The Little Mermaid Discussion: Part 2

Despite all its flaws, Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid” is, as I mentioned in the previous post, a beautiful, sophisticated story that was completely watered down (pun intended) by Disney. The main thing Disney left out was the mermaid’s wanting an immortal soul, and this, quite literally, took the soul right out of the story! In the Disney version, all Ariel wants is to be a human with legs, so that she can dance and learn all there is to know about the human world above her. To Disney’s credit, romance isn’t all she wants from the beginning. Seeing Prince Eric just gives her even more of a motivation to become human.

There is still the problem, though, of wanting to be with a man she doesn’t even know just because he’s cute. The two of them even fall in love when they’ve barely even met! Love at first sight yet again, people, and you know how I feel about that! Not to mention that in order to remain human, Ariel has to be kissed by Prince Eric before she’s been on land for three days! Talk about rushing a relationship! This also gives the story the same problem as Hans Christian Andersen’s version: she needs the love of a man in order to truly become human. There it is again, Disney! Your same old message that women have to be loved by men in order to be whole people! To be fair, this message is seen in the original versions of many fairy tales including this one, but these are old stories! Disney, being a modern day film company, should have been able to alter these stories enough so that they wouldn’t have those messages.

Disney, in my opinion, took the right stuff out and left the wrong stuff in while adapting “The Little Mermaid” for the screen. By stripping the story and the protagonist of a soul, Disney removed its sophistication. It left in, however, the story’s sexist messages. Without the sophisticated themes of the original, the Disney version really isn’t that interesting. Sexist messages aside, that’s why I never cared for this movie as a child. I liked Ursula, the sea witch, but that was about it.

Now that I’m an adult who has read the original story, I like the Disney version even less. Personally, I think Disney picked the wrong Hans Christian Andersen story to make a movie from, because doing so meant stripping the story of its essence. Many of Hans Christian Andersen’s other stories, like “The Snow Queen,” are also a little too sophisticated for Disney to handle, which is why I’m dreading seeing “Frozen,” Disney’s upcoming adaptation of “The Snow Queen.” I’m sure they will butcher it even more than they butchered “The Little Mermaid,” for this is the fate for just about any Hans Christian Andersen story that falls into Disney’s clutches.

The only story of Andersen’s I think Disney could have made a decent feature length movie out of is “Thumbelina.” That would have been a better choice than “The Little Mermaid.” “Thumbelina” has sexist qualities too, and I know better than to expect Disney to change that. I also know, however, that Disney would have done a much better job in creating a film version of this fairy tale than Don Bluth did. Don Bluth’s Thumbelina was a cheap Disney knock-off. Such a movie should have at least been made by the real McCoy.

Speaking of Don Bluth, let’s quote Lindsay Ellis, the Nostalgia Chick: “The profitability and quality of any given Don Bluth movie is in inverse proportion to how well the Disney company is doing.” Here is a link to the video in which she says this, which, coincidentally, is about Don Bluth’s Thumbelina:

In other words, when the Disney company wasn’t doing well, Don Bluth produced great films like “The Secret of Nimh,” “An American Tail,” “The Land Before Time,” and “All Dogs Go To Heaven,” the latter of which I have only seen clips of, but know other people like. When Disney was doing well, however, Don Bluth made cheap Disney knock-offs like “Thumbelina” as well as other weird, poorly-developed kids’ films like “Rock-A-Doodle.”

That’s very sad, in my opinion. I mean, we all know Don Bluth was capable of making kids’ films like “The Land Before Time” (my favorite movie of his), which has a level of sophistication rarely seen in a Disney film, or even “The Secret of Nimh,” which is probably one of the most sophisticated kids’ films ever made, so why did he feel the need to rip off Disney when Disney was doing well? He and his company probably believed that with everybody flocking to Disney films, his films would be overlooked if they were different from Disney. If the Disney viewers at the time had been in the right state of mind, though, they would not see a cheap Disney knock-off in addition to a real Disney movie, and certainly not instead of one. No, they would have seen a well-developed, sophisticated kids’ film nothing like Disney in addition to a Disney film! That’s certainly what I would have done. That’s why Don Bluth shouldn’t have been afraid to make more movies like “The Land Before Time” when Disney was doing well.

With that in mind, I think Don Bluth and Disney should have swapped which Hans Christian Andersen stories they made film adaptations of. Disney should have done “Thumbelina,” and Don Bluth could have easily made an animated film version of “The Little Mermaid,” one with the same sophistication level as “The Land Before Time” or even “The Secret of Nimh,” that stuck much more closely to the original story. In a movie like that, the mermaid still could have died as long as the movie greatly emphasized her rebirth, since to quote Doug Walker, the Nostalgia Critic, “His [Don Bluth’s] philosophy was that children can handle just about anything as long as you attach a happy ending.” Here is a link to the video in which he says this:

Maybe someday years from now, probably after everyone has forgotten Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” someone will make a film version of that story in the spirit of Don Bluth’s better films. If I were in charge of making that film, I would make sure the mermaid does not suffer as much as she does in the original story and figures out on her own how she can less painfully gain an eternal soul.

As an extra perk, here is another Lindsay Ellis video about why she doesn’t like Disney’s The Little Mermaid: Her reasons are not necessarily the same as mine, but it is nice to know I’m not the only female who dislikes this film.


1 Comment

Filed under Fairy Tale Discussions, Hans Christian Andersen

One response to “The Little Mermaid Discussion: Part 2

  1. “The Little Mermaid” was one of my favorite movies as a child, and I still love it, but mostly for nostalgia’s sake. (I also enjoy the original fairy tale, but I tend to keep them separate in my mind.) I see your points here and agree with them.

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