The Little Mermaid (1989) Movie Review

By: Alex Phuong (Two Beers) –

After Walt Disney’s untimely passing on December 15, 1966, the studio that he created went through hard times. Disney had a series of flops, like The Black Cauldron (1985). While he was still alive, Walt Disney struggled to adapt “The Little Mermaid” story as an animated feature. It was not until John Musker and Ron Clements wrote a treatment of Hans Christian Andersen’s beloved fairy tale that the Disney studio had the audacity to tackle such a bleak story. The original fairy tale actually is very dark, but Musker and Clements managed to write and direct what is now perhaps one of the most iconic Disney films ever made. Indeed, this animated fairy tale musical remains a classic in the Disney canon.

A Toast

One of the best elements of this film is the music. The film received both the Golden Globe and the Academy Award for Alan Menken’s luscious score and the famous song “Under the Sea.” Besides the music, this film features spectacular animation. In fact, approximately 80% of the film has some sort of special effects animation, including bubbles, fire, and of course, magical sequences. Perhaps that is why The Little Mermaid has such a wide audience (because it feels like a magical tale, pun intended).

Beer Two

Even though this is one of Disney’s greatest films, it can actually be very frightening. Ursula the Sea Witch has haunted the minds of children ever since the original 1989 release date. There is also some mild innuendo involving the human body (but we don’t need to talk about that here). In fact, this film received criticism for not being “family friendly.” Therefore, there appears to be a division between audiences because some people would honor this film while others would criticize its (somewhat) mature content.


The Little Mermaid is definitely a Disney classic. It led to both theme park attractions and a television series in the 1990s. Many people also enjoy Ariel’s beautiful singing voice. The success of this film began the “Disney Renaissance,” which includes films like Beauty and the Beast (1991) and Aladdin (1992). In fact, The Little Mermaid was the first Disney film to win an Academy Award since Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971). There is also current buzz about an upcoming live-action remake of this enchanting film. Walt Disney might not have been able to adapt the famous tale into an animated feature  himself, but it truly is a blessing to know that there is an association between the original fairy tale and the trademarks of “Disney magic.”

The Little Mermaid (1989) Drinking Game

Take a Drink: every time Ariel sings (which includes the song “Part of Your World” and her famous vocalizing)

Take a Drink: every time creepy Oscar-winning music plays alongside Ursula the Sea Witch

Drink a Shot: for all of the bubbles that appear on-screen

About Alex Phuong

Alex Andy Phuong earned his Bachelor of Arts in English from California State University-Los Angeles in 2015. His love affair with cinema began after discovering Turner Classic Movies in the summer of 2004. His favorite film director is Woody Allen, and his favorite movie star is Kate Winslet.

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