Review Summary: Clamshell-clad breasts, red hair, and the voice of an angel highlight one of the greatest soundtracks to ever accompany a movie designed for small children.
Disney movies are a unique phenomenon in our generation’s culture. How often is it considered acceptable for a full fledged adult to be genuinely captivated by talking animals, singing fish, magic carpets, and genies? In real life, any of these things would be cause for instant media coverage and lively celebrations commemorating a historical milestone concerning what scientists and the rest of humanity know about nature. But in a movie, it is nothing new. For centuries, tales like these have captivated the minds of youth…and for the past few decades, they have also engaged our sight and hearing via film. This is where the Disney corporation steps in, representing the prime means through which many people in our generation have become familiar with fables like Hercules
and mythical figures such as mermaids. In a sense, these movies taught us a lot of life lessons as we were growing up and learning them ourselves. Sure, the happy endings might have been overly optimistic, but as eight year olds with eyes full of wonder, none of us were prepared to point out why
those silver-lined, lesson-packed movies were flawed. They were beautiful stories for beautifully naive minds; and as adults, I like to think that we go back and relive these movies as a way of recapturing that purely innocent sensation.
Anyone who has watched a Disney classic will tell you that the music is a vital component to the film. Whether the song is psychologically revealing or a means of introducing a character or scene, there is not a single Disney classic that doesn’t have an equally memorable soundtrack. For instance, who has seen The Lion King
who can’t recite the brash sing-along “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” or the ominous “Be Prepared?” Some of the more popular Disney tunes have even transcended the score of their assigned film and become fixtures in popular radio, such as “You’ll Be In My Heart” from the Phil Collins-penned “Tarzan” soundtrack. No matter the movie, there is a long list of classic songs to back it up. One of the greatest Disney soundtracks comes from the highly celebrated 1989 movie The Little Mermaid
, a tale full of underwater adventures, sailors, mermaids, witches, princes, princesses, and of course phenomenal music
The vast majority of the soundtrack is a score consisting of Alan Menken’s instrumental work. His tracks, “Main Titles” and “Fanfare” kick things off remarkably, with the first providing an overture for Jodi Benson’s “Part of Your World” and the latter swelling with brass instruments to commence The Little Mermaid
in royal fashion. Menken also closes out the soundtrack’s final nine songs, utilizing an upbeat, lively renaissance feel to capture the magical spirit of both the movie and Disney itself. “Fireworks” basks in a wind-chime like background while “The Storm” makes the urgency of the hurricane that wrecks Prince Eric’s ship all the more tangible. “Tour of the Kingdom”, with its multiple unraveling layers and full orchestra, puts you right in the center of the beautiful animation right beside Ariel and Eric. “Eric to the Resue” and “Happy Ending” provide the perfect musical backdrop to the final two scenes of the movie; first, where Eric saves the day by riding the mast of his ship through Ursela’s stomach and last when Ariel’s father grants her wish to become human so she can live happily ever after with Eric. From start to finish, it is the instrumental scores that compose both the majority of the soundtrack and the background to some of the most important moments in the movie. To put it simply, Menken’s creativity is what drives The Little Mermaid
with its constantly building suspense and its mood-setting backgrounds.
Although the instrumentals are perhaps the most vital component of The Little Mermaid
’s soundtrack, the ones we likely remember most feature the vocal brilliance of Jodi Benson (voice of Ariel) and Samuel E. Wright (voice of Sebastian the crab). “Part of Your World” is the definitive Little Mermaid
song, with overtures and reprises existing in addition to the original track itself. Benson convincingly shows off her pipes, from quirky little comments and girly gestures to the moment when she belts out the breathtaking chorus to end the song: “When's it my turn? Wouldn't I love, love to explore that world up above? Out of the sea / Wish I could be / Part of that world
.” Wright’s contributions are equally as valuable, with the percussion-heavy “Under The Sea” providing an auditory component to the sight of a plethora of sea creatures gleefully tapping on clam shells. It also lends the film an endearing sense of personality with a strong Jamaican accent to accompany the oceanic theme. “Kiss the Girl” is the soundtrack’s chief romantic ballad, one that I will admit (with minimal embarrassment) still makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. The song accompanies Ariel’s boat ride with Prince Eric through an absolutely gorgeously animated landscape, including a white willow tree growing out of the water that provides a canopy for the young lovers to row underneath. It is moments like these accompanied by songs like “Kiss the Girl” that give the vocal-driven tracks a clear advantage over the instrumentals, although it is the interplay between the two styles that makes The Little Mermaid
a pleasure to listen to.
The Little Mermaid
’s soundtrack is a must-own album for any Disney enthusiast. Not only does it complement the movie perfectly, but it also provides a more than worthwhile listen on its own. You wouldn’t expect the instrumental moments on a Disney soundtrack to be profound, but Menken’s work on all eleven of his tracks is nothing short of brilliant. The middle portion of the soundtrack contains most of the singing, and every
one of those songs are unforgettable. Join Ariel, Flounder, and Sebastian as they make a splash in the music soundtrack industry. At the very least, The Little Mermaid
will fill you with nostalgia and several catchy, feel-good tunes. Anyone who passes this up is missing out on a childhood gem. Those poor, unfortunate souls…