Fathoms Below

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"Fathoms Below"
Song by the Ship's Chorus
from the album The Little Mermaid
Released1989 (1989)
LabelWalt Disney
Songwriter(s)Alan Menken
Howard Ashman

"Fathoms Below" is the opening song from the 1989 animated Disney feature film The Little Mermaid. It is 1:41 minutes in length, while the version in the musical is about twice as long, with additional lyrics written by Glenn Slater.[1] The song is written by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, sung by the Ship's Chorus, and was featured on the album The Little Mermaid - An Original Walt Disney Records Soundtrack.

The song later made a brief appearance in the sixteenth episode of the fourth season of Once Upon a Time, sung by a teenaged Ursula during a flashback.


Ashman decided to structure the opening sequence as an underwater montage, and so along with Menken wrote the song "Fathoms Below". The song was severely cut in size as Jeffrey Katzenberg that thought in a film, unlike a Broadway show, audiences would be unwilling to watch a lengthy opening number.[2] The extended sequence was meant to show that Ursula is King Triton's sister.[3]

The song is featured in the Disneyland attraction Electric Water Pageant.[4]


The "ship full of sailors first came onto the stage in the “Fathoms Below” number",[5] and they sing about the mysteriousness of the deep blue sea, and mythical stories of the merfolk, such as "look out lad, a mermaid be waiting for you". The song it introduces the film and the legend of the merfolk from the perspective of sailors reciting to Prince Eric and foreshadows the love story between Ariel and Prince Eric.


The song is a "rousing sea chanty".[1]


Filmtracks wrote that "of the seven songs in "The Little Mermaid", the first two Fathoms Below and Daughters of Triton are weaker ensemble pieces that cannot compete with the lengthier production numbers that follow". In regard to the former song, the site added "The working voices of 'Fathoms Below' are strong both in their representation of the sailors and in their recording quality. Had this song been expanded for the film as it would be for the Broadway show, it could have been a hit." While describing the film's album as "flat and dull", it noted "Only the vocals in "Fathoms Below" and some of the percussion in "Jig" seem to exhibit a three-dimensional sound".[6]

Reviewing the Broadway musical, Variety wrote "“Under the Sea” would have been a more obvious scene-setting opener than the ho-hum sea chanty “Fathoms Below,” expanded from a few throwaway bars in the film".[7]


  1. ^ a b The Disney Song Encyclopedia. Retrieved 4 November 2014.
  2. ^ Disneywar. Retrieved 4 November 2014.
  3. ^ Discovering the Magic Kingdom. Retrieved 4 November 2014.
  4. ^ From Screen to Theme: A Guide to Disney Animated Film References Found ... Retrieved 4 November 2014.
  5. ^ "Review: 'Mermaid' a fun night out but doesn't reach deepest fathoms below - St George News". St George News. Retrieved 4 November 2014.
  6. ^ "Filmtracks: The Little Mermaid (Alan Menken)". Retrieved 4 November 2014.
  7. ^ Rooney, David (August 26, 2007). "The Little Mermaid". Variety. Retrieved 4 November 2014.