Ariel (The Little Mermaid)
|Ariel (The Little Mermaid)|
Ariel in The Little Mermaid
|First appearance||The Little Mermaid (1989)|
|Last appearance||The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning (2008)|
|Created by||Hans Christian Andersen
Glen Keane (supervising animator)
|Voiced by||Jodi Benson|
Human (after magical transformation)
|Children||Princess Melody (daughter)|
|Relatives||King Triton (father)
Queen Athena (mother)
Aquata, Andrina, Arista, Attina, Adella and Alana (sisters)
Neptune (great-grandfather, deceased)
Ariel is a fictional character and the title character of Walt Disney Pictures' 28th animated film The Little Mermaid (1989). She subsequently appears in the film's prequel television series, direct-to-video sequel The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea (where her daughter takes over as the lead character, while Ariel is a secondary character instead) and direct-to-video prequel The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning. Ariel is voiced by Jodi Benson in all official animated appearances and merchandise. She is fourth in the Disney Princess lineup and the only princess to become a mother.
Ariel has a very distinctive appearance, with her long, flowing red hair, blue eyes, green tail and a purple seashell bra. In the films and television series, she is the youngest daughter of King Triton and Queen Athena of an underwater kingdom of Merfolk. She is often rebellious, and in the first film longs to be a part of the human world. She marries Prince Eric, whom she rescued from a shipwreck, and together they have a daughter, Melody.
The character is based on the title character of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid" story, but was developed into a different personality for the 1989 animated film adaptation. Ariel has received a mixed reception from critics; some publications such as Time criticize her for being too devoted to her man whereas others, such as Empire, praise the character for her rebellious personality, a departure from previous Disney Princesses.
|"I heard Part of Your World, Jodi Benson singing that, and it just captivated me. I have to do that. And I went and told those guys, 'I really wanna do Ariel.' And they said, 'Well, I don’t know. This is supposed to be a pretty girl. Can you do that?' I said, 'Look, I have to do Ariel. I mean, I can feel it in my heart.'"|
|— Glen Keane, Ariel's supervising animator|
Ariel was based on the title character of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid" but co-director and writer Ron Clements felt that the mermaid in the original story was too tragic and rewrote the character, resulting in Ariel.
Jodi Benson, who was predominantly a stage actress, was chosen to voice Ariel because the directors felt "it was really important to have the same person doing the singing and speaking voice". Clements stated that Benson's voice had a unique "sweetness" and "youthfulness". When recording the vocals for "Part of Your World", Benson asked that the lights in the studio be dimmed, to create the feeling of being deep under the sea. "Part of Your World", which was referred to by songwriter Howard Ashman as the "I Want" song, was originally going to be cut from the final film, owing to Jeffrey Katzenberg's belief that it slowed the story down, but Ashman and Keane fought to keep it in.
Ariel's original design was developed by animator Glen Keane, who stated in an animation lecture that her appearance was based on that of his wife. It was also based on actress Alyssa Milano, who was 16 at the time, and model Sherri Stoner, who provided live-action references for the animators during the development of the film. The movement of Ariel's hair underwater was based on footage of astronaut Sally Ride while she was in space.
A challenge in animating Ariel for the 1989 film was the color required to show Ariel in the changing environments, both under the sea and on land, for which the animators required thirty-two color models, not including costume changes. The blue-green color of Ariel's fin was a hue specially mixed by the Disney paint lab; the color was named "Ariel" after the character. The choice of red as Ariel's hair color was the subject of dispute between the filmmakers and studio executives who wanted the character to have blonde hair. It was noted that red hair contrasted better with Ariel's green tail and that red was easier to darken than yellow so it was ultimately kept.
In an interview, Jodi Benson stated that for Ariel's Beginning, the writers revised the script multiple times to make sure Ariel retained her relevance in a more modern context. Benson complained to them that they wrote Ariel out of character and suggested they bring her back to her roots.
Ariel is the youngest daughter of King Triton and Queen Athena, rulers of Atlantica, and has six older sisters. She is often seen in the company of Flounder, her best friend, and Sebastian, her father's advisor who is often assigned to watch over her. In the television series and first film, Ariel has a fascination with the human world and often goes off to find human artifacts that she displays in a secret grotto. Ariel is often rebellious, wandering off on her own to explore her surroundings, and frequently disobeys the orders of her father or Sebastian, causing conflict between the characters. In The Little Mermaid she is depicted as being willing to do anything to be with Prince Eric, even giving up her voice to become human. Clements described her as a typical teenager, prone to errors of judgment. She also is incredibly curious, and her curiosity often leads her into dangerous situations.
Ariel is kind to others no matter what their circumstances, as depicted in the television series. In an early episode, Ariel helps an orphaned merboy who had fallen in with a bad crowd. In another episode, Ariel befriends a supposed bad-luck creature and protects it from Ursula and other merfolk who wish it harm. Ariel appears as an adult in Return to the Sea, and gives birth to a daughter named Melody. Ariel is protective of her daughter, as Triton was of Ariel in the first film. After Morgana threatens Melody, Ariel refuses to let Melody in the ocean. Ariel's Beginning depicts her personality as it was in the original film, after Jodi Benson had advocated returning the character to her roots. Ariel regains her rebellious personality, and after her father decrees music to be banned in Atlantica she runs away with Sebastian and his band.
The Little Mermaid 
Ariel first appears in The Little Mermaid (1989), in which she is shown as being adventurous and curious about the world of humans, a fascination which angers her father, as merfolk are forbidden from making contact with the human world. She and Flounder go in search of human objects, which they take to a seagull named Scuttle for appraisal. Ariel falls in love with a human prince named Prince Eric after saving him from drowning, and visits the sea witch, Ursula, who agrees to turn her into a human in exchange for her voice. Ariel must make Prince Eric fall in love with her and kiss her within three days, lest she belong to Ursula forever.
Unknown to Ariel, this agreement is part of Ursula's bigger plan to trap Ariel's father, King Triton and steal his magical trident. After being transformed, she is soon found by Eric and is taken back to his castle. Ariel almost manages to obtain the "kiss of true love", but is stopped by Ursula's underhanded tactics. On the third day, Ursula transforms herself into a human, calling herself "Vanessa" and using Ariel's voice, and bewitches Eric to make him marry her. After learning from Scuttle that the woman is Ursula in disguise, Ariel disrupts the wedding and regains her voice but the sun sets as Ariel and Prince Eric are about to kiss, transforming Ariel back into a mermaid. Ursula takes Ariel back into the ocean, where she is met by King Triton and Sebastian.
Triton trades himself for Ariel, enabling Ursula to claim his trident. In the battle that follows, Ariel is trapped at the bottom of a whirlpool. Before Ursula can kill her, Eric kills Ursula by ramming a derelict ship's splintered prow through her enlarged torso. At the end of the film, Ariel is transformed into a human by King Triton's magical trident and she leaves to live with Eric.
Television series 
The series, set an unspecified time before the first film, depicts Ariel's adventures as a mermaid living under the sea with her father, Sebastian and Flounder. Ariel's mother is absent, having already died prior to the events of the series. Several episodes highlight her relationship with her friends and family, expanding upon their roles in the film. Many include Ariel foiling the attempts of various enemies intent on harming her or her kingdom. In one episode Ariel comes across Hans Christian Andersen, author of "The Little Mermaid". In the fictionalized encounter she saves Andersen's life, inspiring him to write the story.
The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea 
In The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea (2000), Ariel, now the new queen of Prince Eric's kingdom, has given birth to a daughter named Melody. When Melody's safety is threatened by Ursula's sister Morgana after using her as a hostage to get King Triton's Trident, Ariel and her husband Eric decide they must keep Melody from the sea. So they build a large wall to separate it from the castle.
But Melody's love of the sea proves too strong and she visits Morgana, who turns her into a mermaid temporarily. King Triton uses his trident to transform Ariel back into her own mermaid form to find and rescue Melody. Morgana tricks Melody into taking part in a plot to steal her grandfather King Triton's trident. Together with Tip the Penguin and Dash the Walrus she goes to Atlantica and succeeds in acquiring the trident. Ariel arrives as they return with it to Morgana, and tries to persuade Melody to give back the trident. Morgana captures Ariel, tightly wrapping her tentacle around Ariel's body. She then seals Melody behind a block wall. Tip and Dash rescue Melody and Ariel manages to free herself. Morgana then uses the trident's magic to force everyone to bow before her.
Melody manages to grab the trident and returns it to King Triton, who then sends Morgana to the bottom of the ocean frozen in a block of ice. Triton returns Ariel to human form, the wall separating Eric's castle from the sea is torn down, and contact between humans and merfolk is restored.
The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning 
The prologue of The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning (2008) shows Ariel as a five-year-old mermaid, living happily with her father, King Triton, her mother, Queen Athena, and her six older sisters. As Ariel and her family relax in a lagoon, a pirate ship approaches and everyone flees except Athena, who returns to recover a music box Triton had given her and is killed when the ship crushes her. Afterwards, a devastated King Triton bans all music from Atlantica and throws the music box deep into the ocean. Ariel and her sisters grow up forgetting music and living under their father's strict rules, enforced by Marina del Rey, their governess.
Ariel meets Flounder and follows him to a secret underground club where Sebastian and his band play music. There she sings the song "I Remember", which reminds her of her distant past surrounded by love and music, and of her mother. Ariel introduces her sisters to the club, but eventually they are caught thanks to Marina, who had followed them. Sebastian and his band are imprisoned and the club is closed under Triton's orders. After an argument with Triton, Ariel breaks the band out of prison and escapes with them.
With Sebastian's assistance Ariel finds her mother's music box, and they decide to return it to Triton. On their way back to Atlantica, they encounter Marina, and a struggle ensues in which Ariel is knocked unconscious, witnessed by Triton. Ariel makes a full recovery, and a remorseful Triton allows music back into Atlantica.
In other media 
Ariel is an official member of the Disney Princess line, a prominent franchise directed at young girls. The franchise covers a wide variety of merchandise, including but not limited to magazines, music albums, toys, video games, clothes and stationery.
Ariel appears in the Broadway adaptation of the 1989 film. The character of Ariel for the stage adaptation was originated by Sierra Boggess, with the role also portrayed later by actresses Chelsea Morgan Stock and Michelle Lookadoo. Jodi Benson, the original voice actor for Ariel, attended the musical's opening night. She is also portrayed by Marietta DePrima in a live-action show called Little Mermaid's Island proposed by the late Muppet creator Jim Henson.
Ariel makes regular appearances in the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, having a special location called Ariel's Grotto at most of them. Ariel's Grotto was torn down at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom owing to the Fantasyland expansion. Ariel may also be seen intermittently at Adventureland Veranda at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. She has a major role in Mickey's PhilharMagic and stars in her own live stage shows at Disney's Hollywood Studios and Tokyo DisneySea. A dark ride based on the movie was designed for Disneyland Paris but never built. A re-designed version of the attraction, called Ariel's Undersea Adventure, was built as part of the major expansion for Disney California Adventure Park. Also, this attraction can be found at Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort. There you can find the dark ride, Prince Eric's Castle and Ariel's Grotto. She also has her own hotel at the Disney's Art of Animation Resort and a musical show based on the movie which is called "Voyage of the Little Mermaid" and is located at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
In addition to appearances in television series such as Disney's House of Mouse, Ariel appears in various video games based on the films, including the video game adaptation of the first film and the popular Kingdom Hearts series. In the first Kingdom Hearts, Ariel's story has an unrelated plot to that of the movie. Ariel also makes an appearance in the sequel, Kingdom Hearts II, where its storyline loosely follows the plotline of the 1989 film.
Reception and legacy 
Ariel has received a mixed reception by critics. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times praised the character, writing that "Ariel is a fully realized female character who thinks and acts independently, even rebelliously, instead of hanging around passively while the fates decide her destiny". James Bernardelli of Reelviews wrote that Ariel can be viewed as a template for future Disney heroes and heroines. He also praised Jodi Benson's vocal performance for the character. In an article for Empire, Levi Buchanan stated that Ariel is "powerful and self-reliant". Janet Maslin of The New York Times complimented Ariel, stating that "teenagers will appreciate the story's rebellious heroine" and went on to praise Ariel's wit. Josh Tyler of Cinema Blend wrote favorably about Ariel although he believed that the character was eroticized, stating, "The scene where Ursula rips out her throat and gives her extremely naked parts below the waist is almost titillating, though I'm sure to little kids it seems entirely innocent". Similarly, reviewer John Puccio said that "Ariel is perhaps the sexiest-looking animated character the Disney artists have ever drawn". In his review of Ariel's Beginning, James Plath of DVD Town wrote, "For little girls, Ariel is one of the most beloved of Disney princesses, and she holds a warm place in the hearts of parents as well". Rory Aronsky of Film Threat praised Jodi Benson's vocal performance in Ariel's Beginning, writing that "Benson adds more to the appeal of Ariel for older fans, and younger girls just learning about her, as well as generations not born yet who will undoubtedly become attached to her, ensuring the continued existence of the franchise".
In their review of The Little Mermaid, the staff of TV Guide wrote that Ariel resembled a "a big-haired, denatured Barbie doll, despite her hourglass figure and skimpy seashell brassiere". Tamara Weston of Time wrote that while Ariel is less passive and more strong-willed than her predecessors, she still "gives up her voice to be with a man" who comes to her rescue at the film's climax. Hal Hinson of The Washington Post wrote that it would be difficult for children to relate to Ariel's "feelings of disenchantment and longing for another world" and that she "doesn't have much personality". However, Hinson also wrote a positive statement about Ariel, saying it was "refreshing ... to see a heroine who has some sense of what she wants and the resources to go after it". Nell Minow of Common Sense Media had a mixed view of Ariel, praising her for being "adventuresome, rebellious, and brave" but also criticizing that she "gives up everything – her family, her home, her voice – for love, even though her trust in the sea witch puts everyone she loves in danger". Daphne Lee of The Star called Ariel "annoying" and went on to state that Ariel "is a silly girl who gives up her voice and her family for a man she knows next to nothing about".
Despite her mixed critical reception, Ariel remains popular amongst audiences, and is considered one of Disney's most iconic animated characters, with her specific color combination of red hair, purple seashells and green tail making her distinctly identifiable. A poll in the Internet Movie Database showed Ariel to be the second most alluring animated character after Jessica Rabbit. In August 2011, Jodi Benson was honored with a Disney Legend for her work as Ariel and her other projects at Disney.
A bi-annual convention called ArielCon is dedicated to the character. Ariel is an official "ambassador" for the "Keep Our Oceans Clean" campaign by Environmental Defense, The National Maritime Sanctuary, and The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "Hipster Ariel" has become a popular internet meme, utilizing a screenshot of Ariel with photoshopped glasses accompanied by a humorous caption.
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