The Screening Room
THE STUDIO GATE
In 1994, Disney decided to release made-for-video sequels to their
animated feature films. Much to the chagrin of Disney animation die hards,
the studio pressed on and produced a number of movies. Most of them have
been pale attempts at trying to capture the magic of the originals. Some
have been questionably made, especially considering the original movies
weren't good at all.
The hardest thing to watch have been sequels to some of Disney's classics.
The "Cinderella" sequel and prequel weren't necessary to make, for example.
Walt Disney didn't like to produce sequels to his hit films. He felt that
the stories were told completely.
"The Little Mermaid" (1989) was a grand return to Disney's quality
animation. It had all the elements of great fairy tale with a happy ending.
What makes "The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea" so difficult to watch
is how it breaks convention. The made-for-video has been re-released on DVD.
The first mistake the sequel makes is showing Ariel, once the feisty and
headstrong mermaid, as married and settled. She and Prince Eric have a baby,
Melody. "The Little Mermaid" through this act of betraying the audience's
belief in a character, has jumped the shark. It's always a danger sign when
the main characters either get married and/or have a baby. Ariel & Eric
already got married in the 1989 classic. I'd rather suspend my belief and
let the story end right there. Disney, however, thought otherwise. Ariel has
become a bore and a worry wart. This is not your mother's Ariel.
Secondary characters, like Melody, are hardly ever as good and interesting
at their parents. Okay, Eric was pretty much typical of Disney's princes.
He's there for plot development and that's about it. As for the spawn of our
favorite characters, they're used as an excuse to sell more Ariel dolls.
Kids, and sometimes their parents, realize that characters like Melody
aren't all that interesting. She's cute, but she's merely a bland copy of
her mother. "But mommy, 1989 Ariel is so much more fun!"
Like most parents, my wife bought "The Little Mermaid II" back in 2000 for
our young daughter. She didn't watch much television when she was 2, but
this DVD caught her attention. We probably watched it a hundred times. The
movie has some merits worth mentioning. Although the animation is
occasionally rough, the colors and backgrounds are done with an eye for
detail. The music and compositions are of high quality, though it's easy to
miss Alan Menken & Howard Ashman's song and music writing.
The character of Melody is okay, but she quickly gets on one's nerves.
Voiced by the talented Tara Strong (Timmy in "The Fairly Odd Parents"),
she's just a bit too cute for my taste. Morgana, Ursula's sister we didn't
know about, is merely a carbon copy of her bigger and meaner sis.
She's voiced by Pat Carroll who also provided Ursula's wonderful voice and
personality. Sebastian the crab is back, voiced by Samuel E. Wright. He's
put through pretty much the same adventure as undertook in the original
film. Another plot development in the movie involves two outcast characters,
Tip (Max Casella) and Dash (Stephen Furst). They're unnecessary to the plot
and are clearly aimed at small children.
"The Little Mermaid II" is passable entertainment for tykes, but for older
children, it might not pass muster. I sat down with my daughter to watch it
again. She didn't remember it, despite seeing it so many times. I guess it
didn't make as much of an impression on her as the other video she loved,
"It's Potty Time!" The Ariel/Melody sequel might not hold up well, but at
least for me, it brought back some memories.
Special thanks to Click Communications
Photos: © BVHE. All
DVD Quick Glimpse
Not as bad as some Disney traditionalists
thought, but still not great
Director: Jim Kammerud
Cast: Jodi Benson, Samuel E. Wright, Tara Strong
(as Tara Charendoff), Pat Carroll, Buddy
Hackett, Kenneth Mars
A new game, storybook and more
Sound: Very Good
Most of the original cast returns
Aspect Ratio (1.66:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1
DVD RELEASE DATE
December 16, 2008