The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning marked the end of direct-to-video Disney sequels. When John Lasseter became chairman, DisneyToon Studios put an end to traditional animation. It only made sense to end with a Disney Princess. Cinderella III: A Twist in Time and Ariel’s Beginning were both allowed to finish before the closure. Since The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea was a straightforward sequel, they decided to make a prequel instead. Something that already happened in the 1992 Little Mermaid animated series. My brother watched more of the series than I did, but we both watched Ariel’s Beginning without realizing it was the last direct-to-video continuation. The digital ink & paint animation lives up to the Disney Renaissance and most of the original cast returns.
Jodi Benson will always be Ariel, but Kenneth Mars was sadly replaced as King Triton due to a diagnosis. It was also Samuel E. Wright’s final time voicing Sebastian. The rest of the cast is mostly made up of familiar voice actresses. Since Ariel’s Beginning takes place entirely under the sea, we get to know her 6 mermaid sisters. They’re pretty interchangeable, but Attina is the responsible one, Adella is boy crazy, Andrina is sarcastic, Alana is beauty conscious, Aquata can’t dance, and Arista is quirky. Ariel is still the most rebellious daughter. Ariel’s Beginning is basically Footloose with fish. When the Queen Athena is killed listening to music, Triton bans music in Atlantica. Ariel meets Flounder for the first time, but he’s not much of a guppy. He’s brave enough to attend an underground music club.
Sebastian is supposed to be the strict one, but he also sings in secret. Ariel joins the club and convinces her sisters to join her. It’s not as dramatic as her obsession with the surface, but Ariel’s love of music does get her in trouble. The weakest link is the villain who can’t hold a tentacle to Ursula. Not even Sally Field can make the power hungry governess Marina Del Rey interesting. She’s a lame villain accompanied by her soft-spoken manatee sidekick Benjamin. Music is the real star of the movie, but songs like “Athena’s Song (Endless Sky),” “Just One Mistake,” “I Remember,” and “I Will Sing” don’t stand out as much as the existing calypso song “Jump in the Line.” The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning is the end of an era that deserved better.
Followed by: The Little Mermaid