Once again, reduced to simpering by Disney film Essay: 'Little Mermaid' re-release constitutes double jeopardy.

November 29, 1997|By Rob Hiaasen | Rob Hiaasen,SUN STAFF

The descent into madness began in 1989. It was the year we lost control of our children, the year the oversized mitts of Mickey Mouse grabbed us by our bank accounts and refused to let go.

Since then, a few parents were able to forget the madness. Through 12-step programs and the help of loyal loving friends, we were able to put 1989 behind us. Until now.

"The Little Mermaid" -- which in 1989 marked Disney's return to movie-animation world domination -- is back. "Only Disney. Only in theaters through Nov. 30," the chipper print ads read. Oh, the horror, the horror! Oh, the blurbs, the blurbs!

They don't get any better than this, says Jeff Craig of Sixty Second Preview.

A timeless classic, says Joel "I loved 'Police Academy III' " Siegel, from "Good Morning America."

Two most enthusiastic thumbs up, said Siskel and Ebert. Et tu, Roger?

This holiday season, some parents are secretly pulling for the non-Disney "Anastasia" to trounce "The Little Mermaid" at the box office. It's the same underground sect who rooted for other ** non-Disney animated movies.

But "Thumbelina," "An American Tail: Fievel Goes West" and "Balto" couldn't stand up to the likes of Disney's "Beauty and the Beast," "Lion King," et al. "Balto" could have been the next "Old Yeller"! But "Balto" bombed big-time, and the cause was lost.

Blame Disney. Even if "The Little Mermaid" is a good movie (and it is), it's still important to denounce Disney. Why? you ask. Because never in our lives will we ever remotely come close to hatching an idea that will make $500 billion. Freudian psychologists have a name for this condition: Disney envy.

If you haven't seen "The Little Mermaid" (Ha! You will!), here's the story. It's an animated version of Hans Christian Andersen's tale about a little mermaid who rescues a prince, falls in love and wishes she could become a human girl.

Excuse us -- that's the story line from the 1978 animated version of "The Little Mermaid" -- not Disney, not a blockbuster.

In a unique variation, Disney's 1989 "Mermaid" is an animated version of Hans Christian Andersen's tale about a little mermaid who rescues a prince, falls in love and wishes she could become a human girl. Plus, there's a singing crab.

Yes, it's the old story of prince meets mermaid/mermaid loses voice/mermaid finds voice/crab sings. We fell for it then, and we've fallen for everything Disney since: the movie, then the video, then the theater production, then back to video, not to mention the theme park ride. And it all started with "The Little Mermaid" in 1989.

Before we fell for "Beauty and the Beast's" Belle or "Aladdin's" Jasmine, there was Ariel, the Little Mermaid. "A teen-age tootsie in a flirty seashell bra -- like Sleeping Beauty plus tomboy punk," wrote critic Pauline Kael.

"The movie is technologically sophisticated, but with just about all the simpering old Disney values in place," Kael continued. And she kind of liked the movie.

And what's wrong with simpering Disney values? Disney has been beyond reproach in the simpering-values department. Until, that is, a group calling itself The American Life League brought to the attention of the movie-going public a troubling scene from "The Little Mermaid."

During the wedding ceremony late in the film, the minister becomes a little too, well, animated, claims the Life League, an anti-abortion group based in Virginia. Thanks to this keen observation, we finally have a legitimate reason to denounce, begrudge and belittle Disney.

Parents, suffer no more from the shame of Disney envy. Now, when you refuse to see (again) an 8-year-old, re-released, 71-minute, cartoon movie -- you can tell people the reason why. You can tell people the truth.

"The Little Mermaid" is a dirty movie.

Pub Date: 11/29/97

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