- “I don't see how a world that makes such wonderful things could be bad.”
- ―Ariel on her dreams of life on the land.
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 4th in the Disney Princess lineup, and the only princess to become a mother to her own child.
The character is based on the title character of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid" story, but was developed into a different personality. 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.
In the films and television series, she is the seventh-born daughter of King Triton and Queen Athena of an underwater kingdom of Merfolk. Shortly after becoming human, she marries Prince Eric, whom she rescued from a shipwreck, and together they have a daughter, Melody.
Ariel has a very distinctive appearance, with her long red hair, aquatic blue eyes, purple seashell bra, and her long green mermaid tail. Her tail ends under her belly button. Many Disney fans consider Ariel to be Disney's most beautiful princess due to her colorful and exotic features.
She is often rebellious, and in the first film longs to be a part of the human world. She's a bit impulsive in making decisions like trading her voice for human legs. Ariel is very curious about the people of the surface and when she arrives there, she is awestruck. Ariel is very adventurous and likes to explore sunken ships to find treasures, but it can sometimes get her into trouble. Despite her flaws, Ariel is sweet, kind, compassionate, selfless and brave. She'll go out of her way to help those in need.
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 both her father King Triton and his court composer Sebastian, as merfolk are not allowed to make 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 romantically 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. After transforming herself back into her true witch form, Ursula takes Ariel back into the ocean, where she is met by King Triton and Sebastian.
Triton trades himself for Ariel, enabling Ursula steal his crown and enabling her to claim his trident, a fascination which angers Ariel, who will not allow Ursula to destroy merfolk and humans. In the battle that follows, Ariel is trapped at the bottom of a whirlpool. Before Ursula can destroy her, Eric kills Ursula by ramming a derelict ship's splintered prow through her. After Ursula dies, her spell is broken, and King Triton and the merfolk are transformed back to normal merpeople. At the end of the film, after King Triton uses his magical trident to transform her into a human, Ariel leaves the sea to live in the human world, and she and Eric marry and live happily ever after.
The Little Mermaid (TV series)
The Little Mermaid (TV series) is a prequel television series that originally aired from 1992 to 1994, depicts Ariel's life as a mermaid under the sea with Sebastian, Flounder, and her father. Ariel appears in all 31 episodes of the series, which is set an unspecified time before the first film. The series follows Ariel's adventures with her friends and family, and sometimes has Ariel foiling the attempts of enemies that are intent on harming her or the kingdom of Atlantica.
Ariel's relationships with various characters from the film are highlighted and expanded, such as the love and occasional conflict between Ariel and her father, how Ariel met Flounder and Scuttle, the relationships between Ariel and her sisters, and Ariel's early fear and avoidance of Ursula the sea witch. Other recurring new characters are also introduced, such as merboy Urchin and mermaid Gabriella that become Ariel's friends, as well as the Evil Manta, Lobster Mobster and Da Shrimp, who are Ariel's enemies. Ariel's mother is absent from the series, having already died prior to the events of the series, though she is occasionally mentioned in vague terms. 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.
Some episodes of the series are musical, and feature original songs performed by the characters. A soundtrack containing some of these songs was released in 1992 under the title "Splash Hits".
The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea
In The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea Ariel serves as the deuteragonist. It is shown that she has given birth to a daughter named Melody (the new protagonist) prior to the start of the film. When we first see her playing with the beautiful newborn Melody, many toys of Flounder, Sebastian, and other fish can be seen in the room, showing that she misses her old friends and family. When Melody's safety is threatened by a sea witch named Morgana (younger sister of Ursula, who died in the first film), Ariel, and her husband Eric, decide they must keep Melody away from the sea, and to this effect, they build a large wall separating the castle from it.
As a consequence, this also meant Ariel could not visit her ancestral home. Melody's love of the sea proves too strong, however, and when she falls into Morgana's clutches, Ariel is forced to temporarily resume her mermaid form in order to rescue and save Melody from Morgana's scheme.
In this time, she briefly returns to her grotto as seen in the first film, and studies the objects, (which we are left to presume survived Triton's anger in the first film) and keeps looking for Melody. This features Ariel becoming an over-protective parent for Melody, effectively taking over the role of Triton in the first film.
She is the first and so far the only mother of the Disney Princesses.
The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning
The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning is the prologue that shows Ariel as a young 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 arguing 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 appears in a number of printed media that have been released as part of the franchise. A series of twelve prequel novels were published in 1994, following young Ariel's adventures living under the sea with her sisters and father. The titles are: "Green-Eyed Pearl" and "Nefazia Visits the Palace" by Suzanne Weyn; "Reflections of Arsulu" and "The Same Old Song" by Marilyn Kaye; "Arista's New Boyfriend" and "Ariel the Spy" by M. J. Carr; "King Triton, Beware!", "The Haunted Palace" and "The Boyfriend Mix-Up" by Katherine Applegate; "The Practical-Joke War" by Stephanie St. Pierre; "The Dolphins of Coral Cove" by K. S. Rodriguez; and "Alana's Secret Friend" by Jess Christopher. The novels mostly focused on the domestic setting of Ariel and her sisters living together.
Disney Comics released a four-issue "The Little Mermaid Limited Series" comic series in 1992. In 1994 Marvel Comics released its own title, "Disney's The Little Mermaid", which ran for twelve issues. All the comics are prequels to the film and feature Ariel a mermaid living under the sea having adventures with Flounder and Sebastian, and thwarting villains that wish to take over Atlantica.
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. This franchise includes illustrated novels starring the various princesses, two of which are about Ariel: "The Birthday Surprise" and "The Shimmering Star Necklace" Both novels are written by Gail Herman, and contain original stories about Ariel's life as a human and Eric's wife, but still maintaining close relationships with her father and sisters under the sea.
Jodi Benson provides Ariel's voice for her appearances in the Disney Princess music albums and DVDs. The first original song released for this franchise is "If You Can Dream", which featured Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Pocahontas, Jasmine and Mulan singing together. Other Disney Princess albums that feature original songs with Ariel are Disney Princess Tea Party (2005), Disney Princess Christmas album (2009), and Disney Princess Party (2010).
Main article: The Little Mermaid (musical) Ariel appears in the Broadway adaptation of the 1989 film, which ran at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre with previews from November 3, 2007 leading to opening night on January 10, 2008. This original production closed on August 30, 2009, but other US and international productions have followed since. 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.
In order to portray the characters underwater, the actors wore Heelys wheeled footwear, which simulate the gliding action of swimming creatures. The actors playing Ariel and the other merfolk had wire-frame tails attached to their hips. Subsequent productions feature different designs for Ariel and the merfolk; the Dutch and Japanese productions use wirework and aerial stunts to create the illusion of underwater swimming.
The stage musical follows the basic structure of the film, but there are some differences between the two. Ariel acknowledges and is acknowledged by Ursula as family, since in this version Ursula is Triton's sister. In a new subplot, Grimsby holds a contest inviting all the princesses in the land for a singing competition for Eric to choose his bride; Ariel cannot sing, but she dances for Eric, and he chooses her. Ariel also has a more active role in the final battle, where she is the one who defeats Ursula by destroying her Nautilus shell that contains her power.
In addition to the songs in the film, Ariel has new songs by Alan Menken and lyrics by Glenn Slater. "The World Above" is Ariel's introductory song, where she expresses her admiration and curiosity with the human world, "Beyond My Wildest Dreams" is performed after Ariel has become human and given up her voice, and is used to express her thoughts about the human world and Eric, and "If Only (quartet)" is a quartet between Ariel, Eric, King Triton and Sebastian where all four express longing and sadness for their current situation: Ariel saddened that she only has one day left to get Eric to kiss her, Eric's confusion of falling for Ariel despite longing for the mysterious girl who saved his life, King Triton's regret at driving Ariel away, and Sebastian for his inability to help Ariel achieve her dreams.
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.
Video Games And Television
Not long after the film was released, Muppet creator Jim Henson proposed a live-action show based on the film, titled Little Mermaid's Island. Ariel was to be portrayed by Marietta DePrima, and she would interact with various puppet characters created by Jim Henson's Creature Shop. Two episodes of this series was filmed but not aired due to complications after Henson's death.
Ariel appears in various video games based on the films, including the video game, The Little Mermaid, an adaptation of the first film developed by Capcom and published in 1991 for Nintendo Entertainment System and Gameboy. Sega Genesis got their own version, Ariel The Little Mermaid, in 1992 developed by BlueSky Software. which let the player control Ariel and Triton.
Ariel also appeared in 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.
In 2001, Ariel appeared occasionally in the animated television series Disney's House of Mouse as one of Mickey's guests at the night club. She is seen in both her mermaid and human forms.
On November 24, 2013 Ariel made a brief appearance in a TV special Sofia the First: The Floating Palace, which is part of the computer-animated television series Sofia the First. In the special, Sofia is trying to help her mermaid friend, Oona, whose underwater kingdom is under threat. Sofia wishes for help, and the magical amulet of Avalor summons Ariel in her mermaid form, who gives Sofia advice on what to do. Ariel performs the song "Joining Together" with Sofia.
Once Upon a Time
A live-action version of Ariel appears in the 2013-2014 third season of Once Upon a Time, where she is played by Joanna García.
Ariel first appears in the sixth episode of the season, "Ariel." In the Enchanted Forest flashbacks of the episode, Ariel meets Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) by saving her from drowning. Snow and Ariel become friends, during which Snow advises Ariel to pursue her love interest Prince Eric (Gil McKinney), whom she'd rescued from drowning earlier. Ursula, the sea goddess, has given merfolk the ability to gain legs once a year; Ariel uses this gift to turn human and attend Prince Eric's ball with Snow. At the ball, Ariel and Eric dance, with Eric commenting that Ariel seems familiar to him. Eric invites Ariel to join him on an expedition around the world that is leaving the following morning. As Ariel contemplates her dilemma she is approached by Regina the Evil Queen, who has disguised herself as Ursula and pretends to want to help her. Regina's true agenda is to capture Snow, but Ariel thwarts Regina's plan and manages to escape with Snow. As an act of revenge, Regina takes Ariel's voice so she cannot call out to Eric before he leaves on his voyage.
Years later Regina calls to Ariel for help. Regina is trapped on Neverland and needs Ariel to use her merfolk ability to travel between realms and collect something from Storybrooke. In return, Regina restores Ariel's voice, gives her a bracelet that can give her legs for 24 hours, and tells her that Prince Eric is in Storybrooke. In the following episode, "Dark Hollow," Ariel travels to Storybrooke to meet Belle, and they work together to find Pandora's Box. Ariel manages to bring the box back to Regina in Neverland, and in return Regina casts a spell on the bracelet so Ariel can use it to gain legs whenever and for however long she wishes. At the beginning of the tenth episode of the season, "The New Neverland", Ariel and Eric are reunited in Storybrooke.
In the seventeenth episode, "The Jolly Roger", Ariel has been separated from Eric again due to the events of "The New Neverland". In the Enchanted Forest, she learns that Eric has been kidnapped by Blackbeard the pirate, and teams up with Hook to help save him. Faced with an ultimatum, Hook chooses the Jolly Roger over information on Eric's whereabouts; Ariel is angered at Hook but leaves to find Eric on her own. In Storybrooke a year later, Zelena disguises herself as Ariel, pretending that she's still searching for Eric in order to torment Hook with his guilt. It is later revealed that Ariel successfully found Eric on her own and they have been living happily together.
When Jolly Rogers was trapped inside a bottle, Ariel got caught in a magic, and ended up trapped inside the bottle as well. After Ursula hauled the ship from the Enchanted Forest to Storybrooke, the Jolly Roger regained its normal size with the help of some magic, which freed Ariel from her prison. Hook, knocked out by Ursula, was thrown into the sea, but Ariel saved him in time. Below deck, the redhead snapped the disheveled pirate into consciousness and then slapped him as penance for previously tossing Black Beard overboard. After expressing gratitude towards Hook for freeing her, she asked about his prior dispute with Ursula. Hook admitted he was too focused on his own ambitions and couldn't hold up his end of the bargain with Ursula. When he considered Ursula is right about villains not having happy endings, Ariel reasons that villains always use wrong methods to obtain them. She later helped contact Ursula's father, Poseidon, and brought him to Storybrooke so he could reconcile with his daughter.