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Disney’s The Little Mermaid Movie 1989 – A Judgmental Review

Disney’s The Little Mermaid Movie 1989 – A Judgmental Review

The fact that Disney’s The Little Mermaid movie 1989 kick started what many feel is a Disney Renaissance or Golden Era perplexes the hell out of me. It’s an age old story of a 16 year old brat who is chasing after some man she saw once.


Never talked to him, probably didn’t know his name, and he very well may have sold her off to some freak show if he had caught her by accident.

But yeah, cool, nearly doom everyone in Atlantica to chase some pretty boy. It’s cool.

Disney’s The Little Mermaid Movie 1989 – Plot

Based on the title of the Hans Christen Anderson story and little else, The Little Mermaid movie 1989 bears almost no other similarities to the classic story other than:

  • There is a small in stature mermaid.
  • Said mermaid falls in love with a human.
  • Said mermaid acquires legs.

Anderson’s story takes some pretty dark turns and includes details like her feet hurting like she is walking on glass, the prince not returning her love, and her turning to sea foam in the end. It’s a terrible story, but Disney somehow manages to make it upbeat.

By 1989, Disney had already had a long history of romanticizing otherwise dark tales that all share the common theme of being public domain properties. Yes, you too can write a Little Mermaid movie, show, or book as long as it does not feature Ariel.

Disney will sue you if you do. The mouse doesn’t fuck around with you stealing concepts that they “borrowed” first.

If you really need to know the plot of The Little Mermaid movie 1989, I can sum it up for you. A young mermaid gets hot and bothered by an attractive human, leaving behind all the people she knows and loves to chase some dick.

Keep in mind, this movie came out about a decade or two before Disney really started to explore “girl power.” Even 10ish years later, they still didn’t get it right with characters like Rose Bud from the Air Buddies movies.

She spends several scenes of Super Buddies delivering some stellar dialogue to remind us that she has “girl power.” She’s also incredibly stereotyped because, you know, girls only love pink and fashion and cannot have other defining aspects of their personalities.

But I digress.

What parents need to know

If you have read some of my other “reviews,” you’d know I like to reference Common Sense Media with their practical, often over-bearing feeling thoughts on movies and shows.

For one, they will warn you of potentially “scary” things like – I’m not joking here – “tension.”

Seriously, tension? Oh you know what, maybe we shouldn’t let our kid see the movie, it’s rated G for “tension” because it may be too much. And then they suggest – I’m not making this up – kids could “look up the original (much darker) story by Hans Christian Andersen and decide which version they like better.”

What? You warn about “tension” being possibly scary and note the target audience is 6 year old children, and you suggest they look up the dark fairy tale this colorful , very – very loose adaptation is based on?

That sounds like the shit I’d tell you to in order to fully traumatize your child.

Another fun warning describes a “blood thirsty” French chef wielding a cleaver “merrily” chasing after Sebastian to “make him the main course.” OK, it’s not cool to pick on someone for being French, they can’t help being snooty and stuck up. Not cool at all Common Sense Media. Do better.

If you find that problematic, wait until you hear the shocking name Ariel calls Flounder. She calls him “guppy.” Disney should really watch its fucking language in their “kid” movies.

Then they go on to describe the main drive of Ariel. “Romance is central to the story, with Ariel (Jodi Benson) sacrificing everything, from her family to her voice, to (hopefully) be with the man she falls in love with at first glance.”

Bitch, please. Teenage hormones is central to the story with Ariel dis and dismissing everything to chase after some dude she saw once that made her girl parts tingle.

Unironically, they describe how viewers have had some major issues with The Little Mermaid movie because it promotes “fatphobia” due to the main characters all being thin or muscular. They then note that “Ursala is fat.”

I don’t know, maybe I’m the only one that sees the irony in that. “Oh no the film depicts fatphobia, probably because Ursala is fat.” You couldn’t have phrased that differently? Alternative phrasing includes – but is not limited to – Ursala is:

  • on the larger size
  • bigger
  • big boned
  • with obesity
  • with overweight
  • curvaceous
  • thicc with legs that go all the way up
  • plus size
  • a reason Sir Mix-a-Lot’s in trouble, begging for a piece of that bubble
  • big and sassy
  • skinny-challenged
  • bulky
  • an imaginary half-octopus, half drag queen depicted as over dramatic and larger than life all the way around

Questionable content

As Bluey’s dad explains in one episode of Bluey – and I’m paraphrasing here – the 80s were a different time. Some of the things you’d never expect today to be in animated kids movies were seen as tame and not offensive.

Without getting into a discussion about changing sensitivity, some things other sites warn you about include a break down of brief or implied nudity, violence, or suspenseful scenes. If you feel your kid is a lil bitch and can’t handle some of these things, consider the following:

They won’t get any of the sexual innuendoes including things like:

  • Ursala shaking her tits
  • Ursala saying to use body language
  • Ariel’s and other mermaids swimming along in shell bras
  • Brief, implied nude scenes with Ariel when she first becomes a human and when she bathes

Talk with your kids about….

In my third of this post’s “I didn’t make this shit up,” a question straight from Common Sense Media: “

Why do you think Ariel chooses to give up her voice (and her family) for Eric in The Little Mermaid? Are you troubled by the message her decision sends about women and their priorities, or is that overthinking this kind of movie?

Common Sense Media

Call me crazy here, but are parents showing 6 year old children movies as some sort of new age book club? I just thought we threw some crap on to get an hour or so of time to think, manage stress, and bring them some small pleasure.

Disney+, Disney Junior, Nickelodeon, and so on would not exist if parents didn’t find some value in letting the TV babysit their kids for a few minutes… hours on end…. STOP JUDGING ME!

But nah. I’m totally going to have a dissertation with my young children about how The Little Mermaid movie poorly represents the broader struggle of women living in and trying to make their way in a male-dominated world and how Ariel’s choices reflect a stereotypical viewpoint of women’s priorities in that world.

My daughter has always loved Ariel. Why? Because SHE’S A FUCKING MERMAID.

When she finally loses her magical view of the world and wants to dissect things, we can have a fun conversation about Ariel chasing dick and the broader message here, but until then she can continue to enjoy the mermaid aspect of the story.

But since I’d be remiss to not provide you with at least some reasonable and nonsensical topics and questions to discuss with your kids, here you go:

  • The animators drew Ariel as a fair skinned, red haired mermaid. As you may know, a person with fair skin and red hair (aka a Ginger) needs to avoid the sun at all costs or use copious amounts of sun screen. Do you think it was a good choice to depict Ariel as a Ginger because living under the sea would naturally protect her from a lot of sunlight? Have you ever met a Ginger? Did they have to avoid the sun?
  • Ariel’s legs perfectly matched her body. Ursala promised her legs. She said nothing about giving her legs that match her body perfectly. What legs would you have given Ariel to screw up her chances with Prince Eric?
  • Have you ever had fried flounder? Soft shell crab? How do you think Flounder and Sebastian would taste if we deep or pan fried them? If you knew they’d taste amazing, would you ask to have them for dinner?

Where to watch The Little Mermaid movie (1989)

As you may have guessed, you can watch The Little Mermaid animated movie on Disney+ and will soon be able to watch the live action one too.

If you don’t subscribe to or bum Disney+ off of someone you know, you can also rent or buy The Little Mermaid on platforms such as Amazon, Vudu, Google, and so on.


Someone asked them, maybe you, so here you go.

Is The Little Mermaid appropriate for a 5 year old?

Is your 5 year old a coward? Have you appropriately desensitized them to tension with other shows or movies? In some scenes, it is clear The Little Mermaid movie in 1989 bridged the gap between Disney’s dark period during the 70s with movies like the Black Cauldron and the happy, go lucky retellings of the 90s, like how they retold Hamlet in The Lion King.

Can a 5 year old watch it? Sure. And good news, Common Sense Media recommends it for ages 5 and up, so your kids should feel safe watching it.

Is The Little Mermaid appropriate for kids?

Wait, are we talking the dark twisted tail that Hans wrote or Disney’s The Little Mermaid? If you really want to scar your kids, read them the original. But last I checked, Disney generally produces animated movies for kids, so yeah, be less vague people.

Is there any Lgbtq in The Little Mermaid?

Considering that The Little Mermaid story is literally Hans’ story of unreturned homosexual love, I guess. I am not sure exactly what “Lgbtq in” something means here. If you are a homophobic, transphobic, or insecure in your own sexuality, Disney’s The Little Mermaid animated version will not offend you.

Disney's The Little Mermaid (1989): Parent Review
Little Mermaid Quiz

Movie title: The Little Mermaid

Movie description: Ariel's curiosity of the human world and "love" of Eric end up entangling her in an adventure to get kissed before the sunsets on the second day.

Date published: November 15, 1989

Country: United States

Duration: 83 minutes

Author: Nathan

Director(s): Ron Clements, John Musker

Actor(s): , Rene Auberjonois - Louis (voice) (as René Auberjonois), Christopher Daniel Barnes - Eric (voice), Jodi Benson - Ariel (voice), Pat Carroll - Ursula (voice), Paddi Edwards - Flotsam / Jetsam (voice), Buddy Hackett - Scuttle (voice), Jason Marin - Flounder (voice), Kenneth Mars - Triton (voice), Edie McClurg - Carlotta (voice), Will Ryan - Seahorse (voice), Ben Wright - Grimsby (voice), Samuel E. Wright - Sebastian (voice)

Genre: Animated, Children, Fantasy, Adventure

  • Plot
  • Characters
  • Watchability
User Review
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Comments Rating 0 (0 reviews)

Dad's Take

Disney’s The Little Mermaid movie from 1989 hits differently as an adult than it does as a kid.

I remember seeing the  movie in theaters when it first came out with my mom’s friend and her kids. While I was not that enthusiastic about it at the time, I remember thinking – never saying due to social pressures (what a time to be alive) – that the visuals were amazing and siding generally with Ariel with her struggle against her overbearing father. 

Now, watching it as a dad myself, Ariel comes across as a dick chasing little brat who is self-entitled and selfish. She displays no admirable qualities that I would point to for my children to look up to or aspire to. And now having seen the live action remake, I believe that just may be the superior film.

A lot of people who defend the animated Ariel often go all Karen and say  “she loved the human world and Eric was just a bonus.”

Yeah, that’s great, Karen. It does clearly show she is curious about the world above from the start, I’ll give you that. But what sparks action is the scene where she professes to “love him” in reference to a statue of Eric she somehow dragged to her cavern of wonders. How she managed to drag what is likely a several hundred pound to several ton statue across the sea floor is a mystery to itself and one not that crucial to the point here.

She “loved” Eric and could not take that her dad did not accept this, so she went to Ursala for help. Again, because she wanted to be with the prince not to just experience the human world.

In short, she was chasing dick. This is very similar to the original Little Mermaid where the lead character was also chasing dick.

How do you know this is the case? Well: 

  1. She never spoke to the guy she “loved” she just “saw” him and wanted to be with him.
  2. She needed to coax him into kissing her.
  3. For all she knows, he is some evil tyrant who is a product of inbreeding and is completely unhinged.
  4. She doesn’t really learn from her mistakes and gets exactly what she wants in the end.

She is sad for like 5 minutes before Triton turns her into a human again and she marries a guy she knew for about 2 days and never really said more than a mouth full of words to. 

The moral of the story is she’ll be OK because the guy is hot and definitely not a crazed product of royal inbreeding who will  launch some crusade to rid the ocean of the merfolk menace. That would be a true to life human reaction. Destroy first, ask questions later. 

Lucky for Ariel, like nearly all the princes in Disney movies, there really is no depth there. He probably is about as stale as week old bread with a personality akin to drying paint. 

Maybe Ariel showing him a part of her world will spark something in him. Then again, maybe not.


Music and singing are decent enough

Visuals still generally hold up



Ariel comes off as a brat

Story is one long story of getting some ass from someone you barely know

Ariel is a poor role model for young girls or anyone really


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