The Little Mermaid represents a very important cornerstone in the studio's history. Not only did it mark the return to the fairy tale genre (something they hadn't done in 30 years, since the release of Sleeping Beauty) but it also marked the return of a better studio, a stronger and more confident one that wasn't afraid of new challenges and experimenting with new techniques in order to tell a story. Initially rejected because the company was afraid it drew comparisons to their recent live-action film Splash, the film was given a second chance by studio head Jeffrey Katzenberg; assembling a talented group of animators (including Glen Keane, Andreas Deja, Ruben Aquino, Mark Henn and more) and pairing them up with brilliant musical duo Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, and directors Ron Clements and John Musker, created a unique fairy tale which is not only brimming with fun, but also has spectacular characters with memorable personalities. It's also important to note how prevalent the influence of the late Howard Ashman was in the film; he completely envisioned the Broadway-esque style, where the music complements the story and advances it instead of just being a diversion (something the studio would use in nearly every picture of this era). With clever lyrics and a wonderful score by Menken, this film has some of the most inventive and catchy songs in all of the Disney canon; songs like "Part of Your World", "Under the Sea" and "Kiss the Girl" are now part of the public's consciousness and are beloved everywhere. Ashman also influenced some of the characters' personalities, making them more complex and layered. It's astounding to compare their previous effort, Oliver and Company, - with its unpolished and sometimes bland, cheap animation - with this one, which has amazing character animation and lots of special effects that make you feel as though you're watching something made with care and love - something worth watching. Strong box office receipts and two Academy Award wins were just the icing on the cake for a film whose reputation had already been cemented as one of Disney's best and most appealing classics. Rating: 5/5.
Next Week -- Animated Classic #29 Review: The Rescuers Down Under (1990)