In 1989 something marvelous happened with Disney, a little redheaded mermaid splashed into history as one of the most iconic characters in animation. This year Disney will release THE LITTLE MERMAID to fans everywhere!
This film tells the story of Ariel (Jodi Benson), a curious young mermaid who wants nothing more than to find out what’s out in the big world – especially on dry land. Her father only wants a daughter who’s happy under the sea and when he sees Ariel stubbornness he puts Sebastian (Samuel E. Wright) to watching his daughter.
Ariel goes to the surface and sees the face of Eric (Christopher Barnes) and falls in love. The only way to be with him is to make a pact with the wicked Ursula (Pat Carroll). Spending time on dry land without her voice Ariel begins to understand the pull between her love for Eric and family under the sea!
I had the great opportunity to talk with John Musker, one of the creator/directors of THE LITTLE MERMAID. Along with Ron Clements, these two gentlemen created something pretty special for Disney fans.
Thanks for talking to us today John.
It’s my pleasure, thanks for asking to talk with me.
Are you amazed that THE LITTLE MERMAID has become such an iconic animated film?
I really am. When we were creating this whole film I don’t think for a moment we realized the impact it would have after all this time.
Whose idea was it to have Ariel be a redhead? I only ask because it was having her be a red head my daughter learned to love her own red hair color. Ariel became relatable to her immediately.
That really is amazing to hear and I can’t wait to share that with Ron. At first Ariel was sketched out as a blonde but I wanted her to be a redhead. That choice definitely made her stand out.
How was it bringing the story and songs to the animation?
It was a process to be sure. I came from the ‘old school’ of doing animation. I remember when I saw “Steam Boat Willy” that was what I wanted to do. Taking art and bringing it to life is something quite extraordinary. I think that makes what we did a little more special.
Absolutely it does. What did you see in Jodi Benson who voices Ariel that you knew she was the right person?
We had heard her sing in another show. Once I heard her voice I knew she would be right for the part. She has such a beautiful voice and is an amazing person as well.
You have been responsible for even more Disney favorites like ALADDIN, HERCULES, TREASURE PLANET and THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG. I want you to know there are tag lines from each of these films that I still say or do today and I’m 52!
Really? Like what, you have to tell me.
Well, for ALADDIN my youngest can sing and recite the whole movie.
That is absolutely incredible and at the same time I absolutely love knowing that!
She’s 28 now but still, I mean her doorbell is the song “Under the Sea”
It is a tribute to your imagination and creativity and I have to thank you for that.
I love what I do and can’t imagine doing anything else really. THE LITTLE MERMAID was a huge breakthrough for animation and animation artists. It was also fun to do.
Choosing Samuel Wright to be Sebastian, was that because of the 7-Up commercials?
That’s funny because I don’t think the audience now would understand that reference like we do. That’s kind of where we first heard him with the “cola nut? uncola nut? Marvelous!” That was the voice I wanted for Sebastian who was first going to have a French accent.
Oh I love how he sounds, I’m so glad you didn’t go with the French accent!
It was perfect and Samuel was an amazing person.
The music is pretty incredible as well for the film.
That was done by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. We told them what we were looking for and they delivered.
Your partnering with Ron Clements has been pretty amazing too!
Yes it has. Its been amazing to work with him and now with John Lasseter with Pixar for THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG and this time Randy Newman did the music for us.
What are you working on now?
We have a few things in the works. Its good to keep busy and creative and being around creative people makes all the difference. You know, I just enjoy good storytelling through animation and I think we’ve done that and hope to continue to do it.
Well, you have a couple of fans in this family and we’d like to congratulate you on the anniversary of THE LITTLE MERMAID.
Thank you so much; THE LITTLE MERMAID is one of my favorites as well.
And with that, as much as I would have loved to continue talking with John, we wrap up our conversation. THE LITTLE MERMAID is an iconic animated character and one of Disney’s finest. My daughter, who is now 28, to this day loves the story and music behind this film. What I know is that she will be passing on her love of this film to her children as well.
That’s what Disney does and does with such splendor and magnificence. So this Tuesday, get to your nearest store and grab your copy of THE LITTLE MERMAID then sit back with your children and relive the love, adventure and fun that only Disney can bring.
In the end – somewhere under the sea an adventure awaits!
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