Sha la la la la la, my oh my...
The Little Mermaid is officially in theaters! When I looked at the movie release schedule in 2023, I knew that I had to rank The Little Mermaid films. The original is actually the first movie I ever saw. I have an incredible amount of nostalgia for that film, and I thought it might be fun to revisit the sequels that i watched when I was, like, three or four. I was wrong, but I still had fun ranking these films. That said, here's my ranking of the four Little Mermaid films.
4. The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea
This movie sucks. It's basically a re-hash of the first movie except the main plot element is reversed. Melody, Ariel's daughter, wants to be a mermaid instead of being human, so she visits Ursula's sister, Morgana, who turns her into a mermaid. They try to be new and different by including an off-brand Timon and Pumbaa in here, but it just comes off as annoying. At least it's only, like, seventy-five minutes. So it's pretty quick. But it's still awful.
3. The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning
Last place is basically a tie between this and Return to the Sea, because Ariel's Beginning is just as awful. Not only is it incredibly boring, but it just feels weird to have a prequel to the original film. There's a good idea to be explored here with Ariel's mother, but they take that and instead make this movie about Triton banning music from the kingdom. It's like Footloose but with The Little Mermaid. The songs aren't memorable. The animation is better than Return to the Sea but still has a cardboard feel to it. I am still struggling to accept that I watched both of these bottom two movies, because they are both horrible and a complete waste of time.
2. The Little Mermaid (2023)
ENORMOUS leap in quality here. The newest Disney remake happens to be one of the best. The Little Mermaid is, like all of these remakes, a nostalgia-fest, but it's a good version of that. They vastly improve Ariel and Eric's relationship. Halle Bailey is fantastic. Sure, the CGI and underwater visuals are extremely awkward, but once you get past that, it's just fun to revisit this classic tale in a live-action re-imagining. It isn't great by any means, but it made me nostalgic about the original, which put a smile on my face.
1. The Little Mermaid (1989)
The Little Mermaid is one of the greatest animated movies ever made. It kicked off the Disney Renaissance by essentially just being an animated Broadway musical executed to absolute perfection. The animation is rich and beautiful. The songs are fantastic. The characters are memorable. The story and direction is just fabulous. Everything about this movie works. Ariel is, in my opinion, the best Disney princess. Ursula is a memorably fun villain. It's a timeless classic. It's the first of what I consider to be the "big four" Disney movies (the others are Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King), so of course it's number one. I love it.