With catchy songs like “Under the Sea” and “Kiss the Girl,” it’s hard to imagine the Disney universe without “The Little Mermaid.” And, at nearly 30 years old, “The Little Mermaid” continues to be enjoyed by new generations.
Even if you’ve seen the film at least a dozen times in your lifetime, and have every back-flip, tail colour, and sassy line memorized by heart, you may not know it’s actually filled with hidden surprises and shocking pieces of trivia even the most loyal fan wouldn’t know.
Sir Patrick Stewart was supposed to voice King Triton.
Before Kenneth Mars was signed on to voice Ariel’s father, King Triton, English actor Sir Patrick Stewart was offered the role. But, the famed actor had to turn it down due to scheduling conflicts with “Star Trek: The Next Generation”.
“The Little Mermaid” almost didn’t happen.
The Disney studios were working on a sequel to the popular mermaid comedy “Splash” when Ron Clements pitched his idea for “The Little Mermaid.”The then-Disney CEO nixed “The Little Mermaid” temporarily, saying two mermaid movies would be a little too much, according to CinemaBlend. He later reversed his decision and the rest is Disney history.
Scuttle’s romantic squawks are an homage to a famous Russian composer.
During the romantic lagoon scene in the movie, Scuttle sets the mood for Ariel and Eric with his crooning. But, his squawks aren’t any old song. In fact, the lovebird is vocalizing to the tune of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet,” according to Tumblr user Disney Hidden secrets.
The character Ursula was inspired by a famous drag queen.
Divine was a famed drag queen and actress that inspired the iconic Disney villain.
Disney wanted Bea Arthur to voice Ursula.
Pat Carroll apparently wasn’t the first choice for the voice of Ursula. “Golden Girls” star Bea Arthur was exactly the person the studios wanted to voice the sea witch, according to HuffPost but apparently her agent thought otherwise.
Ursula isn’t an octopus.
Ariel’s cave full of treasures has some hidden Easter eggs.
Did you spot the bust of Abraham Lincoln on one of the shelves in Ariel’s cave of wonders? Or what about the famed painting “Magdalene With the Smoking Flame” by Georges de la Tour? Watch the scene with Ariel’s solo “Part of Your World” and keep your eyes peeled for any other hidden treasures.
Ariel’s solo was almost cut from the film.
Speaking of the song “Part of Your World,” it was almost removed from the film after initial test screenings. But, a second round of screenings saved the sentimental scene from the chopping block.
“The Little Mermaid” was the last film to use cel animation.
Since nearly the beginning of Disney animation, all the films at the studio used cel animation, which required tedious processes to make into films. “The Little Mermaid” was the last Disney film to use this type of animation before the studio switched to the digital animation system CAPS, according to Time.
Disney didn’t animate the bubbles seen in the film.
Due to limited resources and an intense amount of required animation work, Disney outsourced the animation of bubbles seen in “The Little Mermaid” to Pacific Rim Productions, according to the book “The Political Economy of Disney: The Cultural Capitalism of Hollywood.”
The phallic symbol on the cover of “The Little Mermaid” VHS was accidental.
Although there was a rumour that the phallic symbol was included purposefully by a jaded employee, Snopes has since debunked the infamous rumour as just that. The phallic image was created by accident by an animator who was exhausted and in serious need of a nap.
Ariel was a redhead on purpose.
Coming off the success of “Splash,” Disney animators decided to give Ariel vibrant red hair as a way to differentiate her from the blonde mermaid in the 1984 comedy, according to MSN.
Ariel’s features were based on Alyssa Milano.
Animator Glen Keane created Ariel out of Alyssa Milano’s likeness, according to Yahoo. He used photos of the actress from when she appeared on the show “Who’s The Boss” to perfect Ariel’s facial features. Milano did not know she was the inspiration until much later.
Walt Disney had planned his own mermaid film.
“The Little Mermaid” was originally planned after the creation of “Snow White” but was put on hold. Decades later, The Disney Company would green light a mermaid film and later find Walt Disney’s mermaid script by chance, according to the DVD commentary on the film.
Ariel and Hercules are cousins.
Given that Zeus is Hercules’s father, and King Triton, the father of Ariel, is the son of Poseidon, who is Zeus’s brother, Ariel and Hercules are first cousins, once removed, according to BuzzFeed.
The film earned an Oscar.
Considering this was Alan Menken’s first Disney film, it’s rather impressive that the movie won “Best Original Score” at the 1990 Academy Awards. This was also the first Disney film to win an Oscar since 1972.
“The Little Mermaid” is considered the beginning of the Disney Renaissance.
Given its commercial success, “The Little Mermaid” is considered to be the beginning of the Disney Renaissance, which spanned from 1989 to 1999. The era saw plenty of success and was characterised by animated musicals that retold famous stories.
There are lots of hidden cameos in the movie.
Mickey, Goofy, Donald Duck, Kermit the Frog, Mr. Limpet, and the Duke and King from “Cinderella” all make surprise cameos in the film. If you look closely, you can spot each of the recognisable characters in their specific scenes, but if you blink, you might miss it.
Speaking of cameos, there’s a few hidden Mickey’s in the film.
The first hidden Mickey in the film is seen on Ursula’s contract for Ariel. The second is hidden a bit more inconspicuously during a scene with Prince Eric’s chef.
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