61 thoughts we had while watching The Little Mermaid 3

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Sep 3, 2019, 8:24 AM EDT (Updated)

Do you love The Little Mermaid, but always wonder what happened to Ariel's mom? Do you revel over workplace politics and royal drama? Do you have a boundless love for musical sea life? Well, then you might be enchanted by The Little Mermaid 3: Ariel's Beginning. But for me, the lure of this fishy tale came from one random tweet.

Sally Field playing an evil mermaid? I'm in. Manatee sidekick that looks like a glow-in-the-dark reject from the Hundred Acre Wood is just gravy. But this strange sequel turned out to be more of an adventure than I bargained for.

Did it matter that I'd never seen Little Mermaid 2: Return to the Sea? Nope! Ariel's Beginning is actually a prequel to this Disney princess's original 1989 adventure. So before she fell for Eric or battled with the bawdy badass of the deep, Ursula, Ariel tangled with Marina Del Rey.

Prepared with the continuity context of this sequel, I hit a snag — it's only available on DVD/Blu-ray. I scoured streaming services ready to rent, but had to order a physical copy of this film like it's 2004 or something. But hey, maybe it'll be great and I'll happily slide it into my collection next to my treasured Little Mermaid disc, snatched away from that mysterious Disney vault.

Two days later, the disc arrived. Let's dive in.

  1. The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning takes us back to the titular princess's childhood days when she was rocking a toddler tummy and a bandeau top. It was a time when Atlantica was full of frolicking mermaids and song, and when Ariel's mother, Queen Athena, was still alive.


  2. Young King Triton: Dad or Daddy?
  3. "The king loved his queen, and he took every opportunity to show her."  Triton and Athena are crazy about each other. There's no way this portends a horrible tragedy, right?
  4. What a splendid day above the water, chilling on a secluded beach, giving your queen a lovely music box with your song in it. Oh sh*t. Is that a pirate ship!?
  5. Turns out Triton's hatred of humans is well earned! A rogue pirate ship ran down his beloved wife while he rushed their fleet of children to safety. Is it a fleet? A flock? A festoon? What would you call a group of mermaids? And while we're at it, these girls all look the same age. Are mermaids born like puppies in a litter? What's the gestation time of a merfetus? 
  6. After a bit of googling, I'm going with "a gossip of mermaids."
  7. "From that moment on, the king's heart stayed dark. And music was banned from Atlantica forever." So a spouse who loved singing leaves behind a grieving family, who in turn decides music is forbidden. This is the plot of Disney's Coco
  8. Cut to 10 years later. Triton's a stern father who keeps his daughters at a distance and has made music a literal crime. Sebastian is his chief of staff. Enter Marina Del Rey! The harried governess of a gossip of mermaid princesses.

  9. First off, I love that she had bags under her eyes that's she trying to make a look by some matching eye shadow. I may try this. No, I'm not tired. I'm a trendsetter.
  10. As we get into familiar character designs, the low level of craftsmanship becomes really clear here. Everyone seems made of water balloons with their wiggling bodies, abruptly stunted arms, and rubbery faces.
  11. Sebastian even sounds like a knockoff, which makes zero sense as it is Samuel E. Wright reprising the role of the Caribbean crustacean.
  12. The princesses drag their fins heading to their morning audience with their father, and Sebastian chastises Marina twice for their being late. Suddenly, his chasing about Ariel in The Little Mermaid feels a bit like poetic justice.
  13. Silver fox Triton returns.

  14. The royal family is taking a "walk" together, not a swim. Legs are required for jumping, dancing, strolling along, but apparently not walking.
  15. "I hate this job." I would too, Marina! She's charged with keeping these princesses in line, and she tries to be nice about it. But frankly, they're brats who like to mess about and randomly rebel, constantly threatening her job security. Teenagers! You give them an inch, they swim all over you! 
  16. "A princess does not tickle another princess with seaweed." Noted.
  17. So, this is getting weird. The Little Mermaid 3 is following the same beats of rebellion from The Little Mermaid, except this time Ariel isn't seeking love, she's just bored and bursting with teen angst. My sympathies are less with her on this one. 
  18. You know that jerk at the office who sticks his nose in your business and acts like it's any of his? You know the guy who seems to do less yet gets more respect? That's Sebastian. Marina wants his job, and frankly I'm rooting for her. She probably makes 70 shells to his sand dollar too! 
  19. Marina is soaking her cuticles. Reminder: She lives in the ocean.

  20. "Paint them the shade of clarified butter." Hm. Googled it. That's piss colored. Marina. We need to rethink this. I just want good fashion for you. 
  21. Here is the Sally Field villain musical number I'd been waiting for. It turns out Field—though very talented as an actress—is not so much a singer as a talk-singer. Enjoy.
  22. Marina is living her Roxie Hart fantasy right now. I'm not mad at it.

  23. Finger snaps for her bonkers fashion montage.

  24. Scraping barnacles is the pulling weeds of mermaid punishments.
  25. "Not again." Poor Flounder, always Pooh-bearing.

  26. Hm. They are stealing so many shots from the original that this is beginning to feel like a clip show.

  27. And the plot is so familiar it's fishy. This time instead of a secret treasure trove full of thingamabobs, Ariel's got an undersea speakeasy where forbidden music is played.
  28. "Shake Shake Shake Senora" is a fun cover, but this number feels like the store brand version of "Under the Sea," right?


  30. For this pre-enacted moment, the role of Scuttle will be played by Flounder, and Sebastian will be played by Ariel.

  31. See, it's funny because creativity is dead. 
  32. The sisters spend most of their time together bickering or grooming. It's not great.

  33. It's rad that Jodi Benson is back as Ariel. But these songs don't deserve her. Ariel's playing chopsticks and singing about her mom, and it's all very straight-to-DVD quality.
  34. Okay, the allusions to the first movie are really getting out of hand. They plagiarized Sebastian's freakout where he wrongly assumes the king knows exactly what Ariel is up to. The running joke is basically "Remember when this happened in The Little Mermaid? Well, joke's on you, it really happened before."
  35. Marina wants to shave the princesses' heads as punishment. But now I'm lost in thought imagining how rad they'd look with undercuts and mohawks.
  36. Sebastian and Marina have to work together to cure Ariel of teen angst, which results in them spitting insults like "soft shell" and "fashion disaster" at each other. If I didn't know better, I'd assume this act one of their rom-com.

  37. The sisters are sneaking out to the speakeasy together! I've always said what The Little Mermaid needed more of was nightclub scenes. Maybe we'll actually get to know them a bit?
  38. Can we discuss this look? What's going on here? Does she have short hair? Is it tucked in that pink thing? How is the pink thing attached to her head? Do mermaids have bobby pins? Is everyone in this frame judging her for her fashion faux pas? 

  39. One sister's only lines are variants of "BOYS! BOYS! BOYS!" Including "Where are the boys?" and "Are you a boy?"
  40. "I'm a mermaid with no grace. I look like a spastic piece of kelp." Gawky sister Aquata is learning to dance, and I've never felt so seen.

  41. The beat from The Little Mermaid where a furious king Triton crashes Ariel's secret hideaway? Also repeated. This time with swordfish soldiers who arrest her friends. And Sebastian gets a VERY similar speech about failing to protect the princess. And Ariel pleads for her father not to be a reactionary jerk, but Triton trashes the place anyway.
  42. So, basically neither father nor daughter learns anything from this conflict, and repeat their steps Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind style in The Little Mermaid. Should I just assume The Little Mermaid 2 is about how Triton's mad about Ariel's parenting and so smashes her daughter to pieces?
  43. This is so bizarre. It's a prequel and basically a ripoff/remake. Imagine if you asked someone who saw The Little Mermaid 20 years ago to explain it, but since then they've undergone a lobotomy. That would be better than The Little Mermaid 3.
  44. Huh. So Marina's big evil plot was ratting out Sebastian's speakeasy. Despite that it was her job was to keep an eye on the girls, and Triton is furious the girls were at Sebastian's club, she got promoted to Sebastian's job. I don't know what's more distressing, the film's absolute apathy about narrative sense, or that Ursula's retroactive predecessor is such a weak sauce villain.
  45. "Atlantica! Atlantica! Atlantica!"  There's a Dog Day Afternoon joke in here. Just know that.
  46. "Without music, this place just isn't home." Hey. Ariel's mad about music now. She's a rebel with a cause, but not a clue. With Sebastian and his band in tow, she runs away to… I guess an ocean field?
  47. Oh boy. Flounder is sort of rapping a "Shake Senora" reprise. Oh lord. They did a tough crew pose. Whut.

  48. Look. I respect Marina's power makeover, even though it seems to be channeling shrimp inspiration for no apparent reason. But her ambition is just to be Triton's right-finned (mer)man? 

  49. She can't hold a candle to Ursula. For all her faults, at least that villainess had big dreams!
  50. Okay. So now we're to believe that Sebastian led this band of escaped convicts out to the middle of sea-nowhere on the off chance Ariel would discover her mother's long-lost music box, decide to reconnect with her father, and that very music box would heal Triton's widowed soul, inspiring him to bring music back to Atlantica. Because nothing will change Triton's heart like reminding him of the painful way his wife died. But hey, at least the tertiary characters are pointing out how convoluted this plot point is. They even have lampshading under the sea!
  51. Okay. Marina, I could forgive the peplum. The talk-singing. The uninspired ambition. Even your deep resentment of one of my most beloved Disney princesses, because yeah, Ariel can be a pain. But purple camouflage? You've crossed the line.

  52. Now, these electric eels, there are some suitably scary minions. These are not the janky electric eels of Flotsam and Jetsam. They're Ursula's crew on steroids. Which means maybe Ariel should have been more suspicious of the sea witch then, huh? Or maybe this prequel shouldn't undermine her big adventure at every turn?
  53. Marina isn't even a sea witch. She's a trifling, power-hungry whiner whose ambition is easily outstripped by her poor fashion sense. 
  54. "I've tasted power, Sebastian, and I'm never letting go." Marina made herself a missile to take out Sebastian. He is a crab. This is overkill. But at least she accidentally almost murders Ariel so that Triton can see the error of his ways.

  55. Sing to her, Triton. That cures concussions. (Full disclosure: I am not a doctor.)
  56. The lesson here is if you want your dad to listen, you need to get yourself nearly killed. That'll learn him!
  57. "Ariel came back home. Life went on just as before." Except now Triton is affectionate and warm and music-loving. But man, he still HATES humans with their legs and ships and penises. 
  58. Sebastian has been promoted to court composer. He was chief of staff. Court composer seems at best a lateral move.
  59. Things wrap up with one of Ariel's sisters joining the band, the boy-crazy one kissing some rando merman, and the gawky dancer kicking off a conga line. Can mermaids kick things?
  60. As for Marina and her blah sidekick Benjamin, they're in jail. But at least she's still got questionable style, rocking black-and-white earrings and a prison-uniform-striped tail.
  61. Look. Happy ending, yadda yadda. But Triton made people miserable for 10 years by making his petty grudge against music an actual law that his subjects could go to prison over. Then he extended that grudge, forbidding his daughters from venturing to the surface. So… maybe Ursula had good reason to want an uprising?
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