"Have you lost your senses completely? He's a human, you're a mermaid!"
After the success of "Oliver & Company" the Disney animation world was being reborn. The 80s were a hard time for Disney animation, "The Black Cauldron" was a major disappointment and they needed something to bring them out of it. While developing this film, the producers brought in songwriters Howard Ashman and Alan Menken (famous for the Off Broadway hit "The Little Shop of Horrors", as well as the 1986 film) to write the songs for the film. And magic was born...
"The Little Mermaid" is loosely based on the fairy tale of the same name. The premise was simple, a mermaid wants to be human, simple as that. What, they did is made the story enjoyable by creating loving and unforgettable characters. The voice talents of Jodi Benson and Kenneth Mars as Ariel and her father King Triton were fantastic choices. Benson can sing like no one's business and can bring a tear to your eye singing "Part of Your World". Mars can bring down the house with his powerhouse performance as King Triton. Mars has an incredibly booming voice that you won't forget.
Now, lets not forget the villain here. We have, Ursula the sea witch, not a mermaid by a half human, half octopus who has one of the best songs in the entire film. She is diabolical and she wants to rule the sea. She coaxes Ariel into thinking she is helping her, but in reality has her sign a contract saying if she can't get a human to give her a true love's kiss, she will be able to rule the sea. Pat Carroll voices Ursula (and would go on to voice her sister Morgana in the film's direct to video sequel) and gives it a real go. Her voice, believe me, you won't forget. And her rendition of "Poor Unfortunate Souls" (which is more exposition than song) is powerful.
The cast is rounded out by the legendary Buddy Hackett. Hackett voices Scuttle, a seagull who is, for lack of a better word, dumb. But, in the end Scuttle helps to save the day. This film, much like "Beauty & the Beast", can really suck you in. There are a few moments that can give you chills (like "Part of Your World") or the ending of the film. Much of this is due to Alan Menken's wonderful score (which he would receive his first of NINE Academy Awards for). The film is very much for anyone (don't let that "mermaid" in the title turn you away, boys), I loved the movie when I was a kid, and I still love the movie to this day. It was the first film in the now called "Disney Renaissance" and it was one of the more powerful entries. With a wonderful cast, great songs and really unforgettable moments, this film goes down in history as one of the best Disney films out there!