- INSIDER spoke with the voice of Princess Ariel, Jodi Benson, ahead of the “The Little Mermaid‘s” 30th anniversary last year.
- Benson recalled how the film’s iconic song “Part of Your World” could’ve been cut from the film.
- According to Benson, then-Disney chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg wanted to cut the song after an early screening of the film.
- Oscar-winning lyricist Howard Ashman fought to keep the song in the movie.
Could you imagine “The Little Mermaid” without the song “Part of Your World”?
That’s what could have happened if former Disney chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg had gotten his way after a test screening of the 1989 movie.
“The song was going to be possibly cut because kids were getting restless during the testing of the movie and dropping popcorn in the aisles and stuff like that,” Benson told INSIDER last year while speaking about the classic’s 30th anniversary. “Jeffrey Katzenberg said, ‘You know, I think we’re going to have to cut this song.'”
Benson said that didn’t go over well with lyricist Howard Ashman. If you don’t recognise his name, you certainly know the songs he wrote during his short tenure at the studio. Before his death in 1991 at the age of 40, Ashman wrote the lyrics for songs in “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and “Aladdin.”
“Howard was like, ‘No,’ kind of over my dead body,” Benson continued. “‘We’ve got to have this song to be able to set up the whole story as to what she’s trying to achieve.’… I can’t imagine. Had that song been cut, I wouldn’t be here today.”
“Part of Your World” was considered one of Disney’s “I Want” songs, which tells you about the protagonist’s wants and wishes to set up the rest of the film. The song takes place early in the 1989 movie showing Ariel longs for more than her life as a princess and wishes to walk among the humans on land.
Beneath the surface, the song featured empowering lyrics for young girls and women that stand three decades of time.
“Bet you on land, they understand. Bet they don’t reprimand their daughters. Bright young women, sick of swimming. Ready to stand.”
You can watch it here or below:
According to Time, “The Little Mermaid” writer-directors John Musker and Ron Clements reminded Katzenberg at the time that Disney’s first animated feature, “Snow White,” contained a similar song, “Someday My Prince Will Come.”
The version of “Part of Your World” that you know today is in its original form in the 1989 classic. That isn’t always the case. When the live-action version of “Beauty and the Beast” hit theatres in 2017, it contained additional, original lyrics written by Ashman that didn’t make it into the original 1991 classic.
When asked if there were ever any more lyrics she knew of that may have been cut from the original version of “The Little Mermaid,” Benson told INSIDER she had only ever sang the version we hear in the final movie.
“No. In fact, the cassette tape that I had to learn the song [from] was exactly word for word. Nothing had changed,” said Benson.
When she auditioned for the part of Ariel, directors Ron Clements and John Musker told her she was selected from a group of women simply because of her voice. At the time, Benson had been a part of one of Ashman’s Broadway shows, “Smile,” which closed quickly after its 1986 opening. Benson said Ashman invited some of the women from the show to audition for “The Little Mermaid” because they were looking for Broadway singers who could do both the singing and the speaking voice.
“I went in and recorded an old-fashioned reel to reel at A90 Broadway Studios here in the city. About a year passed, and my name was sort of still in the running, I guess,” said Benson. “I got the call a good year plus afterwards that the powers that be had selected my tape. It was unattached with names and head shots. It was strictly just listening to the voices.”
“It was an incredible surprise,” she continued. “I started working on it for about two and a half years. I recorded for about 14 days over the course of two and a half years… It has just been an incredible 33 years for me now.”
Just because she voiced the character decades ago, doesn’t mean the work is done. Benson says she still voices Ariel all the time.
“I do all the ancillary products and the toys and constantly, every week. I’m either re-recording stuff or we’re just lifting from the original or other projects that I’ve done,” she said.
Benson recently reprised her role as Ariel in “Ralph Breaks the Internet” in a popular scene where all of the Disney princesses are united for the first time on screen. At New York Toy Fair, Hasbro showed off a new 30th anniversary collection of “The Little Mermaid” dolls. Among them is an Ariel doll who sings a portion of “Part of Your World.”
The 30th anniversary of “The Little Mermaid” will be available on Blu-ray and DVD February 26.
- Read more:
- Disney and Hasbro are releasing a bunch of new ‘Little Mermaid’ toys in honour of the movie’s 30th anniversary this year – here they all are
- 19 things you probably didn’t know about “The Little Mermaid”
- Every Disney movie coming out in 2019
- 10 Disney movie plot holes you may not have noticed as a kid that will bug you as an adult
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