The Little Mermaid (30th Anniversary) – Blu-ray Review

The Little Mermaid is a 1989 American animated musical fantasy film that was produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation and Walt Disney Pictures. Based on the Danish fairy tale of the same name by Hans Christian Andersen, The Little Mermaid tells the story of Ariel, a mermaid princess who dreams of becoming a human. Written, produced, and directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, with the music by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman (who also served as co-producer), the film features the voices of Jodi Benson, Christopher Daniel Barnes, Pat Carroll, Samuel E. Wright, Jason Marin, Kenneth Mars, Buddy Hackett, and Rene Abuerjonois.

The 28th Disney animated feature film, The Little Mermaid was originally released into theaters on November 17, 1989 to largely positive reviews, garnering $84 million at the domestic box office during its initial release, and $211 million in a total lifetime gross worldwide. After the success of the 1988 Disney/Amblin film Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Little Mermaid is given credit for breathing lief back into the art of Disney animated feature films after a string of critical or commercial failures produced by Disney that dated back to the early 1970s. It also marked the start of the era that is known as the Disney Renaissance.

A stage adaptation of the film with a book written by Doug Wright, and additional songs by Alan Menken and new lyricist Glenn Slater opened in Denver, Colorado in July 2007 and began performances on Broadway January 10, 2008 starring Sierra Boggess.

In May 2016, Disney announced that a live-action film adaptation of The Little Mermaid is currently in development.

The Film Itself (4.5/5):

Disney’s The Little Mermaid is a movie, that while it’s definitely not one of my more favorite animated features, it’s still a classic piece and should continue to be recognized as such. The story is still considerably great. With it centering itself around some pretty complex characters, simple storyline, and some of the more recognizable musical pieces that we’ve all shared from our childhood, it’s easily understandable as to how this movie really managed to pull the company out of the small rut they were in.

Picture Quality (5/5):

This new Signature Edition of The Little Mermaid is being presented with an all new transfer that’s rejuvenating the visuals in a significantly better fashion over previously released copies. While the changes between this new copy and the previously released Diamond Edition are minimal, there are some improvements to the color depth, and stabilization to the color palette. As you watch along, there’s no noticeable artifacts from the source material, and textually speaking, the visuals are certainly bolder.

Audio Quality (4.5/5):

The 30th Anniversary Edition of The Little Mermaid unfortunately comes packaged with the same DTS-HD Master Audio track that was previously made available in the Diamond Edition. While it doesn’t really offer anything new, it can be said that the mixture is par for the course and accompanies the experience of the cleaner visuals as you would expect. The audio is extremely dynamic and shifts between the different channels very well, really doing a great job at making you feel as if you’re right there in the middle of everything. The dialogue is spoken cleanly, not only making sure that the characters are able to be heard and understood, but to offer the best performance that it can with a movie of this era. The various musical numbers that happen through out are exemplified and robust enough that both my wife and son thoroughly enjoyed them, and couldn’t help in doing a small dance as they sat and watched along.

The Packaging (3/5):

The 30th Anniversary Blu-ray release of The Little Mermaid comes packaged in the standard two-disc Blu-ray amaray case.  In that case, the Blu-ray copy of the movie, and the standard DVD copy; neither disc feature any artwork aside from the standard release text and solid-colored background.  There is a digital copy redemption pamphlet as well as a slipcover that’s been made available in the first pressing of the release that features the same artwork as the case.

Special Features (4.75/5):

There’s a good number of special features that were included with this release of The Little Mermaid. Mostly taking a look at the production work that went into making the movie, as well as a good look at a lot of the restoration efforts that went into it. The content that was included with this release is:

  • Alan Menken and the Leading Ladies – Discussions with Jodi Benson, Paige O’Hara, Judy Kuhn, Lillias White, and Donna Murphy as they share their experiences in collaborating with Menken. Exploring their acting styles, the animation of the characters they voiced, as well as a live performance of various excerpts from their more infamous songs.
  • “What I Want From You Is… Your Voice” – The voice actors of Sebastian, Scuttle, Urusla, and Ariel talk about their characters, practice their lines, and share their experiences they had while working on this film.
  • Stories from Walt’s Office: Gadget and Gizmos – An exploration into Walt Disney’s office and the various collectibles that he kept around.
  • #Treasuresuntold – Olivia Sanabia and Ruby Rose share some little known facts about the movie.
  • “Part of Your World” Music Video featuring Dcapella
  • Deleted Character: Harold the Merman
  • Under the Scene: The Art of Live Action Reference
  • Howard’s Lecture
  • Optional Feature Audio Commentary with Writers/Directors Ron Clements and John Musker and Composer Alan Menken
  • Classical Bonus Previews – A small highlight reel that promotes some additional content

Technical Specs:

Video

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Original Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Audio

English: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1

Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1

French (Canada): Dolby Digital 5.1

Subtitles

English SDH, French, Spanish

Runtime

Original Film: 83 Minutes

Final Thoughts:

Overall, I was pretty pleased with this release of The Little Mermaid. The improvement of the visuals with the movie are minimal, but certainly noticeable and offers a cleaner experience than what can be had with the previously released Diamond Edition. However, I was a little bit disappointed in the fact that they opted to recycle the audio track, but I can certainly understand why they opted to go that route. The extra features that were included were an exceptional exploration, and offers some different content than what’s been made available on past releases. If you’re considering this release for your collection, I do recommend picking it up; but, if you also have the Diamond Edition, do keep that in your collection too. The 30th Anniversary Edition of The Little Mermaid will be available on 4K UHD and Blu-ray beginning today.

Note: This Blu-ray was sent to us for review. This has not affected our judgement or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.

Doug

Movie lover, technophile, moderator of /r/dvdcollection and just your average, everyday movie viewer. Haven't heard of our subreddit? Check us out!

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