The Little Mermaid

Reviewed by: David Kerr

Moral Rating: Average
Moviemaking Quality:
Primary Audience: Kids Family
Genre: Animation Fantasy Romance Musical Kids Family
Length: 1 hr. 22 min.
Year of Release: 1989
Re-release: 1997
USA Release:
The Little Mermaid
Featuring Jodi Benson, René Auberjonois, Christopher Daniel Barnes, Pat Carroll, Paddi Edwards, Buddy Hackett, Jason Marin, Kenneth Mars, Edie McClurg, Will Ryan, Ben Wright, Samuel E. Wright
Director Ron Clements
John Musker

Live-Action Remake version: The Little Mermaid (2023) — PG-13-Rated

“The Little Mermaid” is yet another re-release of Disney, although this one is from its more glorious days. Having been put out in limited release on video, this movie has become something of a collector’s item, and the theatrical release has long been awaited by fans.

Although a widescreen viewing of any movie is better than its home-video counterpart, no attempt has been made to improve the old picture quality or sound of the original film. The film definitely looks dated, as if the old reels have been reused. Nonetheless, the sound is still wonderful and wanders into surround sound on occasion. The music is loud and fantastic, with now-classic songs like “Under the Sea” and “Kiss the Girl.” This is what the movie is really about.

“The Little Mermaid” is based on a Hans Christian Andersen story with a radically changed ending. The story is about Ariel, a young mermaid, who falls in love with a human prince named Eric. However, her father, King Triton, won’t allow her to visit the surface and she runs away to Ursula, resident witch. The witch promises to help her get the prince, but with a few catches—and therein lies the drama.

From a Christian perspective, this film draws little complaint. There is no profanity and no violation of the First Commandment. However, there is a hint of sexuality in Ariel. She is only sixteen, yet darts about in a skimpy seashell bra, and at one point when she is changed into a human she is wearing no pants (although the audience cannot see anything). Fortunately, the chance of a child getting a wrong impression from this movie is minuscule. On the plus side, this film does promote marriage and monogamy.

Obviously, the musical content of the film is what is to be cherished. To those who are part of the Disney boycott, this film is nothing to be worried about. “Snow White”, for instance, is much worse in its paganistic content. If you’re a fan of animated movies, don’t hesitate to see “The Little Mermaid”—and don’t forget to take your kids!

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—I don’t feel offended by this movie at all. Flounder, Scuttle, and Sebastian have always been my favorite characters and always will be. I love the music, and have watched the movie since I was five and have never ever been scared. It’s a GREAT MOVIE!!!
Bethany Kitts
Positive—I loved this movie. In fact, I own it, and plan to let my son watch it when he is old enough. (He’s only 3 mo. now.) I do find it interesting that such a stink is being made of Ursula. She was, quite obviously, not the best character in the movie. However, the idea of someone selling their soul to the devil is not a new one. I think that Disney did a good job of showing consequences of Ariel’s decision. The movie also did a great job of showing that possible consequence should be thought through before someone makes a decision. What great ideas to discuss with our children!!!…

After all, what is “selling our soul to the devil?” Is it puting something before God? If so, our children probably see us doing it everyday in one form or another. Whether it is the television, books, work, or our family, we need to remember the eternal consequences of our actions and priorities. I really think that this is one of Disney’s last GREAT movies, and what a wonderful way to get our children’s attention and talk to them about what is important.
David Keithley
Positive—You see the consequences of “selling your soul” to Ursula in this movie. I have a more difficult time watching movies like “Sleeping Beauty” when fairies and their magic are shown as harmless or good. I would much rather have my child see a movie where they see the consequences of magic rather than believe that magic is good, beautiful, or harmless.
Neutral—From a filmmakers” point of view, Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” is a fun and enjoyable movie to watch. For the most part, good is called good, and evil is called evil. While Ursilla should be noted for the “selling your soul to the devil,” the movie clearly portrays this as a bad decision and shows consequences for such actions.

Furthermore, it is not Biblically possible to sell one’s soul to the devil, as the media portrays. No one can snatch us from the hands of Christ, once we repent and believe (Romans 10:9; Acts 16:31; John 3:16).

My only concern with this movie is Ariel’s rebellion against her father. She does appear to be sorry later on, but I still felt this could have been better done. However, Triton’s love is a good display of how a father should love; unconditionally, despite our faults.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
Peter, age 27 (USA)
Negative—Thank you for the accurate review. Children are getting a warped view of courtship in the Ken and Barbie personas of Ariel and her knight in shining armor. Artistically well-made, but oh, what socio-cultural poppycock!
Negative—When we saw and discussed the original release with our children, our verdict was: fun movie, terrible sermon (i.e. message)! The music is terrific fun. The animation, characters, and voice characterizations are delightful. The plot is not “War and Peace,” but it is fun and fast-moving. It’s a visual trip to the amusement park.

BUT, here once again we have Disney’s by-now-boilerplate clueless, out-of-touch, ineffective father… and where’s Mom? The father alternately thunders or melts, but clearly does not have any handle on his daughter’s attitude or behavior. She totally disrespects him.

And as to Ariel—think about it: she defies her father willingly and repeatedly, and GETS AWAY WITH IT IN THE END! Oh sure, there are scary moments; but old dad comes along and bails her out, and she gets what she wants. Thus all her rebellion, all-comsuming selfishness, shallowness, and disobedience are never truly addressed. Further, she gives it all (including, for all appearances at one point, her father’s very life) for what?

For her superficial, skin-deep attraction to this good looking fellow. What kind of message is that—for young girls OR young men? I do not say don’t see it. It’s great fun. I do say be prepared to discuss it Biblically. (And on that note, the reviewer commented that the first commandment was not broken. What about the fifth, ninth, and possibly tenth commandments, when it comes to that?) For a better message plus great fun, see “Beauty and the Beast.” The doddering, half-crazed father is still there, but all of the other negative elements are almost exactly negated and reversed.
Dan, 42—pastor
Negative—Your review completely glossed over the character of Ursula. She is not some “harmless” resident witch played for humor like in the old “Bewitched” TV series. Rather, in the grand tradition of Disney’s all-too prevalent fascination with the occult, Ursula echoes the demonic characters in “Aladdin” and “Hercules.” The showdown with Ursula absolutely terrified my 4-year-old niece, as did the scenes in Ursula’s lair with the souls that had sold themselves to her. While we love the rest of the film and especially the music (which, in my opinion, is Disney’s finest soundtrack ever), all parents should at least be aware of these scenes.
Jennifer, age 34
Negative—Your review above neglected to discuss another con about the film: Ariel’s rebellious attitude. Ariel, throughout the picture, speaks nasty to her father, disobeys his commands, and is rebellious in the wishes he communicates to her. Ariel does not have an attitude that young girls watching the film should imitate!
Ryan Kelly
Negative—After reading your review of the movie “The Little Mermaid” and the Jennifer’s (the other Christian critic) I have to really side with Jennifer. The idea of selling your soul to the Devil to get what you want in life goes against everything as Bible-believing Christians stand for. The cover of the video box for this movie displays a phallus as part of the castle in the background. As a Christian, I wouldn’t let my kids watch it again. yes Yhey did watch it once, when they were little, before I knew of the plot. However, just knowing that a character is dealing directly with another demonic character is reason enough not to see the movie again-even for adults.
Susan, age 36
Positive—This is to Susan 36. I am a Pastor and a Father of an 2½ year old little girl. She is so precious to my life. The only comment I want to remark on is “the selling of your soul to the devil.” If you would remember, when this happened, things went wrong. One could see a moral there to teach their kids. If you are to take the path that leads to self and easy street, such as “selling Your soul to the devil” bad things happen. As they did in the movie. Would I let my daughter watch it? Yes, I feel that we are able to teach her about what living in Christ means, and watching a little mermaid look for love isn’t going to hinder that. Thank You.
Negative—…David Kerr writes “From a Christian perspective, this film draws little complaint.” What kind of Christian has little or no problem with a movie that teaches rebellion and selling one’s soul to the devil to get what you want in life? The Bible commands us to have nothing to do with witches or anything of the occult. That seems very clear. Please stay away from this movie and don’t let any impressionable children see it. You are there to protect them.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
Jonathan Squires, age 51 (USA)
Comments from young people
I have to disagree with Dave. Being an observer of animated movies, I’d say “Mermaid” does not promote marriage. In fact, Disney only included the marriage part of Hans Christian Anderson’s story to keep the G rating… “The Little Mermaid” has one thing going for it: its villain. I was 8 the first time I saw this and was quite frightened by her. She is one of the only legitimately scary Disney villains ever (with the possible exception maybe one of The Black Cauldron’s evil characters).

Therefore (considering the very poor animation detail, immorality, and uninteresting story), I’d give “Mermaid” a 3 out of 10…
Zack, age 16
Negative—My first memory is of watching this movie at my baby sitter’s house when I was 2 years old. This was one of my favorite movies growing up and I watched it often. I recently re-watched it and was absolutely appalled. To start with, the whole thing is based on Greek mythology, with Ariel’s father King Triton based on Triton, a Greek god. Why should any Christian child watch a movie with a ‘good’ character who is based on a demonic being?

Then there’s Ursula. What a horrible character! If King Triton is the god-like figure in the movie, then Ursula is certainly the Satan-like one.

I don’t have any problem with Hollywood portraying good and evil in their movies, but do they actually have to put evil into the movie to do it? I would call her a demonically inspired image. I almost turned the movie off (which would have been a good idea), I felt such evil in this movie.

The last thing about the movie that I thought was terrible was the end of the movie. The movie is almost like an analogy of God, Satan, and us, until the end, when King Triton thinks he’s been too strict with Ariel. No, he wasn't! Maybe he could have been a little kinder to Ariel, but she’s the one who disobeyed and was rebellious and got herself into all that trouble.

This movie could also be very scary to young children (especially the ending). It does have some good music and fun characters, but I don’t think they make up for the evil in the movie.

I understand that this is a classic Disney movie and that many people love it, but I would encourage everyone who watches this movie to pray first. Discernment is a gift from God that we can ask for.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 5
Sarah C., age 18 (USA)