Written by Robert Reece and Evan Spiliotopoulos
Directed by Peggy Holmes
Running Time: 1:19
The Little Mermaid - Ariel's Beginning was a decent direct-to-video prequel that lacked the charm and originality of the, well, original.
The prequel starts in the farther past when Ariel was a small child. Her mother and father were deliriously happy until her mom dies in a tragic accident. Triton, who had given his wife a music box as a gift, bans music from the kingdom. Flash forward a few years and Ariel and her sisters and now about the age we saw them in the ground-breaking (and one of my all-time favorite films) The Little Mermaid. Ariel as you might remember is the rebellious one and when she happens upon an underground music club, she is determined to listen to music again. Sebastian, the stuffy crab who is the King's right hand man and supposedly against music as well, turns out to be the featured attraction in the club. That's all that is needed for the mean Marina to get Sebastian's job. But in the end, the King realizes that having a music-less society is not what his wife would have wanted.
Disney has to be the pioneer in the direct-to-DVD sequel having been doing this for decades now. Back in the olden days (the early to mid 1990s) the direct-to-video sequels were quickly put together and usually looked a lot cheaper than their theatrical brethren. I watched a couple back then but found them really visually disappointing and have pretty much stayed away ever since. So when the opportunity came along to watch Ariel's Beginning, I initially passed. But then I thought that it was now in the late 2000s and the direct-to-DVD business is booming. Maybe the animation had gotten better over time.
The animation has gotten better over the last 10-15 years. The stories however are still rather light. I did like the fact that Disney managed to get a lot of the original voice talent back together. But the story was simple and not very interesting. I'm guessing that if the writers had really wanted to, they could have gotten more into Triton and how he dealt with the death of his wife. But as this is more for kids, they had to deal more with putting the 'music' back into his life. And they did that through Ariel, who was just at petulant as she was in the original film. I also liked that for the most part, they kept the spirit of the characters, even if in the original movie Flounder was kind of a scaredy-cat and in this film he was willing to stick his neck out and do fun and illegal stuff.
The 'villain' was kind of a chump. Marina wasn't all that bad, especially when compared to Ursula. She wasn't trying to hurt anyone or get control of the ocean. All she wanted was Sebastian's job, which still would have kept her at the side of the King. Really all she would have gotten is a little power and a better view from her apartment. Marina's sidekick however was completely adorable, even though I have no idea what he was. I was also hoping that the music would have been a main feature in the film, but the original songs weren't anything special and the main musical sequence was done to an oldie. And it would have been a lot of fun if they had reprised a song from the original film. Visually the film held its own to theatrical films. Everything looked very clean and sharp. The movie only runs 77 minutes but it was an entertaining 77 minutes. I can't say I was ever bored, I guess I was just hoping for more.
Suprisingly, there aren't a lot of extras on the DVD. There are a couple of deleted scenes and a scrapbook that discusses Ariel and her sisters. And there's a backstage tour of the Disney musical currently on Broadway. But other than that, not a whole lot. With the hugeness that is Disney, I was expecting a bunch of extras that either tied in to the original movie or had something to do with direct-to-DVD movies. Even a rehash of some of the stuff on the The Little Mermaid 2-disc Special Edition. So, if you're going to get this DVD, you're going to get it for the movie and not for the extras.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I liked The Little Mermaid - Ariel's Beginning but I'm a sucker for The Little Mermaid in general. It's not a great movie, but I think the kids will enjoy it.
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