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'The Little Mermaid' Returns to Hollywood
by Scott Holleran
The Little Mermaid's recent two-week engagement at Disney's El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood ended Sept. 24.
Photo: Alberto Rodriguez © Berliner Studio/BEImages
 

 
September 28, 2006

Burbank, California—The Little Mermaid's premiere at Disney's El Capitan Theatre was tops. Opening nights for these animated feature limited engagements are typically well done, and Disney again treated guests to a stimulating cast and crew discussion before the movie—which becomes available on a new DVD next week—but this time they hit a grand slam.

The panel, moderated by Beauty and the Beast and The Hunchback of Notre Dame producer Don Hahn, incorporated several DVD features, which were excerpted on the screen above the stage. The audience, filled with fans, families, and studio brass, included Roy E. Disney, son of company founder Roy O. Disney and nephew to Walt Disney. He looked very pleased to be among authentic animation admirers.

Key creators seated on stage included composer Alan Menken, co-directors John Musker and Ron Clements, singer Jodi Benson (who provided Ariel's voice), Ariel's lead animation artist Glen Keane and Sherri Stoner, who modeled for Ariel's movements. Hahn was a fine host, preparing fans for the rare opportunity to see a classic on the big screen while stoking the backstories.

Musker and Clements talked about Hans Christian Andersen's story—the mermaid dies in the original—Menken commented on the music and Keane gave an interesting take on the development of Ariel's look and movements and how somebody made a blonde Ariel doll that's still out there somewhere. They paid tribute to the late Howard Ashman, who produced the movie and co-wrote the songs, and the event definitely recalled late 1980s Disney, when The Little Mermaid's success put feature animation back on track.

Jodi Benson, voice of Ariel, performs
As the panel left the stage, Hahn introduced a surprise rendition of "Part of Your World" by Jodi Benson, accompanied on piano by Alan Menken, who also composed Beauty and the Beast, and Ariel's voice is still clear as a bell. As the lights faded for the movie, there was a hushed, palpable excitement, with a lone child calling out: "Ariel!" in anticipation.

Afterwards, the crowd moved next door to Disney's Soda Fountain and Studio Store, where they lapped up the exclusive Little Mermaid cotton candy ice cream sundae and collector's pin. The Flounder plush and remastered soundtrack quickly sold out and the two-week engagement, which ended on Sunday, gave The Little Mermaid the fabulous first pitch it deserved.

Screen Notes

Lassie, starring Peter O'Toole, is one of two decent movies that never really got off the ground and warranted a fighting chance. The classic tale of a border collie significantly gains from Mr. O'Toole's turn as an upright aristocrat in an otherwise slow-moving remake of Lassie Come Home. The movie is probably best appreciated by true dog lovers, though its rich man/poor man premise delivers an awfully good ending that's especially appropriate for young audiences.

Joshua Jackson and Donald Sutherland in Aurora Borealis
The other movie is Aurora Borealis and, like Lassie, it has merit. Though Joshua Jackson (Dawson's Creek) is the lead—he plays Donald Sutherland's and Louise Fletcher's adult grandson—and he's fine, his love interest, played by Juliette Lewis, is the main reason to root for him to succeed. She portrays the sort of safe, grounded type she did opposite Johnny Depp in What's Eating Gilbert Grape.

With its Minnesota Vikings games, sports bar types and a boilerplate plot about past trauma, the melancholic Twin Cities drama is too contrived. But Lewis, reflecting light on Jackson in sweet, intimate scenes with icicles and snowflakes and admiration for the engineering of bridges, is the real shooting star.

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RELATED ARTICLES
• Review - 'The Little Mermaid' with DVD Notes
• Scott Holleran - 'Dumbo' at the El Capitan
• Scott Holleran - 'Lady and the Tramp' at the El Capitan
• Review - 'Dumbo' with DVD Notes
• Review - 'Lady and the Tramp' with DVD Notes
• Review - 'Bambi' with DVD Notes
• 2/24/05 - 'Bambi' Banks on a New Generation
• Review - 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape' with DVD Notes

RELATED LINKS
El Capitan Official Web Site
Disney's Soda Fountain and Studio Store
About Roy E. Disney

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