Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Little Mermaid

I avoided seeing The Little Mermaid for almost 20 years. But I keep hearing that song, Part of Your World.

I heard it in Disney World, over and over, over the past few years. I kept dragging everybody to hear the song in Philharmagic. That and the Aladdin song. They're both magical.

So when I went to Disneyland last week, I heard it again. All over, but especially in the animation building. There’s a marvelous montage, sort of a 3D effect, all over the walls. Just while you’re waiting to visit one of the exhibits.

My reasons for not seeing it lay in not wanting to see another little girl fall for the guy, not develop her personality, willing to give up everything to be rescued by ... Him.

I finally made the plunge. And I found…

Marvelous animation. Mostly obviously two-dimensional, but with terrific colors which surround the animation.

A great voice in Jodi Benson – gosh, she must be 50 by now – who acts in the songs as well as sings in bell-worthy quality.

Some really good songs. None as good as the main song, but good and hummable. Under the Sea. And that funny song actor Rene Auberjonois sings as the chef Louis tries to chop up Sebastian the crab.

And we also have – drumroll, please – a fantastic, stupendous female villain in Ursula, the Sea Witch! I have never been so repulsed by an animated octopus. She was just wonderful, voiced by the now-passed Pat Carroll. It’s so great to see her legacy live on in some visceral way. (So many from this cast have passed away, including Howard Ashman, who wrote the movie and co-wrote the songs.)

But, aside from that, we have…. A delightful young woman – 16, as she tells her smothering father – who gives up everything for the young man.


But at least we still have that song.

“Look at this stuff
isn’t it neat
wouldn’t you think my collection’s complete
Wouldn’t you think I’m the girl, the girl who has everything.

Look at this trove ,treasures untold
How many wonders can one cavern hold?
Looking around here, you’d think – Sure. She’s got everything.

I’ve got gadgets and gizmos aplenty
I’ve got whosits and whatsits galore.
You want thingamabobs? I got twenty.
But who cares. No big deal. I want more.

I wanna be where the people are. I wanna see, wanna see ‘em dancing.
Walking around on those…what do you call ‘em? Oh, Feet.

Flipping your fins, you don’t get too far. Legs are required for strollin’, dancin’.
Strolling around on the…. What’s that word again? Street.
Up where they walk, up where they run
Up where they stay all day in the sun.
Wandrin’ free, wish I could be, part of that world.

What would I give if I could live out of these waters.
What would I pay to spend a day warm on the sand

Betcha on land they understand
That they don’t reprimand their daughters
Bright young women, sick of swimmin’
Ready to stand.

And ready to know what the people know
Ask ‘em my questions and get some answers.

What’s a fire and why does it …what’s the word… Burn.
When’s it my turn, wouldn’t I love
To explore that shore up above.

Out of the sea
Wish I could be
Part of that world”

Well, maybe 19 years later they’ve invented an animated feature that models for little girls. Little Mermaid gives us another interesting villainness, one to join The Wicked Queen, Cruella Deville, and so many other Disney creations. Since I haven’t watched many Disney features, except for Pixar, I couldn’t tell you. However, wouldn't it be nice if a kid had a positive role model fleshed out for her, instead of a negative one. Yes, yes - I know the movie is based on a Hans Christian Andersen fable but, hey world! time for a new ending.

Thumb’s up for the music and the animation, and the delightful Ariel. Thumb’s down, still, for the lessons that fail young girls.


At 10:18 AM, Blogger Sheryl said...

We've seen LOT'S of Disney Movies. I've also been concerned about the images of girls. My all time favorite is Mulan. This is the story of a girl who disguises herself as a boy and goes into the army so that her aging father doesn't have to. As first, she's a total failure at soldiering until something clicks. She comes up with an "outside the box" solution to a task and this gives her confidence to really apply herself (a little bit of Private Benjamin here) and succeed. She does get a guy in the end (I was disappointed that they had to tag this one) but at least it was on her own terms. Great music and animation also (although I found the cricket annoying) My kids liked this one - but they didn't love it.

Beauty of Beauty and Beast is also a strong character - and the Beast wins her over by giving her a library! We had good discussions at home about how being good looking and popular doesn't mean that you're right or good. Also about the difference between evil (Gaston - who absolutely doesn't care how his actions affect others) and undisciplined (the Beast who never learned to control his temper - but who could and did learn)

ok, clearly I spent too much time watching Disney. Don't get me started on Lion King!


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