The Little Mermaid is a 1989 American animated musical fantasy film directed by Ron Clements and John Musker and produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios. The film is based on the Danish fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, and is the 28th film in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series. The film spawned a sequel, The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea, on September 19, 2000, and a prequel, The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning, on August 26, 2008.
Ariel is a 16-year-old mermaid princess and the youngest daughter of King Triton in the kingdom of Atlantica. Much to the discomfort of Triton, Ariel has become invested in human culture and often explores the surface of the ocean with her fish friend Flounder and visits Scuttle the seagull to deduce human culture, though his answers are rarely correct. Ariel has also filled her secret grotto with human artifacts which Triton is unaware of.
Ariel, while exploring the surface world one night with Flounder and Triton's royal court composer Sebastian, witnesses the birthday celebration of Prince Eric, whom Ariel becomes infatuated with. However, a storm strikes and the ship is set on fire, and though the crew manages to escape on lifeboats, Eric is knocked unconscious and nearly drowns. However, Ariel rescues him and brings him to shore and sings to him. Eric slowly regains consciousness and gets a vague glimpse of Ariel before she flees the scene. However, as Ariel flees to Atlantica, she is spied on by Ursula, a banished sea witch, who is plotting revenge on King Triton. Meanwhile, King Triton and Ariel's sisters notice Ariel has become lovesick and presume she has become smitten with a merman. However, Sebastian eventually reveals the truth to Triton, who confronts Ariel at the grotto, where Flounder has placed a statue of Eric inside. Ariel and Triton get into a heated argument that ends with Triton destroying the grotto with his trident, leaving Ariel heartbroken. A pair of eels, Flotsam and Jetsam, then visit Ariel and convince her to meet Ursula and grant her wishes.
Ursula strikes a deal with Ariel to transform her into a human for three days, and if she can make Eric fall in love with her and kiss her, she will remain human, but if she fails, she will transform back into a mermaid and belong to Ursula. Ariel sacrifices her voice in exchange for the transformation, and it is stored in a nautilus shell. The newly transformed Ariel meets Eric on shore, and he initially assumes she is the girl that rescued him. However, she is unable to tell Eric of her identity due to Ursula having taken her voice. Eric takes Ariel to his palace while Triton orders a search for Ariel, horrified at her disappearance. Eric's dog Max realizes that Ariel is the girl who rescued Eric, but Eric rejects the notion due to her lack of speech. A day passes and the two spend time with each other, and while rowing on a lake in a boat, they nearly kiss, but Flotsam and Jetsam tip the boat over. Realizing how close Ariel is to succeeding in kissing Eric, Ursula takes the form of a woman named Vanessa and uses Ariel's voice and sings, which Eric recognizes as the song Ariel sung to him. and the disguised Ursula casts a spell on Eric, making him forget about Ursula.
Ariel discovers that Eric will marry 'Vanessa' on a ship, and mourns. However, Scuttle realizes Ursula's deception by seeing her reflection in the mirror, and warns Ariel. Ariel and Flounder chase after the ship while Sebastian informs Triton of the situation and Sebastian and the other sea animals stall the wedding. The nautilus shell is destroyed, restoring Ariel's voice. The spell over Eric is broken, and he realizes that Ariel is the girl that saved him. However, the sun sets and Ariel transforms back into a mermaid. Ursula reveals her true self and abducts Ariel, dragging her into the sea, but the two are stopped by King Triton. However, Triton fails to destroy Ursula's contract, and thus chooses to take Ariel's place and is transformed into a polyp. Ursula takes his trident and is about to destroy Ariel with it when Eric slashes her with a harpoon. In the ensuing confrontation, Flotsam and Jetsam are accidentally destroyed by Ursula, enraging her to use the trident to transform into monstrous proportions. Ursula creates a whirlpool and traps Ariel at the bottom of it and prepares to kill her, but Eric uses a shipwreck brought to the surface by the whirlpool to impale Ursula, killing her.
With Ursula's death, Triton and Ursula's other victims are transformed into their regular selves and Triton, realizing Ariel truly loves Eric, transforms her into a human. Ariel and Eric later marry as Triton and the other mermaids of Atlantica celebrate.
- Jodi Benson as Princess Ariel.
- Christopher Daniel Barnes as Prince Eric.
- Pat Carroll as Ursula.
- Kenneth Mars as King Triton.
- Samuel E. Wright as Sebastian.
- Jason Marin as Flounder.
- Paddie Edwards as Flotsam and Jetsam.
- Buddy Hackett as Scuttle.
- Ben Wright as Grimsby.
- Edie McClurg as Carlotta.
- Rene Auberjonois as Louis.