The Little Mermaid was released in 1989 and was Disney’s first film to incorporate various different kinds of background music to enhance every feeling and presence of the protagonist “Ariel” by songwriters Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. The album also gained a lot of attention from the Grammy’s. The iconic track, ‘Under The Sea’ won the Grammy for Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture or for Television along with the Academy Awards for Best Original Score and Best Original Song.
Since the early 2000’s, The Little Mermaid, had been heavily scrutinised for prevalent misogyny that requires the mermaid to give up her voice for a prince in hopes of marriage.She literally had no say in her story !
But at the time Ariel became the foundation for a number of heroines like Belle from “Beauty and the Beast”, Jasmine in “Aladdin” to Mulan in “Mulan”. It was the dawn of the more rebellious heroins for Disney !
This was also true for the antagonist of the movie, Ursula, who was based on the drag queen, Divine. She was the first villain with such a dominating screen presence, unlike her counterpart witch from Snow white who took on a more passive role in the movie. This was also the first movie to have an entirely unique soundtrack for its antagonist! Without Alan Menken and Howard Ashman’s input, Ursula’s character wouldn’t stand out as much as she did.
This was a revolutionary movie as the Disney studio was in shambles during the production of the movie, the company had lost direction following the deaths of Walt Disney and his brother Roy more than a decade earlier. Films produced in the early 1980s, such as “The Fox and the Hound” and “The Black Cauldron’’ emphasized cost-cutting over innovation, sapping morale and quality. The little mermaid was truly a game changer in the genre of musicals and post production. It is no surprise that this movie garnered a Broadway show of its own! It revolutionized heroines , soundtracks and villains in 30 years!