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THE LITTLE MERMAID. Directed And written by John Musker and Ron Clements; produced by Howard Ashman and John Musker for Walt Disney. Animated. Rated G.


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The Little Mermaid manages to do something that is rarely, if ever, done very well. It takes a classic story, familiar to the audience, and makes substantial changes to it. But—here's the hard part—the changes work!

I won't tell you exactly what's different here, but it won't be hard to guess that it involves the original story's tragic finale. The Little Mermaid's writers have come up with an ending that makes sense, is entertaining, and doesn't have that "pasted on" quality that leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

What with its good story, well-cast voice-actors and imaginative animation, The Little Mermaid is one of the best Disney movies to come out after the "golden age" accomplishments of Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, etc.

Memorable music has often characterized Disney animated features, and The Little Mermaid has some songs that compare favorably with the best ones from Peter Pan and Lady and the Tramp. My favorites are two calypso numbers led by Sebastian the crab (Samuel E. Wright). Through their sheer tunefulness, as well as their smooth integration into the story, they make a terrific contribution to the movie's success.

In fact, the music is one of the main reasons boys like my nine-year-old, who might think The Little Mermaid is just for little kids, will actually enjoy the movie.

Another thing they will like is the villain, Ursula the Sea-Witch. She's an octopus who's drawn with crazy imagination and who's given a deliciously villanious voice by Pat Carroll.

In other words, The Little Mermaid provides the often promised, but only occasionally delivered, "fun for the whole family."

December 6, 1989

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