In 1937 Walt Disney Studio made cinematic history making an indelible mark on our society. This ground breaking event was the release of the first animated feature length film; ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’. This began a tradition in millions of families taking their children to a Disney movie. You can gauge a person’s generation by asking which movie was the first one their watched with their parents and which was the first their watched with their own kids. Personally the first I have fond memories of was ‘101 Dalmatians’ eventually introducing my daughter to ‘The Little Mermaid’. When the video tape was released I stalwartly waited on line to get a cop. We wore that VHS tape out with repeated viewing as my daughter fashioned fins for her Barbie Dolls. Someday she will introduce her child to a Disney film yet to be imagined. One aspect of the company’s founder, Walter Disney, was his love of imagination. He marveled at a child’s innate ability suspend disbelief and fully embrace the magical. He and his team of ‘Imangineers’, ere innovators pushing the frontier pushing the limits of entertainment technology to new heights taking these beloved films along to entrance new generations. In partnership with Pixar they have redefined feature animation with the Real 3D techniques. The studio has been systematically working their way through the Disney animated canon meticulously remastering these treasures to present them in the state of the art high definition. These two directives of the preeminent source of family enjoyment merge with the 3D/Blu-ray release of the 28th film in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series; ‘The Little Mermaid’’. My daughter will be visiting soon and I am certain that this will be as enjoyable now as it was back in 1989.
Ariel (voiced by Jodi Benson) is a naïve sixteen year old with an over barring father what makes her predicament from other girls her ages is she is a mermaid princesses, her father is Triton (voiced by Kenneth Mars), the King of the seven seas. Ariel spends her time swimming around collecting objects that catch her eye although clueless about their true purpose or what the humans on land call them. Her best friend and confidant are Flounder (voiced by Jason Marin) and a crab named Sebastian (voiced by Samuel E. Wright). Ariel’s deepest desire is to explore the world on the land and meet people with those, what do you call them, legs. One thing that never fails to entrance Ariel is to watch people near the shore. One evening she watches a regal birthday celebration for the handsome Prince Eric (voiced by Christopher Daniel Barnes). The mermaid princess falls in love that instant. The Prince falls over board but just before he drowns Ariel rescues him. All he can remember is ethereally beautiful voice just before he fell.
A pair of evil eels, Flotsam and Jetsam (voiced by Paddi Edwards) convince the innocent Ariel to seek out the help of Ursula (voiced by Pat Carroll), the sea witch. They assure Ariel that the octopus like being will be able to help her predicament. The tentacled Ursula softly reassures the mermaid that she can certainly help her meet the object of her love, Prince Eric. There is one underlying law that infuses all incarnations of the magical kingdoms of Disney; "Magic always extracts a price’. This is an intrinsic part of Mr. Disney’s philosophy that family entertainment should contain a gently presented moral lesson. A bargain is struck. In return for turning Ariel into a human girl the mermaid must abide by a couple of stipulations. Unless Eric bestows the kiss of true love on Ariel she will return to her mermaid form forever enslaved to the witch. As collateral Ariel’s voice is taken from her and stored in a sea shell leaving her mute. Ursula’s end game is to obtain Triton’s trident, the symbol and source of his aquatic power making the witch the ruler of the seas.
After watching this movie countless times with my daughter sitting beside me I freely admit I am biased when it comes to reviewing it. Even with that caveat noted it is regarded as one of the best crafted and most beloved member of the canon. VCR tapes quickly wear out; scratches, specks and stretches appear in short order. We went through three copies over the years. After moving through DVD, standard Blu-ray to the 3D edition now released I’m reasonably certain it is the last variation necessary for a long while. Like most parents with kids born in the early eighties I have the content of this film committed to memory. Those scenes are still vivid to me yet as I sat down to watch the 3D version the only thing that would have made the experience perfect would be having my daughter and late wife alongside me. The addition of the illusion of depth is not a gimmick to dip once again into the wallets of parents and now grown up fans. It is a true reinvigoration of a classic treasure, a vital piece of our culture.
The iconic scene of Ariel on the rocks joyfully singing ‘Part of their world’ is imparted with renewed wonder as you can see the blue ocean behind her and the waves crashing all about. When Eric falls the 3D infuses this tense shot with greater peril as you can readily see the murky depths beneath him. Ariel’s grotto land objects surround her with multiple planes creating a rich and fantastic space, in 3D you can fully appreciate the 360 degree range of motion that aquatic inhabitants call home. When you combine this with a robust DTS-HD MA 7.1 primary audio track you are completely immersed in this world of wonder like never before. Like most of us you might have seen this film hundreds of times but nothing can prepare you for how you will experience it here. you will be pulled in and become part of their world. naturally as with all releases in the Disney Diamond collection this one is packed with enjoyable extras.
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