Tuesday 10 September 2013

The Little Mermaid Blu-ray Review - Under the Sea Looks Great in HD, Take it from Me!

The Little Mermaid is available to own on Disney Blu-ray™ today!

Until yesterday, I hadn't seen The Little Mermaid in about ten years. So, when the Diamond Edition Blu-ray set (which is out now in the UK, and on 1st October in the US) arrived, I was excited to dive back into the world of one of my favourite Disney films. And it was probably the best way I could've revisited this timeless classic, as it looks great, it sounds great, and the story, music and characters are as fresh, as entertaining and as, well, great as ever.

The main menu of the Little Mermaid Blu-ray.

John Musker and Ron Clements have an impressive body of work, The Great Mouse Detective, Aladdin, HerculesTreasure Planet, The Princess and the Frog and, of course, this. Aladdin is one of my favourite all time Disney films; The Princess and the Frog was a great, at times dark, and rather underrated recent Disney gem; The Great Mouse Detective (which the duo co-directed with Burny Mattinson and David Michener) and Treasure Planet  are also fine films, though from more troubled times; Hercules is good too, though not one of my favourites. The Little Mermaid though, for its relevance, for its importance, and for its sheer, ageless joy and musical splendour, might well be the pair's greatest film.

The songs in the film (particularly "Part of Your World" and "Under the Sea") are some of the finest Disney numbers, and really set the precedent for the Broadway-style films that would make the Disney Renaissance famous. Alan Menken and Howard Ashman's influence on the film (and the Renaissance) was all-permeating, and much for the better. I can't wait to hear what sort of songs the directors' next film, the Tiki-themed Moana (which is apparently a musical), will cook up! And, as for the songs here, they sound clear, booming and utterly immersive thanks to Disney's DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 audio track.

The Little Mermaid's high definition picture transfer isn't as impressive as that of, say, Aladdin, though. With the Aladdin Blu-ray, you could easily believe the film came out last year; The Little Mermaid does look rather like it came out in the late 80s. The film came out in 1989, as the first film of what has since come to be known as the Disney Renaissance; this was the film that started a new wave of artistically stunning, narratively brilliant films - Aladdin came in the middle of that period, when hand-drawn Disney animation was at its most capable, of course The Little Mermaid will look a little older. Frankly though, that's not a bad thing. Because, the film doesn't look bad by any stretch (it looks very good, in fact), the colours still pop - particularly the bright blues of the sea, and the resplendent golds of King Triton - and the big musical set pieces are stunning. The slightly older, slightly rougher, look just adds to the overall charm of the film.

The Little Mermaid director John Musker's caricature of his fellow director, Ron
Clements. "He isn't necessarily what some people would call a kind
 says Clements. Via the "@DisneyAnimation" bonus feature.

This would normally be the section of a Disney Blu-ray review where I bemoan the lack of any new bonus features on the set... I'm very happy to break that tradition. It's surely because this Little Mermaid release is a Diamond Edition one, but, all the same, the disc has about half a dozen brand new, and quite substantial, bonus features, as well as "Classic DVD Bonus Features." One of the new bonuses on the set is a music video of Carly Rae Jepsen ("Call Me Maybe") singing "Part of Your World," and, despite all the commotion fans kicked up about it, it's a pretty good cover - it's true to the spirit of the original version and Jepsen's clearly a fan of the film (check out a clip from that below).

Other new bonus features include a look at a deleted character, Harold the Merman ("He had glasses, he was nerdy... I don't know what we saw in him," jokes Musker); there's some fascinating footage of a lecture given by the late, great Howard Ashman to the story team about the importance of narrative-driving songs; and there's a look at the effect of the film on Jodi Benson, "Part of Her World". My personal favourite bonus feature was the one titled "@DisneyAnimation" though. I'm not quite sure what the purpose of the @ is, but the feature itself is great. It gives a look behind the curtain at Walt Disney Animation Studios, making the place seem cool, talking to some talented Disney artists about what they think of The Little Mermaid, etc... What's really great about it though, is that it makes rock stars out of the WDAS stuff (particularly John Kahrs, who ironically just left the studio) in a way that's usually reserved just for Pixar guys. It's nice to see Disney actually put some effort into the bonus features for one of their own films for a change.

If you're reading this site, I would sincerely doubt I've got to do much convincing to get you to buy The Little Mermaid on Blu-ray. But, on the off-chance that you're feeling grouchy (or already own a past DVD set, I suppose), here we go: this Little Mermaid Diamond Edition set might not have the most pristine picture quality of all time, but what it does have is one of the greatest Disney animated films of all time, in its best quality, looking beautiful, sounding fantastic, and with the same great story that fans have kept wanting to revisit for 24 years. And it's a Disney home video release that actually has a lot of bonus features! That in itself is a rare occasion worth celebrating. For the non-high-def convertees among you, you can buy a DVD of the film too and, while I can't vouch for that, the Diamond Edition Blu-ray set most certainly bears the A113Animation seal of approval.

(Because The Little Mermaid isn't out on Blu-ray in the States yet, there are few high-res images online. Images used in this review are either pictures I took of the screen while the film was playing, or screencaptures from DisneyScreencaps.com. As such, the pictures here are not entirely representative of the picture quality on the set.)

Movie: 9/10
Picture Quality: 8.5/10
Sound Quality: 10/10
Bonus Features: 10/10
Overall Blu-ray Package: 9/10

You can order The Little Mermaid Blu-ray Diamond Edition now in the UK (left), or pre-order the US one (right), which is released on 1st October. Saying that, if you can't wait that long, the UK one is region free. If you use the above Amazon links (other regional links here), we get a small percentage, and will be very appreciative!


  1. Great review William! I can’t wait to own this beauty on BD. One thing though; when mentioning Clements/Musker’s filmography you forgot Hercules! (which ironically is this week’s featured film in the retrospective). Other than that everything is fine ;).

    One thing though, there are lots of information saying that The Part of your World sequence has been slightly altered for this new BD. Can you confirm that? If you don’t know what I’m talking about here’s a video that points the error:



  2. Oh damn, you're right! Thanks for the heads up, I'll change that now!

    And, watching the video, I think you're right, it has been changed. I hadn't seen it in a long, long while, so it didn't bother me (and, frankly, I didn't notice), but that is kinda strange...

  3. Juan Carlo Navarro13 September 2013 at 05:35

    Great great review. I've been looking for this kind of review for almost weeks now!!!!

  4. Thanks Juan! Glad to help you with that! :)

  5. Juan Carlo Navarro14 September 2013 at 15:18

    Oh no. So the rumour is true. Any way, i will still buy it