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(Diamond Edition)

When it was released in 1989, THE LITTLE MERMAID ($45) was the film that made it clear that Disney's animated feature films were once again worthy of the terms "classic" and "masterpiece." After so many years of tepid animated offerings that paled in comparison to the brilliant works of the 30's 40's and 50's, THE LITTLE MERMAID proved to be an absolute revelation. What makes THE LITTLE MERMAID stand out from Disney’s lesser animated films is the fact that this movie boasts a terrific story, features truly memorable characters and delivers delightful Broadway caliber songs by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman.

The plot of THE LITTLE MERMAID is adapted from the classic tale Hans Christian Andersen. However, this telling features the sensibilities of the 20th century and a good dose of humor. THE LITTLE MERMAID is the story of a mermaid named Ariel, who is the youngest daughter of Triton, the Sea King. Ariel is a rebellious teenaged girl (with a tail), who has become fascinated with the human world- the one thing her father truly despises. During a violent storm at sea, Ariel rescues a handsome Prince named Eric from drowning, and instantly falls in love. Triton is outraged by his daughter's actions and professed love for a human, so he teaches her a lesson by destroying all of her prized possessions from the world above.

Unfortunately, Triton's actions alienate Ariel, which drives her to strike a bargain with Ursula the Sea Witch. As part of their bargain, Ursula makes her human for a period of three days, in which she must secure true love's kiss from Prince Eric. If Ariel fails, her life and soul will become the property of Ursula. Of course, Ursula puts a few roadblocks in Ariel's way. However, with the help of her friends Sebastian the crab and Flounder the fish, Ariel has a better than even chance of succeeding in her quest to win Prince Eric’s heart. THE LITTLE MERMAID features the vocal talents of Jodi Benson, Christopher Daniel Barnes, Pat Carroll, Jason Marin, Samuel E. Wright, Kenneth Mars, Buddy Hackett, Joe Alaskey, Rene Auberjonois and Edie McClurg. As fond as I am for the story of THE LITTLE MERMAID, the film would be greatly diminished without the songs of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. Speaking of the songs, THE LITTLE MERMAID features a few showstoppers including Poor Unfortunate Souls, which is a showcase for the talents of Pat Carroll, the delightful Kiss The Girl and the Academy Award winning Under The Sea.

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment has made THE LITTLE MERMAID available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. Production-wise, THE LITTLE MERMAID is notable amongst Disney films as it was the last to use traditional hand-painted cel animation, and this beautiful transfer highlights the filmic nature of the original production and doesn't over-process the image into something unrecognizable as coming from an analogue film source. That being said, there are some quirks in the original animation/photography that will render certain shots as a little soft, or not quite as vibrant. However, for the most part, the presentation is relatively gorgeous; offering a rich, colorful image in the hand-painted animation style of the past. The image is crisp, with strong, well defined lines that separate static backgrounds from animated foreground objects and characters. Colors are strongly rendered, with bright primary hues popping against the pastels. Blacks are deep and inky while the whites are crisp and solid. Contrast is wonderfully smooth and the image demonstrates a nicely filmic level of grain.

THE LITTLE MERMAID is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 7.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Considering that THE LITTLE MERMAID was recorded and mixed for theaters in 1989, the lossless soundtrack presents the best or the original sound design without trying to artificially over-sweeten the sound for home theaters circa 2013. The sound is big and delightful for musical numbers, while maintaining its sense of reserve for quiet dialogue passages. Sure, THE LITTLE MERMAID doesn't sound like an all-digital film soundtrack released into theaters in 2013, but then again, it shouldn't. The forward soundstage is prioritized over the rear, but a good deal of ambience, effects and musical fill does find its way into the back channels. Everything jumps to life during the musical numbers, which really work their Broadway magic... when they are enveloping the viewer with full soundstage engagement. Fidelity is excellent, with the near quarter-century-old recordings sounding the best they ever have in the home venue. The bass channel is strong, but not overwhelming. Speaking voices have a warm, natural quality, plus the film’s dialogue is always completely understandable. French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the disc, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials, some of which have been ported from previous DVD releases. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary with directors/writers Ron Clements and John Musker, as well as composer Alan Menken. Featurettes and other programs include the following:@Disneyanimation (eleven minutes), Under The Scene (thirteen minutes), Howard's Lecture (sixteen minutes), Deleted Character: Harold The Merman (two minutes) and Part Of Her World (five minutes).

In the Backstage Disney section one will find: The Little Match Girl (seven minutes), The Making Of The Little Mermaid (forty six minutes), The Story Behind The Story (eleven minutes), Storm Warning: Special Effects Unit (nine minutes), Under The Sea Early Presentation Reel (three minutes), John & Ron Make Caricatures Of Each Other (one minute), Animators Comment On Their Characters (two minutes), The Little Mermaid Handshake (one minute) and an Original Theatrical Trailer. The Blu-ray also features Crab-E-Oke Sing Along with the following songs: Part Of Your World, Under The Sea, Poor Unfortunate Souls, Les Poissons and Kiss The Girl. There is also a new Music Video featuring Carly Rae Jepsen performing Part Of Your World, as well as an older one with Ashley Tisdale performing Kiss The Girl. From the cutting room floor are twenty six minutes of Deleted Scenes and alternate versions. Assorted bits include Disneypedia: Life Under The Sea (eight minutes), Behind The Ride That Almost Was (six minutes) and Under The Sea Adventure (four minutes). Disc two offers a DVD copy of the movie for those who are on the fence about making the upgrade to Blu-ray. A Digital Copy is also available.

THE LITTLE MERMAID is what I like to call Disney's first modern masterpiece... the film that ushered in a new era of Disney greatness. The Blu-ray presentation looks gorgeous and sounds wonderful. Absolutely recommended.


The Little Mermaid (Two-Disc Diamond Edition: Blu-ray / DVD + Digital Copy) (1989)


DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright 2013 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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