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The Little Mermaid - 4K Blu-ray Review

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The Little Mermaid

With Disney’s current dominance at the box office, it is difficult to believe it, but they weren’t doing so well (theatrically) in the latter half of the 1980s. They had experienced, especially in the animation realm, a series of costly underperforming features and the sure thing that used to be their Disney Classics reputation was starting to take on a patina of failure.

"It’s an absolutely masterful turn around for Disney at the time, and a worthy and revered testament to quality on every level: not to be missed."


This was a few years before Pixar (which Disney didn’t own then) really ended the traditional cell drawn animation. Fittingly, just as Disney has started feature-length hand-drawn animation with a bang, so they would end it with some of their finest movies. Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, and Aladdin are now regarded in history as some of their favorite animated classics.

The Little Mermaid was where their resurgence began. Hitting theatres in 1989, it is a tale that, like many in Disney’s back catalogue, (*cough) borrows from an old, decidedly more tragic story (written by Hans Christian Anderson) about a teenaged mermaid that falls in love with human prince and wants to give up her life in the ocean to be with him. To accomplish this, she must make a pact with a sea witch, sacrifice her beautiful voice, and has three days to receive a kiss from her prince that proves true love, or she is cactus, basically.

There are so many highlights to this film it’s hard to fit them into a few hundred word review, but sufficed to say they hit the ball out of the park on all counts. They upped their game on the animation front impressively, throwing a great deal of cash at it, far more than they had in years, and the resulting depth of artistry poured into every frame cannot be understated.

The adapted story is classic in every sense; in fact, this was intended to be the next feature developed for Walt Disney after Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. It’s textbook storybook princess goals at its finest, but it works.

The voice actors were all perfectly cast. This was before Hollywood’s habit of casting A-list actors, and shows what careful casting had been employed, because all of the voice actors completely name their respective characters. For this reviewer, main villain Ursula (Pat Caroll) with her pack-a-day smoker’s voice, and Star Trek’s Rene Auberjonois as the psychotic French chef were the stand outs amongst them.The Little Mermaid

The score was flawless, emotional, and deservedly Oscar-winning. It’s hard to believe, but their Broadway-esque power song ‘Part of Your World’ was almost cut from the movie.

This was definitive in the Katzenberg era of Disney in showing what the studio was capable of producing with proper attention to detail, talent and budget. The no frills, cost cutting era that produced inferior product was quickly replaced by a record-breaking final run of traditionally animated films.

It’s an absolutely masterful turn around for Disney at the time, and a worthy and revered testament to quality on every level: not to be missed.

4/5 stars

The Little Mermaid

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

The Signature Collection / 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital HD

Home Video Distributor: Disney/Buena Vista
Available on Blu-ray
- February 26, 2019
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: English SDH, French, Japanese, Spanish, Korean, Mandarin
Audio:
English: Dolby Atmos; English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1; French (Canada): Dolby Digital 5.1; Japanese: Dolby Digital Plus 7.1; Korean: Dolby Digital 5.1; Mandarin: Dolby Digital 5.1
Discs: 4K Ultra HD; Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set
Region Encoding: 4K Blu-ray: Region free; 2K Blu-ray: Region A

VIDEO:

Okay, so how does a traditionally painted animation film benefit from a 4K presentation? In very basic terms, the original cells were scanned onto film. That original film was rescanned, restored and given the UHD 4K scan, and the result of this HDR10 4K master is breathtaking. You have never seen this movie as detailed as on this disc. The colors, given the HDR10 work up, explode off the screen. The masterful background painting and line work really show off the artistry that went into this production. Every element, from water, to sun rays filtered in the water, to stone and wood, are super detailed and really give you an appreciation for just how gifted the artists at Disney were.

AUDIO:

Unlike many of the Disney titles release, which are giving them a bad reputation of compression and under-cranked levels, this 7.1 Dolby ATMOS mix is next to perfect. This, by design, plays like a Broadway show, really showing off its powerful vocals more than anything else; this is not to say there aren’t effects and environmental specific shifts when needed in the mix. Directionality is decent, if sometimes lacking, but not inept by any stretch. This is a beautiful track worth of its beautiful movie.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • Audio Commentary: Writers/Directors Ron Clements and John Musker and composer Alan Menken.

Special Features:

There are no features on the 4K, and, as usual a blu-ray that contains many previously offered features from previously releases. There are three new little topical segments that all together would run just under 30 minutes. They will be of interest to animation aficionados but to regular folk, meh.

  • NEW! Alan Menken and the Leading Ladies
  • NEW! "What I Want From You Is...Your Voice"
  • NEW! Stories From Walt's Office: Gadgets and Gizmos
  • #Treasuresuntold
  • "Part of Your World" Music Video featuring Dcapella
  • Deleted Character: Harold the Merman
  • Under the Scene: The Art of Live Action Reference
  • Howard's Lecture
  • NEW! Classic Bonus Previews

Exclusive Digital Extra:

  • "Part of Your World"

Blu-ray Rating:

  Movie 4/5 stars
  Video  5/5 stars
  Audio 4/5 stars
  Extras 2/5 stars

Overall Blu-ray Experience

4/5 stars

The Little Mermaid

MPAA Rating: G.
Runtime:
83 mins
Director
: Ron Clements, John Musker
Writer:
Ron Clements, John Musker
Cast:
Jodi Benson, Samuel E. Wright, Rene Auberjonois
Genre
: Animated | Family
Tagline:
Love has no boundaries.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Hm. Teenagers. They think they know everything. You give them an inch, they swim all over you."
Theatrical Distributor:
Disney
Official Site:
Release Date:
November 17, 1989
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
February 26, 2019.
Synopsis: A mermaid princess makes a Faustian bargain in an attempt to become human and win a prince's love.

The Little Mermaid

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