Critique of “The Little Mermaid” (1989)

Warning: contains spoilers***

Many of us have seen and enjoyed Disney’s The Little Mermaid from the characters to the music and much more.

We all know the story. A young mermaid princess longs to live on land, defying her father’s rules, and wants to be with the human prince of her dreams.

However, as she makes a deal with the sea witch for that, she must give up her voice to receive a pair of legs. Things go well and then get worse. But the story ends happily.

Here are the aspects of the film I thought were done well:

1: Ariel’s beautiful voice (both speaking and singing)

This is an obvious one that’s important to the story. But if her voice didn’t sound pretty (like if it were nasal or deep like a male), then the story would’ve gone in an unimaginably different direction (and maybe wouldn’t have succeeded that much).

Anyway, I think Ariel’s voice ranks as one of my favorite Disney character voices. And although this is also crucial to the plot, I still think to myself, Too bad she gives up her voice and doesn’t have it for a big chunk of the story.

2: The plot and everything that connects to the ending

From the main plot, to Ursula’s goal to become the ruler of the sea – and has Ariel make a deal with her, to Eric’s love for that “mystery girl” and wondering where she was – until he found out that it was Ariel all along, to Grimm’s (Eric’s assistant) plan for Eric to get married, everything adds up nicely to the ending. They all stay relevant to the main story line.

3: The songs

There’s not a single song from The Little Mermaid that I dislike. Whether it’s fun like “Under the Sea” or beautiful like “Part of Your World”, they all have great tunes that match the tones of the messages communicated.

Now here are the criticisms and unanswered questions that are not common plot-holes among the Disney fan community (i.e., Why was Ariel okay with eating seafood at the castle?):

1: Ariel has six sisters with similar names that start and end with ‘A’ and are all three syllables.

Aquata, Andrina, Arista, Attina, Adella, and Alana: those couldn’t confuse me anymore. I had to study the sisters’ names for such a long time and couldn’t always remember them right. For example, I had one thought Andrina’s name was Andromeda. That was how tough it’d been.

I felt this was too amateurish. Story-tellers should never give their characters names that are too similar (i.e., Mary and Maria) as this may confuse audiences, whether it’s literature or on the screen. The only exception is if there’s a reason for it that’s necessary to the story.

Another aspect of this that bugs me is that most of the sisters were NOT in any way important to the story or enhancing the plot. Maybe Andrina was important when she revealed to King Triton that Ariel was in love. But that was really it.

I have wondered why couldn’t Ariel just have one or two sisters with distinguishing sounding names that don’t start with the same letter, and play essential roles to the story – which brings me to my next point.

2: What was the purpose of the concert at the beginning of the movie?

It seemed to me the only reason for the concert was to introduce the daughters of Triton to the audience. There is no reason explained in the movie what the purpose of it was. It’s just a celebration, but of what? And it didn’t play any role of moving the plot forward or even foreshadowing.

3: Why didn’t King Triton ever apologize to Ariel for destroying her collection and the statue of Eric?

This one, perhaps, bugs me the most. Ever since I’ve watched the film as an adult in 2017, the moment Ariel starts crying often brought tears to my eyes. It makes me feel so sorry for her and disgusted with her father. In fact, I even think to myself, someone needs to call CPS and have Ariel and any of her sisters under 18 taken away for good. Sadly, that wouldn’t have happened.

The point is that it makes me hate King Triton more during that scene. It is never okay for a parent to destroy their child’s belongings if they don’t approve of them and out of anger, especially if the child didn’t do anything bad enough to be punished. And even then, parents shouldn’t destroy the things, they should just confiscate them.

I even supported Ariel making a bad decision to see Ursula and make a deal with her as a result. I also supported Ariel’s lack of reason for good choice making when Sebastian tried to stop her, but she was just too mad at him to listen.

While the story ended nicely when King Triton finally understood Ariel’s desire, turned her into a human, and let her marry Eric, it would’ve been more satisfying if he had taken the time to apologize to her for destroying her stuff. The most appropriate moment, in my opinion, would’ve been when he hugged her from the wedding boat.

That would have made me like him again. Not only should a parent apologize to his or her kids if he or she destroys their things, but he or she should also replace them.

Although this would have been hard to fit into the movie, the story would have also wrapped up extra nicely if King Triton had restored Ariel’s collection by, perhaps, creating new ones with his rake. It probably would have only fit after the credits or something.

4: Why wasn’t Ariel invited to Eric and Vanessa’s (Ursula in disguise) wedding?

Despite King Triton’s views on humans at that moment and Ariel being mute, the castle staff were very nice to her. Eric still fell in love with her, in spite of assuming she hadn’t saved him and that “mystery girl” with the beautiful voice was somebody else.

Carlotta, one of Eric’s servants, took good care of her from bathing her to escorting her the dinner table. Grimm even showed sympathy to Ariel, such as sharing his cigar with her.

Regardless of those things, Ariel didn’t get invited to Eric and Vanessa’s wedding, not even as just a guest. Or if she did, she got to the wedding boat too late, when they were departing,

I felt that was not very nice of Eric or his staff’s part. Yes, Eric was under a spell, but why didn’t Grimm, Carlotta, or any of the other people invite Ariel to the wedding? Did they forget? Did Eric tell them not to while under Vanessa’s spell? Who knows?

5: What is up with Eric’s memory?

When Ariel sings the reprise of “Part of Your World” to him after rescuing him, Eric opens his eyes and sees her briefly. But when he sees her again, and asks her what her name is Ariel answers – except that no sound comes out of her mouth.

Which brings me to my next point – during the “Kiss the Girl” number, when Eric guesses Ariel’s name, he only says names that start with consonants and are each two syllables. They are Mildred, Diane, and Rachel.

It was only a day ago when Ariel mouthed her name. She opened her her mouth and moved it three times. How could Eric have forgotten that? It’s no wonder she gave him a dirty look before Sebastian whispered her name to him, and he “guessed” that right.


I rate The Little Mermaid 5 out of 5 stars. I also consider it one of my favorite Disney films. It’s no wonder that 1989 and 1999 was Disney’s 2nd golden age.

Note: Why did I not mention the plot hole of Ariel not writing notes to communicate with the humans when she signed Ursula’s scroll, you may wonder? To be honest, it is not one that bothered me as much. Plus, I think it would have resolved the story too quickly and would have stopped the conflict.

Published by Sunayna Prasad

I enjoy writing stories, creating artwork, watching movies and TV shows, cooking, and traveling. These are the topics of my posts. I also publish books, where you can learn about them on my website, Be sure to copy and paste the link and subscribe to my newsletter on the email list button on the homepage.

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