Monday, September 29, 2014


RELEASE DATE: Friday 16th November 1990

SYNOPSIS: This short movie is based on Mark Twain's fictional novel about Prince Edward VI (that's Henry VIII's son - the one that died young) who, in the story, switches place with a penniless pauper who just so happens to look exactly like him. Only in this version, the prince and pauper are both played by Mickey Mouse!

This film is along the same lines as Mickey's Christmas Carol. It condenses a story into 25 minutes so that it can be played alongside a full-length feature. In 1990 this film debuted at the start of The Rescuers Down Under. It is notable for being the last time Disney used their Xerox ink-and-paint format for animation. After this they moved on to the C.A.P.S. system whereby the frames would be scanned and coloured in computer.

IRVYNE: I had never actually seen this short before this year, funnily enough. It's quite a cute little piece, but I wouldn't say it's a classic.

It is quite amusing to hear Mickey Mouse speak with an English accent! It reminds me of when I visitied Tokyo DisneySea a couple of years ago. Hearing Mickey, Donald and Goofy all speak in Japanese was incredibly bizarre!

I don't know if anyone noticed, but there aren't any female lead characters in this! I understand that's par for the course when you're adapting old stories like this, but surely they could have squeezed Minnie or Daisy in there somewhere! At least Pluto gets a bit of airtime; he probably hadn't been animated in decades! It must have been exciting for the animators to be drawing these classic characters that they had grown up with.

The animation is actually really nice. I almost expected since it was just a "short" that it would T.V. level animation, but it's not. The characters all move really well and even though it's fairly simple, it looks very nice.

Overall, a nice little movie that will likely be forgotten in the sands of time, but it's entertaining for what it is.

Saturday, September 27, 2014


Just wanted to post and say "Wow!"
There are other Disney nerds around the world! (Who'da thunk??)

Thanks for visiting! I hope it's entertaining and informative!


Thursday, September 25, 2014


RELEASE DATE: Friday 17th November 1989

In late 1989, history was made and the Walt Disney Company would be forever changed. Following in the footsteps of Snow White and Cinderella, The Little Mermaid was the opener for a brand new era of animation. What is now affectionately known as the "Renaissance" of Disney animation began right here with Ron Clements and John Musker's take on Hans Christian Andersen's classic story.

One of the key people involved in The Little Mermaid's creation was lyricist and producer Howard Ashman. After collaborating with composer Alan Menken on the successful stage production and movie of Little Shop of Horrors in the mid-80s, Ashman was brought on to write lyrics to one of the songs in Oliver and Company. It was then that he learned Disney was planning to turn The Little Mermaid into an animated film, and he immediately jumped on board.
Ashman was a firm believer that animation was a modern form of Broadway theatre, and a story like The Little Mermaid would benefit immensely from some really great theatrical songs to tell the story. He could not have been more right. Both he and his writing partner Alan Menken wrote the songs and score for the film, and it was a major factor in the film's overwhelming success. (Both "Under The Sea" and the film's score earned Disney two Academy Awards for the picture)

Sadly, this would be the last finished project that Howard would ever see. Towards the end of the production on Beauty and the Beast, he passed away from AIDS-related illness at the age of 40. Even though he was taken way too soon, his legacy still lives on to this day, and his influence in Disney's resurrection cannot be understated.

The level of animation involved in the movie's production was enormous, even by Disney's standards. As well as the main animation studio in California, a portion of the workload was shipped out to the newly set-up studio within the Disney-MGM Studios within Walt Disney World in Florida. (Now known as "Disney's Hollywood Studios")

The fact that a large part of the story happens under the ocean resulted in the biggest workload for special effects animators since Fantasia in 1940! (That's a lot of bubbles!) Following on from the trend of previous movies, a few shots include some basic computer animation, but they were inserted into the movie by printing out each frame and then tracing over it and hand-painting it with the rest of the animation.

Apparently the directors were keen to bring out Walt's old and celebrated multi-plane cameras for some clever looking shots, but the device had become so old and decrepit, it was deemed unusable.

The stars all aligned and The Little Mermaid became a phenomenal hit, setting the momentum going for an almost endless string of animated classics to follow. Since Mermaid's release in 1989 there have only been 2 years (1993 and 2006) without the release of a Disney Animated Classic.

There is no fairytale storybook opening in the new generation of Disney. Instead, we open to a ship sailing across the vast sea. Prince Eric is aboard, thrilled to be away from his obligations on land.

We then follow a fortunate little fish down to the depths of the sea floor.

We are led to the magical mer-kingdom of Atlantica. (Although the kingdom is never named in the film, this is officially what it's called)

King Triton arrives at the Atlantica theatre to watch his seven daughters perform a special presentation, and he... Wait. Who is that sitting in the audience there...??

The performance is conducted by Triton's royal court composer, Horatio Thelonious Ignatious Crustaceous Sebastian, who assures the king that his youngest daughter Ariel will make a stunning debut at the concert.

Unfortunately Ariel is not there. She has gone exploring with her best friend Flounder. They get up to all kinds of dangerous hijinks as they explore a sunken shipwreck. Ariel is particularly interested in abandoned human objects.

With a bag full of human oddities, Ariel and Flouder head up to the surface, where a seagull called Scuttle (who considers himself somewhat of an expert on "human stuff") imparts all of his knowledge.

When Ariel remembers her concert and races home though, she finds herself in a lot of trouble from her father, who has warned her time and time again that she is not allowed to swim up to the surface. As she ponders this in her secret grotto, she looks among her collection of human objects and wonders how the humans could possible be so bad.

Just as Sebastian discovers her grotto and begins to yell, Ariel notices something happening in the world above. She swims up to the surface to see a ship setting of fireworks. On board, she sees Prince Eric and falls instantly in love.

But disaster soon strikes. A mighty storm sets the ship ablaze. Eric tries to save his dog Max, but in the process gets thrown into the ocean. Ariel desperately tries to save him, swimming the unconscious prince back to shore.

Sebastian agrees not to tell King Triton what he's seen. Instead, he tries his best to persuade Ariel that life under the sea is "better dan anyting dey got up dere!"

Ariel is not convinced. Sebastian is summoned to see King Triton and unwittingly relinquishes his terrible secret: that Ariel rescued a human from drowning. The Sea King is furious, and in a fit of rage, smashes everything in Ariel's grotto to pieces.

A heartbroken Ariel is approached by two eels, Flotsam and Jetsam, who encourage her to come and see the sea witch, Ursula. They tell her that Ursula can solve all of her problems with powerful magic.

Ursula convinces Ariel to sign a contract, giving her three days as a human. If she can get Eric to kiss her, she stays a human forever. If not, Ursula owns her soul. Ariel reluctantly signs her deal with the devil and becomes what she had always wanted to be: human.

She wastes no time in finding the prince, but without a voice she finds it difficult to communicate that she is actually the girl he has been searching for; the one who rescued him from drowning.

Regardless, Eric takes a liking to the mysterious mute girl, and - assuming she's a survivor from a shipwreck - invites her back to the palace. She gets cleaned up and given some nice clothes, while Sebastian finds himself in a kitchen with a murderous chef called Louis.

The following day, Prince Eric takes Ariel on a tour of his kingdom. The little mermaid has a wonderful time exploring the land, spending time with Eric, and finally experiencing what it's like to dance.

The lovely day concludes with a boat ride. Sebastian, who has been keeping a close eye on things, finds some animal friends to help him convince the prince to "kiss de girl." It almost works... but not quite.

Later that night, just as Eric is beginning to think that the beautiful young mute might actually be the girl he wants to marry, a mysterious girl named Vanessa appears, singing with the voice that Eric heard as he was being rescued. He instantly plans to wed her, not giving a second thought to Ariel.

Scuttle, flying towards the wedding ship, sees Vanessa's reflection in a mirror and instantly knows that it's all a plot! When Ariel hears of it, she swims after the ship as fast as she can.

She is almost too late! The wedding is already underway. (There was a rather embarrassing moment with the priest here - it was edited for the DVD and Blu-Ray releases so there's no more scandal, but if you have an old VHS copy... Just watch the priest's pants...) Scuttle leads an army of animals in stalling the wedding. Vanessa's shell is smashed, and Ariel's voice returns to her.

Just as "happily ever after" is about to happen, the sun sets and Ariel turns back into a mermaid. Ursula grabs her and drags her back down to the ocean floor. Once there, she begins to ransom the girl off for Triton to relinquish his power. With the magic trident in her hands, Ursula seizes control of the ocean and makes herself enormous. Eric takes control of an old ship and steers it right through the sea witch's middle, destroying her once and for all.

Triton comes to understand that his daughter will never be happy unless she can live with Eric on the land, so he uses his magic to turn her into a human permanently. They all live happily ever after.

IRVYNE: You simply cannot understate what an achievement this movie was in 1989. It was not only better than any of the Disney films from 30 years before it, but it was leaps and bounds ahead of them; of a higher quality in every single aspect. Chief among these was its story and characters, both which were superbly crafted, and go to prove why Disney was the best in the biz.
Hans Christian Andersen's tale does not have a happy ending. The prince marries another woman and the little mermaid is given the choice to either kill him and become a mermaid again, or let him live and turn into sea foam. She chooses the latter. Suffice to say, Disney rewrote the ending to have a "happily ever after" moment. They also expanded the role of the sea witch, turning her into a bona fide villain.
They also did what Disney does best, which is create fantastic, funny and memorable support characters who steal the show without taking too much focus off the main plot.
The pacing of The Little Mermaid is perfect. The way characters and stories are introduced, the way comedy and drama make way for each other, it all just works alarmingly well; better than any Disney movie up until this point.
Somewhere between Oliver & Company and The Little Mermaid, the Disney artists remembered their craft. Gone are the rough pencilly Xerox styles, and in their place are exquisitely painted backgrounds, clean-lined, expressive characters and a superb notion of colour and tone. You only need to look at any of the screencaps above to see the level of artistry and detail that was created for this film. This rich style had not been seen in Disney animation since the 1950s, and it was welcomed back with open arms.
During the creation of The Little Mermaid, a little company called Pixar (Hmmm... I wonder whatever became of them...) developed a program for scanning and painting animation in a computer. It was called C.A.P.S. (Computer Animation Production System) and it would revolutionise the animation industry. While The Little Mermaid will go down in history as Disney's last "ink and paint" cel animated feature, the final shot in the film was coloured in C.A.P.S. and used as a test to see if anyone would notice the difference. No one did, so the system was adopted for all future projects.
Another point of interest is that Ariel was originally supposed to be a blonde. The paint specialists at Disney created an entirely original green hue for this film, and named this paint "Ariel." It was the colour used for the mermaid's tail. They then found that a red-headed mermaid's hair complimented the tail colour much better, so she became a red-head.
Alan Menken and Howard Ashman's songs quickly became beloved and widely known all over the world. "Under The Sea," "Part Of Your World," "Kiss The Girl" and "Poor Unfortunate Souls" have been etched firmly into the Disney lexicon of classic songs. Even the less-known songs, "Fathoms Below," "Daughters Of Triton" and "Les Poissons" work remarkably well for their scenes.
The score, also written by Menken, won an Academy Award for its excellence in setting a tone, and its use of sound themes. Each character has an instrument that symbolises them. Some of the leifmotifs used in the score became full songs in the Broadway musical.
Was there ever any doubt that The Little Mermaid would stand the test of time? It is Disney at its finest. It was hugely successful on its initial release, even more successful upon its video release, and has gone on to have a number of successive cinema and home video releases.
In 2008 it finally made its way to Broadway (following on from Beauty & the Beast, The Lion King, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Tarzan) and was received with mixed reviews. Some people loved it, some hated it. To give the impression of swimming, the mermaid characters wore "heelies," shoes that could become roller-skates. While it was a moderate success, running for about a year and a half, it was nowhere near the level of Beauty & the Beast of The Lion King's wild successes.
In 2012 the show was re-imagined in Holland. Songs were cut, added and altered, and it was given an entirely new visual style, this time having the characters "swim" (fly) around the stage. This production was supposedly quite successful, and it has become the basis for all future productions of the show.
The Little Mermaid is Disney history. It revitalised a company that had been struggling to find its way, and in doing so, introduced an entirely new generation to the wonders of animation and "Disney magic."

WENDY: The best Disney movie ever!!

IRVYNE: Ever...??

WENDY: Well, it's MY absolute favourite. It's perfect.

PASCAL: It's the kind of movie that just makes you smile.
MALEFICENT: When you compare The Little Mermaid to Oliver and Company the year before, it's leaps and bounds ahead. The animation is so much better, the songs are amazing, just everything is improved. 

PASCAL: The music is fabulous! It still holds up today, and everyone knows the songs. They're that good.

IRVYNE: It doesn't take long to know them, because they're so catchy.

WENDY: There's a real magic to The Little Mermaid, right from the beginning where you venture down into the mermaids' world.

MALEFICENT: It is magical. But there's one scene that always annoys me, and it's where Sebastian gives the game away to Triton.

PASCAL: I get annoyed that they can't just kiss before the sun goes down! I mean, come on, he's right there!

WENDY: Ursula is just the perfect villain. I love how they made it look like she's wearing some kind of evening gown, but then you look down and it's tentacles.

MALEFICENT: They must have studied real octopus movements to get all of her animation looking so good.

IRVYNE: I think they must have studied real breast movement as well...

MALEFICENT: They are very well animated...

PASCAL: Especially when she shakes them around!

IRVYNE: Fun fact. Ursula was actually modelled on a drag queen called Divine, who made movies with John Waters. She played Edna Turnblad in the original Hairspray. He/She was the inspiration for Ursula!

MALEFICENT: I didn't know that.

WENDY: I think Ursula is a better villain than Maleficent... Sorry...

MALEFICENT: I wouldn't say she's BETTER... She's a different kind of villain. She is a very GOOD villain. But she's not as evil as Maleficent. She's just out for revenge.

PASCAL: For being kicked out of the palace.

IRVYNE: Yeah, in the "extended story" I guess, Ursula is actually Triton's sister. Triton and Ursula were allegedly children of Poseidon, and they were squabbling over the right to rule the sea. That was the original idea, and there was a verse of "Fathoms Below" that would explain this, but the directors eventually thought it was unnecessary and cut it out. They brought back the whole brother-sister plot line in the Broadway musical though.

WENDY: I have to mention that Ariel just has the most amazing hair, no matter where she is, underwater or on dry land, it just flows beautifully.


IRVYNE: She was animated by Glen Keane, the first time he'd ever been in charge of a leading lady. I pretty much adore anything he animates. He has a way of putting a soul into a character's eyes.

MALEFICENT: The backgrounds are fantastic. I'm so glad they went back to using "classic" painted backgrounds, instead of the scratchy drawings they had in Oliver and Company. They're richly coloured and just beautiful.

IRVYNE: Sooo... I think we like this one.

WENDY: A lot!

MALEFICENT: This is the beginning of "Amazing Disney."

IRVYNE: I think, for a while anyway, we're all going to be in Happy Disney Land.