After more than two decades of lacklustre animated movies, Disney was back on form in 1989 with this magical film based on the much-loved Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. Mermaid Ariel (Benson), the daughter of King Triton, secretly wants to be human. She falls for the dashing Prince Eric (Barnes) after she rescues him from a shipwreck and, in order to experience life on land, agrees to give her voice to the nasty sea witch Ursula, in exchange for a pair of human legs. There’s a catch, of course – she can be human for three days, but if she does not receive the kiss of true love from Eric in that time, Ariel will be Ursula’s slave for ever.
While this sounds like a sappy love story only little girls would love, it’s actually surprisingly fun, thanks to slapstick moments throughout and a cast of quirky supporting characters, including Sebastian the crab and Flounder the fish. The music’s terrific too, and it won’t just be smaller viewers humming along to ‘Kiss the Girl’ or the calypso ‘Under the Sea’ by the end. (There is a passable straight-to-video sequel, The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea (2000), which features the adventures of Ariel’s daughter.)
Is The Little Mermaid suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
Young children may be scared by the shipwreck and Ariel’s transformation from mermaid to human.
SPOILER! Towards the end, Ursula grows to giant size which is pretty scary. Also her death scene will frighten younger viewers.