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The Little Mermaid Review

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

OK for kids 5+

Superb, entertaining animated musical has some scary stuff.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Disney's full-length animated feature The Little Mermaid, is based on the story by Hans Christian Andersen story and has some scary moments. The sea witch grows into a giant and wields a trident in a climatic scene. Also, a bloodthirsty French chef merrily chases after Sebastian the crab with a cleaver, hoping to make him the main course. Parents may also want to keep in mind that Ariel is a very popular Disney princess, whose brand reaches far and wide, with branding on consumer merchandise, food products, etc. as well as in books, websites, and other media.

  • Families can talk about villains. Why is Ursula both a little scary and a little fun?
  • Why do you think Ariel chooses to give up her voice (and her family) to meet Eric? Are you troubled by the message her decision sends about women and their priorities, or is that over-thinking this kind of movie?
  • Families can also talk about Disney princesses. How often do you see your favorite princesses on display when you're out shopping? Does watching this movie make you want to buy more Ariel stuff?
  • Why do you think Sebastian tries to help her even though he doesn't agree with what Ariel's doing?

The good stuff
  • educationalvalue true1

    Educational value: Kids can try to name all the sea creatures -- crabs, oysters, dolphins, etc. -- when Sebastian sings "Under the Sea." They can also look up the original (much darker) story by Hans Christian Andersen and decide which version they like better.

  • message true0

    Messages: This movie places high value on romance and the concept of true love -- Ariel is so enamored with Prince Eric that she sacrifices everything -- from her family to her voice -- in order to be part of his world. Many think this storyline is problematic because it reinforces the idea that a woman should give up her pursuits and opinions in deference to a man. But others can put this concept aside to enjoy the sweetness of the central character and the universal challenges of love.

  • rolemodels true3

    Role models: Ariel is adventuresome, rebellious, and brave. She also gives up everything -- her family, her home, her voice -- for love, even though her trust in the sea witch puts everyone she loves in danger. Eric doesn't show much of a personality. Sebastian is loyal and tries hard to help Ariel even though he doesn't agree with what she's doing. Ariel's father is protective and will do anything to help save his daughter.

What to watch for
  • violence false3

    Violence and scariness: Ariel's father is imprisoned by the cruel sea witch, Ursula, who also grows larger than a ship and tries to crush it wielding a giant trident. Ursula brags about all the mermaids she's imprisoned and those "poor unfortunate souls" are shown shrunken down and sad. A French chef runs around the kitchen after Sebastian the crab with a cleaver and merrily chops up other fish. Eric almost drowns when his ship sinks in stormy waters. Ursula dies rather dramatically in the end.

  • sex false2

    Sexy stuff: The entire movie revolves around Ariel's crush on Prince Eric and her desire to be with him. One sweet-natured song is all about getting a kiss out of Prince Eric.

  • language false0

    Language: Not applicable

  • consumerism false4

    Consumerism: Ariel is a very popular Disney princess, whose brand reaches far and wide, with princess branding on consumer merchandise, food products, etc. as well as in books, websites, and other media.

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false0

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Not applicable

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