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File:The-Little-Mermaid-Poster.jpg

 I don’t know when

I don’t know how

But I know something’s starting right now

Watch and you’ll see

Someday I’ll be

Part of your world!

Entry #28 in the Disney Animated Canon, from 1989.

This movie is widely considered to be the start of the animated feature film renaissance of the 1990s, particularly for Disney. A loose adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's Tear Jerker fairy tale, it features a mermaid named Ariel, one of the daughters of the Sea King, Triton. Apparently unique among her kind, she is fascinated by the human world, although Triton has a hatred for humans that makes pursuing her interest quite difficult. One night, a forbidden visit to the surface leads her to fall in Love At First Sight with human Prince Eric, and she ends up rescuing him when his ship is destroyed in a storm. Now desperate to become a human, she agrees to barter her voice to the sea witch Ursula to become a human for three days; if she can receive True Love's Kiss from him within that time, she'll be permanently human. Otherwise, she will be Ursula's slave. Indeed, Ursula is actually manipulating her to turn her into ransom for Triton's crown, and she knows that the only thing Eric remembers about Ariel is her beautiful, beautiful voice...

The surprise hit of the 1989 holiday season, it won Best Song and Score Oscars, and placed Disney securely back on top of the animated film business. It spawned a CBS Saturday morning prequel series in 1992, a Direct to Video Sequel in 2000 (Return to the Sea), and a DTV Prequel in 2008 (Ariel's Beginning). The characters also figure in the Kingdom Hearts video game series, and other tie-in merchandise and media appearances are going strong with Ariel as an official Disney Princess. A stage musical adaptation was launched in 2007, and a dark ride debuted at Disney California Adventure in 2011.

A Disney Digital 3-D re-release will come in 2013.


The film shows examples of the following tropes: Edit

  • Accidental Public Confession: "Humans? Who said anything about humans?"
  • Action Girl: Though Ariel is a Distressed Damsel (or Fish Out of Water) on land, she can definitely take care of herself underwater.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Ursula's character design in the stage musical is less "overweight drag queen", and in the original cast, she was played by Sherie Renee Scott.
  • Adaptational Villainy: In the original fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, the Sea Witch is a True Neutral character who, while she makes the same deal with the unnamed mermaid, warns her of the consequences presented by the transformation and doesn't go back on it until asked to by the mermaid's sisters, and even then she only does so indirectly.
  • Adorkable: Ariel while exploring dry land.
  • Alliterative Family: Alana, Adella, Aquata, Attina, Arista, Andrina, and Ariel.
    • And their mother, Athena.
  • Almost Kiss: Twice.
  • Amazing Technicolor Population: Alana, Adella, Aquata, Attina, Arista, Andrina and Ariel all have different tail-colors. They're like the underwater Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
  • Amazing Technicolor Wildlife
  • Ambition Is Evil: Ursula in the original film, Morgana in Return to the Sea and Marina Del Ray in Ariel's Begining.
  • And I Must Scream: Ursula's "garden" is made of former merfolk, now helpless, voiceless polyps, whom she transformed after they made near-impossible "deals" with her.
    • In the sequel, this seems to be Morgana's fate, as she is trapped in a block of ice. Her eyes can move, but her body can't.
  • Animal Eye Spy: Ursula with her eels.
  • Animal Talk: The majority of the marine animals.
  • Art Evolution: This was the last Disney film to use traditional hand-painted animation cels. All subsequent Disney films were produced in digital ink-and-paint. Two scenes in Little Mermaid were done with digital ink-and-paint, however. They are Ariel running down the stairs before finding out about Vanessa (to accommodate the CGI stair background) and the wedding scene at the end.
  • Attack of the 50 Foot Whatever: Ursula in the climax.
  • Ax Crazy: Ursula may have had some sanity to manipulate factors in her favor, but Vanessa, Ursula's disguise? Hoo boy, is she a complete nutcase. Just look at her actions during "Vanessa's song" as well as her reactions when the attack of the animals occurred, and you'll see how she's pretty much became completely insane.
  • Badly-Battered Babysitter: Sebastian's part in the movie is a fleshed out version of this plot. The fact that his charge is sixteen does not make things any easier.
  • Bad Samaritan: Ursula.
  • Bare Your Midriff: By default.
  • Benevolent Boss: Ursula, which is unusual for a Disney villain. Subverted in the TV series, though.
  • Be Yourself
  • Big Bad: Ursula.
  • Big Friendly Dog: Prince Eric's dog, Max.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: "Vanessa".
  • Bittersweet Ending: Ariel goes off to be with Eric but leaves her father and sisters behind.
    • However, they still apparently do keep in touch, and compared to the original story's ending, this is quite mild.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: King Triton's daughters.
  • Brainwashed: "Vanessa" does this to Eric to torture Ariel.
  • Brick Joke: The "dinglehopper".
  • Buffy-Speak: Ariel is foreign enough to human life to call her collections "thingamabobs", "whatsits", "whosits" and "gizmos". It's implied that she learned them all from Scuttle, who is no scholar himself.
  • Call a Fork a Dinglehopper: ...and use it as a comb.
  • Car Fu: Ship Fu in this situation, utilized on Ursula.
  • Cave Mouth: The front door of Ursula's lair is the mouth of a sea-dragon.
  • Censor Shadow: After Ariel is transformed into a human, she's in the shadows before she leaves Ursula's lair.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Eric piloting (or at least attempting to) his ship in the hurricane.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Scuttle.
    • Arguably Ariel herself, especially compared to the other Disney Princesses and the other merfolk. Her family would have thought she was out there for having an interest in land, and what other Disney Princess is a Collector of the Strange?
  • Collector of the Strange: Ariel, who collects many items considered mundane to humans but strange to merfolk.
  • Compelling Voice: How Ursula brainwashes Eric. Special mention must be made to the fact that it isn't even her voice that brainwashes him but his love interest's, Ariel.
  • Composite Character: In the original fairy tale, there's a sea witch who gives the mermaid her legs and a princess whom the prince marries; Ursula combines them both, along with Adaptational Villainy.
  • Crystal Ball: Ursula has a bubble that serves as this. It's also implied that Flotsam and Jetsam's eyes act as this.
  • Curtain Clothing: Ariel attempts to make a dress from a sail on a wrecked ship. The result is more comical than anything.
  • Cute but Cacophonic: "Vanessa", once she loses possession of Ariel's voice.
  • Cute Mute: Ariel when she loses her voice.
  • Cut Song: Eric's "Her Voice", pieces of which can be heard throughout the score as sort of his theme. The musical puts it back in. "Silence is Golden" was an early song for Ursula, cut because the creators didn't like it. The musical has this trope in spades "Where I Belong" (Eric) and Ursula's reprise of "Her Voice" were cut after the tryout in Denver. 3 cut songs that still got to the public, via leaked demo tape are: "Wasting Away", "All Good Things Must End" and an alternate version of "Poor Unfortunate Souls (Reprise)". Their are several the public has never heard, among them are: "The World Above", "That Oughta Show Her" and a reprise for it, and "Ursula's Incantation II."
  • Dartboard of Hate: In the sequel, Morgana does this with a picture of Ursula using starfish instead of darts.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Grimsby.
  • Deal with the Devil: Ariel trades her voice to Ursula to be human. Ursula actually specializes in this kind of deal and has a "garden" full of merfolk who were turned into polyps when they weren't able to fulfill the terms of their contracts. Ironically, listen to the lines "This one longing to be thinner, that one wants to get the girl" - it seems the two examples Ursula gave already wanted each other; what they lacked was self-confidence. In the musical, Ursula's contracts had all the attributes of a literal Deal with the Devil:

 Ariel: And if I don't?

Ursula: Nothing drastic darling, I'm sure. Oh, look, small print. Your soul is mine forever and you're doomed to spend the eternity in my watery hell-soaked lair. Lawyers, don't you just love 'em?!

  • Depth Deception
  • Despotism Justifies the Means: Basically Ursula's plans to rule, had she ruled as Queen of the Sea long enough.
  • Determinator: Ariel with her desire to be human and marry Eric and even Eric's desire to marry the girl who saved his life.
  • Did You Get a New Haircut?: Scuttle asks Ariel this after she is turned into a human the first time. Sebastian replies with "she's got LEGS, you idiot!"
  • Did You Just Impale Ursula?
    • It is quite literally based on the end of The Call of Cthulhu (That, as well as Die Hard).
  • Disneyfication
  • Disney Princess
  • Disney Villain Death: Averted quite horrifically for a kid's film. To put it simply, the minions were electrocuted and disintegrated by a misfire from the Trident, and the main villain was impaled by a broken bow of the ship, electrocuted due to the Trident's blast backfiring on her, sinking, and then exploding. In both cases, the animators even went as far as to detail all of their pieces sinking down to the ocean floor. In fact, only one character, Ariel, actually ended up falling down a very huge height, and she survived.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Melody seems to strongly prefer going barefoot, only wearing shoes during one scene (where she's pretty much forced to).
    • More subtly, Ariel herself shows signs of this. In the first film, there are more scenes with her barefoot than wearing shoes. In the second film, she goes barefoot in the final scene even though the plot doesn't require it. Melody inherited yet another trait from her mother it seems.
  • Do Not Do This Cool Thing: According to Word of God, Ariel's fascination with the human world (at least partially) actually came out of her father's strict forbidding of it.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Never, ever let Ariel drive your horse-drawn carriage.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Vanessa certainly qualifies.
  • Eighties Hair: Ariel. Doubly impressive in that her hair is like that when she's out of the water and sopping wet. Not even the power of the ocean can defeat THAT volume. Underwater... well, hair spreads out underwater. This is why female scuba divers keep theirs short. This movie came out in 1989.
  • Even the Dog Is Ashamed
  • Everything's Better with Princesses
  • Everything's Better with Sparkles: When Triton returns Ariel to human form, she emerges from the sea before Eric in a sparkling silver dress.
  • Everything's Even Worse with Sharks: Undertow, Morgana's sidekick from The Little Mermaid 2.
  • Evil Counterpart / Evil Twin: Vanessa, Ursula's disguise, even without Ariel's voice, greatly resembles Ariel herself, albeit overall much darker.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Max again.
    • She probably smells like octopus and whatever those things are that she eats.
  • Evil Eyebrows: Ursula.
  • Evil Laugh: Ursula does one about every five minutes.
  • Evil Overlooker
  • Excessive Evil Eyeshadow: Ursula and her sister Morgana.
  • Fairy Tale
  • Fairytale Wedding Dress
  • Love At First Note: Eric for Ariel.
  • "Falling in Love" Montage: Ariel and Eric touring the kingdom.
  • Fan Disservice: Ursula's Jiggle Show during "Poor Unfortunate Souls".
    • The elderly preacher's "knees", way more so.
  • Fan Service: Ariel naked when she becomes human, and even as a mermaid, she (and her fellow merpeople) show a lot of skin: the women wear only a Seashell Bra, and the men go bare-chested.
    • Ursula does a LOT of shaking in the "Poor Unfortunate Souls" scene...there's even a close up as she shimmies.
  • Fantastic Racism: King Triton toward humans. When Ariel points out that he's judging Eric without knowing him, he declares "Know him?! I don't have to know him! They're all the same!"
    • Exposition removed from the original movie, but added back into the musical and the prequel, reveals that Ariel's mother was killed by humans (well, ran over by a pirate ship), making Triton's paranoia about them somewhat more sympathetic.
  • Feather Fingers: Notable in that the fish characters avert the "fish can walk on their tailfins" subtrope until the "Under the Sea" number, where it looks awkward. Scuttle doesn't exactly avoid the Trope Namer either.
  • Fee Fi Faux Pas
  • Fiery Redhead: Ariel.
  • Fish Out of Water: Ariel's a near-literal example.
  • Flower in Her Hair: Ariel, moments before and during "Under The Sea".
  • Foot Focus: Considerable focus on Ariel's feet. As soon as she becomes human, the first thing Ariel does is lift up her foot and stare at it in fascination, her bare sole smack in the center of the camera frame. For the rest of that scene (and a couple of other times in the movie), her bare feet are very prominent. The second film has a closeup of her stepping out of her shoes and walking barefoot into the water.
    • A little on Eric too. When Ariel rescues Eric from the ocean, his boots somehow come off leaving him barefoot when Ariel brings him ashore. Scuttle attempts to check his heartbeat by putting his ear to Eric's foot.
  • Fourth Date Marriage
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: After Ariel's transformation, as Sebastian and Flounder begin rushing her to the surface, there are a few frames where you can see Ariel's butt, and the area between her legs.
  • Gainaxing: Ursula, of all characters, got an inordinate amount of time spent on her to make sure she jiggled realistically.
  • Giant Poofy Sleeves: Ariel's wedding dress.
  • Garden of Evil: Ursula's garden of polyps at the entrance of her cave.
  • Glamour Failure: Scuttle discovers Vanessa is actually Ursula when he sees the reflection she casts in a mirror.
  • Gondor Calls for Aid: When Scuttle gets the fish, ducks, flamingoes, crabs, dolphins, seals, and starfish to help him crash Vanessa's wedding.
  • Gorgeous Garment Generation
  • Graceful Ladies Like Purple: Ariel's seashell bra, and her dress in the sequel are purple.
  • Grass Is Greener: "Betcha on land/They understand/Bet they don't...reprimand/Their daughters..."
    • As Sebastian points out, "The seaweed is always greener in somebody else's lake..."
  • Happily Married: Ariel and Eric, from the end of the first movie and into the sequel.
  • Heroes Love Dogs: And will nearly die for them.
  • Heroes Want Redheads
  • Hold Your Hippogriffs:
    • "You're not getting cold [1] now, are you?"
    • "You are such a [2]"
    • "You give them an inch, they'll [3] all over you."
    • "The [4] is always greener / In somebody else's [5]"
    • "Someone needs to nail that girl's [6] to the floor."
    • "It's time Ursula took matters into her own [7]"
  • Hollywood Kiss: Ariel and Eric.
  • Hypno Trinket: The shell containing Ariel's voice. Inverted in that it is the Villain who is wearing it and using it to manipulate the victim, rather than the usual case of the Villain placing it on the victim.
  • Hypocritical Singing: "Poor Unfortunate Souls" in a slight variation. Ursula, while trying to get Ariel to make a deal with her, sings of how she uses her powers to help people. The song's hypocritical in that she makes herself seem to come off in the very best light. While she does help people, she compares herself to a saint, but she also always has something to gain from her deals, and she goes out of her way to make sure that those under contract will fail to uphold their end of the bargain.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Again, Ursula's death.
  • Ink Suit Actor: Scuttle and his voice actor, the late Buddy Hackett. Hackett had his wife take photos of his face as he tried to make seagull-esque expressions in preparation for the role, and it seems the animators used those photos as reference material.
    • Subverted with Ursula, although just barely. Her design was based on Divine, and apparently was actually intended to be voiced by Divine, but he died before he could lend the voice.
    • Ariel's face and movements were heavily modelled on her voice actress, the very redheaded Jodi Benson. Even twenty years later, the resemblance is incredibly striking.
  • Innocent Fanservice Girl: Ariel. When she first becomes human, the only thing she's wearing is her Seashell Bra. Not having much knowledge of clothes, who knows how much longer she would have went naked without care if Scuttle hadn't given her that old sail.
  • Improvised Clothes: Ariel's first dress is an old sail strategically tied up with rope.
  • "I Want" Song: "Part Of Your World" in the original and "Her Voice" in the musical.
  • I Will Find You: Eric's intention when Ursula drags Ariel back to the sea.
  • The Jimmy Hart Version: The finish of "Part of Your World" in The Little Mermaid is Ashman and Menken Jimmy Harting one of their own songs, "Somewhere That's Green", from Little Shop of Horrors.
  • Kick the Dog: In human form, Ursula does this literally -- and it literally comes back to bite her in the butt.
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Scuttle claims to be an expert on humans but thinks forks are combs called "dinglehoppers", and smoking pipes are musical instruments called "snarfblats".
  • Large Ham: Ursula has a few of these moments. "YOU POOR, UNFORTUNATE SOOOOOOUUULLLLLLLL!!!!!"
    • Louie the chef. "Come out, you little pipsqueak and FIGHT LIKE A MAN!!"
      • "Hee, hee, hee! Ho, ho ho!"
  • Laughing Mad: Although Ursula usually does Evil Laughs, her laughter when gloating about her inevitable victory as Vanessa is closer to Laughing Mad.
  • Leitmotif: Used and subverted. Normally it's a good thing to hear Ariel's Voice, but in the scene when Eric throws his flute into the sea and seems ready to marry voiceless Ariel, hearing that song turns into an Oh Crap moment for the audience.
  • Letter Motif: Ariel and all of her sisters have the same first initial -- as did their mother. (See Theme Naming, below.)
  • Little No: Ariel, after Ursula turns Triton into a polyp and picks up the crown and the trident.
  • Love At First Sight: Ariel for Eric, with a chaser of Florence Nightingale Effect.
  • Love Hurts: Much less than in the original version, though Ariel's pain is obvious when she thinks Eric is going to leave her and marry Vanessa.
  • Loves Me Not: With an underwater flower.
  • Magically-Binding Contract: The one Ariel signs with Ursula currently provides the page image and quote; when Triton tries to destroy it with his trident, it doesn't work. As it turns out, the only thing that can break Ursula's contracts is her demise -- once she dies, all the polyps in her garden return to their natural forms.
  • Make My Self Grow: Ursula in the climax.
  • Mama Bear: Ursula did not take Flotsam and Jetsam's deaths well. "Babies! My poor little poopsies!"
    • Also, Ariel in the sequel and Athena in the prequel.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Broken up into two components. The girl Prince Eric encounters on the beach is the 'dream girl'; the girl who uses a fork to comb her hair and jumps a carriage over a ravine is the 'manic pixie'. Only at the end does Eric realise they're the same person.
  • Manipulative Bitch: Ursula, and how.
  • Marry for Love: Eric intends to do this.
  • Massive Numbered Siblings: Ariel has six older sisters: Aquata, Andrina, Arista, Atina, Adella, and Allana.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • "Eric" is an Old Norse name that can mean "One Ruler", "Lone Ruler" or "Lone Prince", which is what he is in the beginning of the film.
    • Ariel is Hebrew for "Lion of God" and is derived from one of God's Archangels.
    • Vanessa's name is derived from the Latin word "Vanitas", which means among other things Vanity, Worthlessness, Emptiness, and Nothingness. The first meaning is more than a little obvious, but the remaining three meanings also have a place in it as well, as it highlights the fact that Vanessa is Eric's false savior.
  • Mismatched Eyes: Flotsam and Jetsam both have these.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: And newts living in saltwater habitats.
  • Mood Whiplash: "You're too late!"
  • Merfolk Speaking English: Without it, giving up a voice might not have been so painful. Ariel wouldn't know how to talk to the prince, and Biped!Ariel could have just learned to speak the local Deaf lingo.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Whilst not as popular as Phillip from Sleeping Beauty, Eric nevertheless has his fair share of fangirls. It helps that he's the Animation Renaissance's first bona fide badass.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Ariel all the way.
  • Musicalis Interruptus: Some of the best around.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Triton when he blames himself for Ariel's disappearance in the first movie, given the way he acted.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The DVD Commentary notes that the scenes of Ariel posed on the rock were based on the Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen.
    • Ursula tosses a tongue-looking thing into her cauldron (See "Visual Pun" below.) In the original story, the little mermaid's tongue was cut out before she became human.
    • Attina, one of Ariel's sisters, was named after an obscure previous Alan Menken musical, Atina: Evil Queen of the Galaxy.
  • Naked on Arrival: When Ariel first becomes human, the lower half of her body is unclothed.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The first teaser for the third movie, made entirely from scenes of the first two. Still manages to be quite haunting.
  • Nightmare Face: "So help me, Ariel, I am going to get through to you, and if this is the only way, so be it!"
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Flounder, Sebastian, Scuttle and Max for the goodies. Flotsam and Jetsam for the baddie.
  • No Ontological Inertia: Ursula's prisoners are freed when she dies.
  • Not Evil, Just Misunderstood: Ursula claims this.

 Ursula: "I admit that in the past I've been a nasty

They weren't kidding when they called me, well, a witch

But you'll find that nowadays, I've mended all my ways..."

  • Oh Crap: "Vanessa" does a big one as a big flock of birds speed towards her.
  • Old-Fashioned Rowboat Date: Invoked as part of the song "Kiss the Girl".
  • One Mario Limit: "Ursula" wasn't a very common English name to begin with, but no reasoning parent today would name their child such, thanks to the villain of this film.
  • One-Winged Angel: Ursula at the end. Vanessa changing back into Ursula also counts.
  • Only Six Faces:
    • Ariel's sisters in the original appear to be exactly the same. The only difference is their hair and the color of their tails and bras.
      • It should be noted that although they look the same in the face, Adella is the chubby one out of the bunch, differentiating her from the rest of her slim sisters.
    • In a movie crossover version, Eric and Aladdin have similar features.
  • Our Mermaids Are Different: Ariel definitely popularized mermaid characters for an entire generation.
    • The filmmakers certainly claim that they subverted the blonde, otherworldly, mischievous archetype of the mermaid by creating a rebellious redheaded mermaid who was very human rather than fiery in character.
  • Overprotective Dad: Triton destroys almost everything Ariel cares about because of this, but in the end he becomes a Papa Wolf.
  • Overly Long Name: Horatio Felonious Ignacious Crustaceous Sebastian.
  • Papa Wolf: And protects her from Ursula (Well, he tries.)
  • Parental Abandonment:
    • Ariel has no mother, and while he's not evil, her father is so misguided in his attempts to protect her that she feels emotionally abandoned.
    • Eric seemingly has no parents whatsoever and was possibly raised by Grimsby.
  • Parental Favoritism: Despite their personality conflicts, Ariel is Daddy's favorite. According to the DVD Commentary, the directors and producers were a little uncomfortable with the idea but rationalized it out as Ariel being the most like her father in temperament.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: The dinner dress Ariel is given as well as her wedding dress.
  • Pinocchio Syndrome: Ariel's "I Want" Song is a passionate declaration of the desire to become human. The desire becomes uncontrollable after her encounter with Eric, who could be said to represent the human world she's always longed for. Even after she becomes human, she is just as, if not more, focused on exploring as she is on kissing Eric and saving her own life.
  • Power Hair: Ursula.
  • Princesses Prefer Pink: Ariel's dinner dress and nightgown are both pink.
  • Punctuated for Emphasis: "...You turn back into a mermaid. And you belong. To me."
  • Punctuated Pounding: "CAN YOU HEAR WHAT I'M TELLING YOU? The prince! Is marrying! The Sea Witch in disguise!"
  • Purple Eyes: Vanessa.
  • Rainbow Motif: The seven daughters of Triton each have a different color tail. If we were to arrange them chromatically: Arista (red), Attina (orange), Adella (yellow), Ariel (green), Aquata (blue), Andrina (purple), Alana (pink).
  • Rebellious Princess: Ariel fits this to a T.
    • Rebel Prince: And she falls in love with the male version of this in Eric.
  • Red-Headed Heroine
  • Redemption Equals Life: The original story has the mermaid becomes a wind spirit after she refuses to kill her prince; it is implied she will go to heaven after some time.
  • The Renaissance Age of Animation
  • Rescue Romance: It goes both ways, too.
  • Romance Genre Heroines
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: After a long string of generic Prince Charmings, Prince Eric actually turns out to be quite the Badass. He killed Ursula by impaling her with a freaking boat. Dialogue during the dinner scene suggests the Eric is quite active in the ruling of his kingdom and has to take time off just to show Ariel around. Ariel, Triton and Melody are pretty active as well, when danger shows up.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Ursula is meant to be the personification of lust, with Ariel being purity. There is a similar metaphor in the original story, with the mermaid being lust and the Temple princess being purity, which is why the latter gets the prince.
  • Rule of Three: "Before the sun sets on the third day..."
  • Sanity Slippage: Ursula, while not a good character, was sane and composed during most of the film. However, when she transforms into Vanessa, its implied that she lost quite a bit of sanity (to the point of becoming a borderline Ax Crazy) when turning into her, as she talks to her mirror in a manner similar to a schizophrenic, emits a psychotic grin when throwing a pin at a mirror's head with enough velocity to knock the mirror back, and most certainly kill a person had that been a human being, not to mention her cackling.
  • Scenery Censor: Nude Ariel.
  • Sealed with a Kiss
  • Seashell Bra
  • Shadow Discretion Shot: Ariel's transformation into a human by Ursula. Subverted though, in that if you lighten the color on your monitor, you can see see a good deal of Ariel's nude body.
  • Shout-Out:
    • So an octopus-monster is menacing everyone. Heroically, one man pilots a ship into the monster, the snapped bowsprit impaling it and sending it back to whence it came. But enough about the end of H.P. Lovecraft's The Call of Cthulhu...
    • One of Ariel's sisters is named Alana, after composer Alan Menken.
    • Alana also means 'harbor'.
    • In the TV series, Ariel and Arista have to get rid of two saltwater crocodile robbers who snuck into the palace in a manner similar to Kevin's methods against Marv and Harry from the Home Alone franchise.
    • This is the reason why they ended up changing the ending to the final version. Apparently, one of the creators had recently seen Die Hard, and thought they should make the movie more action-packed like the movie (which probably explains the "Ship-Fu" at the end of the movie.
  • The Silent Bob: Ariel after becoming human.
  • Slasher Smile: Ursula does this quite a bit during the final battle. Vanessa, Ursula's disguise, has this when gloating about her inevitable victory (Specifically, when she throws her hairpin at a mirror with enough force to knock the mirror back upon impact.)
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Scuttle, about knowledge of human life.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: The mermaid in Andersen's Fairy Tale died.
    • Actually such was the case in the original version, but it's believed that Andersen later revised it - her soul remains in what amounts to Purgatory, and for every good child she observes, she gets closer to entering Heaven, but for every bad, disobedient child, the process will take longer.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Ariel's sister's name, Aquata, is clearly pronounced (and spelled, in the captions) AquaNta in "The Daughters of Triton" in the 1989 film.
    • Also, concept artwork indicated that Vanessa's name was originally supposed to be spelled with an "e" instead of an "a" (meaning, it was intended to be spelled "Venessa").
  • Strong Family Resemblance:
    • In Ariel's Beginning, Queen Athena looks exactly like Ariel with Green Eyes.
    • In the sequel, Melody looks a lot like Eric, down to her bangs and eyebrows.
  • Super Strength: Implied with Ariel when the movie first shows her grotto, where she moves a boulder aside with ease when accessing it, and knowing how doors that are deep underwater with an imbalanced volume between both sides are impossible to open, natural or otherwise, that's a pretty big implication.
    • Actually, the grotto is not entirely closed off; it has a hole in the top of it where we can see the water's surface and light shines through. Of course, why the characters use a "door" when they could swim in from the top is an exercise for the viewer... The hole was actually implied to be somewhat small for Ariel's size. At best, Flounder could fit through it. In any case, the grotto was likely to have an imbalanced volume due to the fact that the hole was not big enough to actually balance out the separating volumes. Try shipdiving deep underwater and opening a door, you are unlikely to actually open the door as it would be fused shut due to the imbalance of water volume.
    • How the hell did Flounder get that statue of Eric into the grotto by himself (disregarding that none of the openings are big enough for the thing)?
      • Flounder is a freaking powerhouse. He's able to pull Ariel and the barrel fast enough to catch up with the wedding barge, too; and he pulls her all the way to the surface from the bottom of the ocean right after she transforms.
  • Teeth Flying: At the end of the movie, Louis the chef loses a few teeth after getting hit on the face by a mast.
  • Tentacle Rope: In the sequel, Morgana grabs and holds Ariel using her tentacles.
  • Theme Naming: The Daughters of Triton: Ariel, Aquata, Andrina, Arista, Atina, Adella, and Alana.
    • Odd Name Out: Sure, Ariel's name starts with A like her sisters', but it does not end with A.
  • They Have the Scent: Max tracks Ariel down by scent twice in the film, licking her face upon finding her both times. The second time is even how Prince Eric first meets her.
  • Took a Level In Badass: Flotsam and Jetsam, Ursula’s followers, seem much more threatening in the stage musical and certainly are more devious.
  • Title Drop: During "Vanessa's" song: "Soon I'll have that little mermaid and the ocean will be mine!"
  • True-Blue Femininity: When Eric is showing Ariel around his land, she wears a dress with a blue skirt, and a large, blue hair ribbon.
  • True Love's Kiss
  • Truth in Television: During the "Kiss the Girl" sequence, flamingos were seen despite the setting being implied to be around Europe. In real-life, there are actually species of flamingos that are native to Southern Europe (The greater flamingos, which are also native to parts of Africa and South Asia.) Likewise, the fireflies being in the lagoon is also of this trope, as they can exist in temperate environments as well as in marshes.
  • Two-Person Love Triangle
  • Under the Sea: Although it's about video games, this is the Trope Namer. On the other hand, it IS the main setting in most Little Mermaid video games.
  • Unscaled Merfolk: Ursula.
  • Urban Legends: In similar fashion to the word "SEX" allegedly appearing in the sky in The Lion King, the poster art for The Little Mermaid features a decidely phallic-looking column on King Triton's castle. The Legend goes that a disgruntled animator had been fired and drew the column into the poster out of spite before he left. Whatever the case, the art has since been changed and recent posters no longer feature the castle anyway.
    • That particular Urban Legends being discredited immediately by the fact that animators don't draw a film's posters or cover art.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Ursula near the end.
  • Villainous Glutton: Ursula.
  • Villain Song: "Poor Unfortunate Souls". And to a lesser extent, "Les Poissons". Chef Louie's sadistic glee is almost certainly villainous.
    • In The Musical, "I Want The Good Times Back", again by Ursula.
    • The prequel has Marina Del Ray's "Just One Mistake".
  • Visual Pun: A rather dark one. When Ursula sings the line "It's she who holds her tongue, who gets her man.", she tosses a human-looking tongue into her cauldron.
  • Watching the Sunset
  • Water Is Air: The animators worked their butts off to make the underwater physics at least more believable than usual, so we'll chalk up Ariel gasping and crying as a Translation Convention. Actually, it is theoretically possible for her to gasp underwater due to the fact that, since she lives underwater, she probably has gills that activate when underwater, a binary respiratory system, if you will.
    • Subverted on the whole with Ariel's movements within the water, for the creation of which animators referenced the movements of astronauts in zero gravity.
    • And completely un-subverted in the prequel by having merpeople swim down the 'streets' in a completely upright posture, as if they were walking on feet, even though their tails don't touch the ground.
  • Wedding Smashers: Scuttle rounds up every critter in the area to crash the Vanessa/Eric nuptials, buying Ariel time to get to the wedding barge.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: King Triton, although unlike others he actually has a Freudian Excuse.
  • Wicked Witch

 "I admit that in the past I've been a nasty,/They weren't kidding when they called me, well, a witch..."

The story it was based on exhibits several of the above tropes, but had more of a Downer Ending where the eponymous mermaid protagonist dies, but may eventually be accepted into Heaven through good deeds albeit only if children are good in the world.

Notes

  1. feet
  2. chicken!
  3. walk
  4. grass
  5. lawn!
  6. feet
  7. hands!

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