Disney Films: The Little Mermaid Essay

1884 words - 8 pages

The first thing to pop into one’s mind when they hear The Little Mermaid is most likely the Disney animated movie starring the beautiful red haired mermaid, Ariel. However, as with most Disney films, The Little Mermaid is an adaption of an original story written by Hans Christian Andersen in the 1830s. The creation of this classic fairytale into an animated feature required alterations from the Disney corporation, leading to a final product that is reminiscent of Andersen’s original story with added layers of American culture, sexism, and musical numbers. The initial release of Disney’s The Little Mermaid was highly successful both domestically and overseas, resulting in a total box office revenue of about 180 million. Although the film received rave reviews and substantial profit, I argue that the Disney adaption loses the fundamental elements of Andersen’s original story and presents a new narrative laced with negative values and inferior moral lessons. The changes in the Disney remake are closely connected to cultural and social aspects of America in the late 1980’s, making it arguably more relatable and successful for current audiences of the time. However, Disney’s adaption of The Little Mermaid perpetuates negative American ideals and incorporates classic Disney fairytale elements, ultimately erasing the positive moral overarching theme of Hans Christian Andersen’s original story.
The historical, cultural, and social setting of both the original fairytale and the Disney adaption of The Little Mermaid are incredibly important when analyzing the differences between the two. Hans Christian Andersen wrote The Little Mermaid in 1837 in Denmark. Denmark’s state religion was Evangelical Lutheran until the mid 1800s, when freedom of religion was established with the conversion of Denmark into a monarchy. Andersen’s work, specifically The Little Mermaid, incorporates strong elements of faith and religion; however, not specifically Lutheran ideals, but rather a mix of Catholicism and Lutheranism with an emphases on the idea of salvation through moral behavior. The original story of The Little Mermaid is encompassed by the mermaid’s desire for an eternal soul, which is only an attribute of humans not mermaids. Her longing to achieve salvation is the overriding reason for almost all of her decisions, which leads her on a journey of self realization and self sacrifice. This longing consumes almost every aspect of the story and is a clear, if not at times literal, incorporation of Andersen’s religious ideals that were influenced by his current culture. Let’s remember that this fairytale is intended for children; the story is used as a lesson to teach children about the importance of religion and moral behavior, encouraging moral obedience through self control. This interactive fairytale “transforms [its listeners] into participants in the fictions...and thus returns them to their real lives for the choice between good and evil-smiles and...

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