Enhanced Home Theater Surround, which is Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, and lacks much of the time being too soft and clouded.  The original release was analog Dolby A-type theatrical sound on 35mm prints, but had a 6-track 4.1 Dolby magnetic stereo 70mm blow-up soundtrack in its original theatrical release, then a DTS theatrical reissue in 1997.  Where are those tracks?

 

For the great caliber of music which exists for this film I would expect Disney to step up to the plate and give the audience a clean sound.  The extras are plentiful, but very lackluster.  A list of most extras:

 

·         Commentary by co-writers/directors John Musker and Ron Clements and composer Alan Menken

·         Song selection

·         Little Mermaid III musical sneak peek

·         Deleted scenes and alternate ending with filmmaker introduction

·         New "Kiss the Girl" music video performed by Ashley Tisdale

·         Treasures Untold: The Making of The Little Mermaid

·         Storm Warning: The Little Mermaid Special Effects Unit

·         The Story Behind the Story: featurette on author Hans Christian Anderson

·         Exclusive short: The Little Match Girl

·         Art galleries

·         Early presentation reel

·         "Silent is Golden" song demo

·         Under the Sea Adventure: A Virtual Ride (based on an actual Disney Imagineering concept)

·         Ride with Disney Imagineers

·         Behind the Ride that Almost Was

·         Disneypedia: Life Under the Sea

 

 

Much of the special features highlight “a ride that never was,” which is not very exciting.  One segment could have been devoted to this never produced attraction, but it was a little overkill for something that “never was.”  For adults, the extra feature of the sad but captivating “The Little Match Girl” animated short is about all that is worth while.  Where this viewer would like to say that children would enjoy the cute extras, they are sure just to bore.  Even the inappropriately named “Games and Activities” section is sadly put together, THERE ARE NO GAMES.  Where there should be a trivia or match game present, Disney has opted to put a boring tour of “the ride that was almost built.”  In the end, where this viewer and the world should be glad Disney yanked this classic from the vaults, more collective thought should have been used for this restored DVD.

 

This viewer highly recommends this DVD for kids of all ages!  Yes, more time could have been placed into the technicals of this DVD, but overall this film inspires all to smile, get chills, and sing along. I am glad that this DVD is now part of my world!

 

 

-   Michael P. Dougherty II


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