Tragi-cartoon #2: The Little Mermaid... no not that one
This is the version Disney didn't want you to see, and chances are you never did... consider yourself lucky.
Para Shosefainn, mi amor preciosa
I woke up this morning to find a gloomy lack of sun in the sky and a deluge of Biblical proportions covering the earth outside; seemed like the imperfect day to write my second article on tragic cartoons, that is if I didn’t drown first. I was originally planning on doing The Brave Frog as my second installment, but I don't think the world is quite ready for that just yet. I also know that if I had dedicated an article about frogs to my girlfriend, she would ditch me like a bad batch of chimichurri.
First off a little background on this story; you’ll notice that the full title is, "Hans Christian Anderson's The Little Mermaid" that's because it was originally a novel written by Anderson, a well known man who lived and died in Denmark. Throughout his life Anderson wrote many other stories including; Thumbelina, The Ugly Duckling, The Red Shoes, and The Emperor's New Clothes. I'll be the first to admit that The Little Mermaid is not one of the thirteen books I've read during my life, but I can positively assure you that it's much different from that Golden books version that your mom used to read to you when your dad wasn't looking.
Do me a favor, go ahead and read the back cover... go on do it! After you've finished reading that awful summary my work will begin to look like that of Carl Bernstein. Actually aside from the terrible text there are a couple things on the back cover I want you to note; firstly this is a G rated cartoon "the whole family will enjoy" and second that the only thing covering Maria's chest is her long golden locks. If this looks suspiciously similar to those early anime from 1979 it’s probably because it is one, but it has its merits. By the way, this review is very elaborate, so if anybody needs to use the basic life resource facility do it now… Ok so on with the peep show... err uh the cartoon.
There's the obligatory list of characters for those of you who actually care what foreign celebrities took on these career crushing roles. I myself appreciate how they listed poor Ian Finley's character as "Prince" either we are to assume the Prince's parents coined this term and passed it down to all sons of royalty... or that Hans Christian Anderson was too rushed to include a name for the Prince, either way I find it both amusing and perturbing.
In fair "under the sea" where we lay our scene (and our chemical wastes) Maria the mermaid is out with her dolphin friend Fritz, frolicking about as most adolescent mermaids do, trust me. Ok I'm just going to go ahead and say it... 80% of the time in this cartoon Maria's breasts are exposed, but the writer's were able to compensate for that fact by having her swim on and off screen so fast that one would have to go out of their way to get a good look, and while I'm sure half you sickies out there would devote an entire day to getting the perfect screenshot, I myself don't have the inclination or desire; which is really saying something since I'm probably the only guy who's 18th Birthday cake featured the Pink Ranger. There are exceptions to what I said about it being subtle, cause sometimes as you will see Maria does flash the camera for extended periods of time, but it's only a children's cartoon after all.
Ok so anyway, they're out enjoying their montage with symphony background when all of sudden a really strong underwater sea wind starts up and blows things around, scaring the crap out of all the sea life, something is clearly awry. Fritz is openly agitated by this turn of events cause now his moment with Maria is spoiled, no sugar tonight Fritz.
Look at that beautiful rendition of red coral! When I first saw this scene I thought somebody had taped over my video with one of those "This is Your Capillary System" TV specials, but was relieved to find that this is the living quarters/lair of the evil Sea Witch. Remember how in the Disney version Ariel's father was the King of the sea and the Witch was some kind of outlying creature that really had no great power and had to rely on manipulation to get things done? Well erase that memory from your head because here's the real scheme of things. The Sea Witch is basically the force behind the sea; she controls the current, the tide, that bottle you threw in the water during your last trip to Oregon, thunder, lightning and pretty much every detail. So the subjugated fish, flora, and anemone are pretty much at her mercy, just look at their sad little faces.
Up above the surface things aren’t looking too good either… Well, lightning strikes, maybe once, maybe twice. Ah, and it lights up the night, not to mention a passing ship which is then consumed by tsunamis, and ultimately capsized; it doesn't show us who or what is on that ship, but I feel sorry for them already. So Maria and Fritz think it best to part ways and return to the safety of their homes for now.
Right now you’re probably still asking yourself what the hell chimichurri is… well go look it up already! I need your full attention here! If you had any doubt about this being a Japanese cartoon, here is the official stamp, six merchicks with every inconceivable hair color you can imagine. They immediately begin their inquisition and warn Maria that father was quite worried about her. I'd be lying if I didn't admit that watching this particular part made me feel a little uneasy, it's bad enough that a twenty year male is objectively watching a children's cartoon, but even worse when said cartoon has ample portions of topless mer-teens in every scene, I certainly hope you guys appreciate me taking the risk of looking like a hebephile with a mermaid complex.
Maria and her sisters are summoned by their father who looks like a mix between... yeah... I got nothing. Papa merman scolds Maria for straying so far from their enclosure at such a young age, but he can't stay mad at her and drops it rather quickly. Those of you who pay attention to detail, or those of you who couldn't take your eyes off those mermaids may have noticed that each one of Maria's sisters wears a lotus type flower in their hair, this is their passport so to speak, they present it to a giant crab at the end of the seaciety and are allowed to come and go as they please. Maria's grandmother promises the eager Maria that someday she too will be given a flower when she is old enough for the responsibility.
Later Maria, filled with apathy, is sitting around and moping when along comes Fritz with some exciting news; turns out he has stumbled upon the remains of that ship we saw earlier. The two arrive at the wreckage and Maria instantly becomes deliriously happy with all the wonderful junk that they find, things such as a boot, drowned corpses, and a tobacco pipe.
But the biggest surprise for Maria comes when she finds a statue of a human in partial form. She falls in love instantly and starts to dream of how wonderful it would be to have him in her life. Fritz being the jealous little bugger that he is disregards the statue as nothing special and the humans as less than human.
Fritz sees that the only way Maria is going to get any satisfaction is if he takes her to the ocean surface to see for herself that humans are nothing so great. So he tells her of a way that he thinks they can do it. Under cover of darkness and avoiding the night watch anglerfish the two go pay a visit to Fritz's uncle Duke.
Uncle Duke is less than thrilled to be awakened with a swift bottlenose to the eye, and at first is antipathetic to their idea of hitching a ride in his horrid self contained ecosystem of a mouth. Fritz of course being the crafty little sea mammal that he is changes his mind fairly quickly by threatening to tell everyone that uncle Duke's oosik is only a mere fifteen feet long. So uncle Duke reluctantly opens up his foul mouth and allows the two to drift on in.
So as you may have guessed they make it to the ocean surface and Duke leaves them to return to his wet dreams (get it... wet dreams... eh eh?). Maria is of course overjoyed while Fritz quickly becomes bored with the lack of excitement and wants to bail. Ever noticed how in anime whenever they want to show emotion or feeling in a character they do so by making their hands or eyes wiggle ever so slightly?
Just as they're about mertail it back to their underwater society the sky is filled with bright colorful lights we Landover’s would call fireworks. Both Maria and even Fritz are curious about these lights and the ship they are coming from, so they decide to take a closer look. Turns out old "Prince" is having a Birthday celebration and has taken Mommy and Daddy's ship for a cruise.
And then... their eyes meet. The expressions on their face may look like "Egad! What is that??", but in reality Maria is making the connection between Prince and the statue, and Prince is wondering what was slipped into his drink.
Taking a second look Prince sees Maria is gone, but this is no time for mermaid hunts, there's another storm brewing courtesy of the Sea Witch. And again the ship is overtaken and capsized washing away all the crew and rendering them helpless. I remember the time I wrecked my parent's ship, oh to be 17 again...
A short distance away Maria is watching this entire event unfold and begins to feel a deep concern for her newfound obsession, and despite Fritz's ridiculous faces and pleas for rational thought, she ventures out to ensure the safety of her Prince.
Scouring the wreckage Maria finally spots Prince's lifeless body slowly descending to the ocean floor. Somehow she manages to get a hold of him and get him back to the surface where he looks at her for mere seconds before losing consciousness once more. By morning Maria is able to get ashore and finds that Prince has died... nah he's only faking, I can see his mouth wiggling, ornate drama queen.
As Prince comes to, Maria sees a group of girls approaching the beach, knowing well that Prince will now be safe Maria gives him a kiss on the forehead. Prince awakens to find one of the girls who looks an awful lot like Maria and who he assumes to be his rescuer.
Maria once again returns home to her royal merfamily and once again must face the music, but surprisingly her father and grandmother (man I'm glad they put clothes on her) are actually not the slightest bit angry, and actually feel the time has come for her to have her lotus which for those of you who weren't paying attention earlier will allow her to leave the sanctity of the Kingdom without having to resort to hitching rides in rancid whale mouths. Maria immediately breaks into a song and dance number full of imagination and harp solos which... we'll just skip over.
So after getting her lotus Maria goes to the next logical place, the lair of the abstruse Sea Witch herself. Dolphins are a heck of a lot smarter than mermaids so Fritz tries his best to talk her out of venturing into the macabre nest towering before them, but Maria is in love and quite desperate to become a human; so she pushes on through, leaving Fritz greatly disturbed.
Ok, so I'll give you three guesses as to what that monstrosity is... and the first two don't count. That's right, none other than the giant ass sea squid, man that thing is atrocious. Unlike Duke the whale, when this cephalopod wakes up, he's grouchy and vengeful and ready to chomp Maria into little bits.
Fortunately good ol' Fritz pops in and using his mad dolphin skills leaves the squid in a cloud of ink. Again Fritz begs Maria to turn back, but the danger isn't quite over just yet.
As they're comparing the pros and cons of staying in this dreaded place any longer, Maria is snatched up by some sort of albino hydra. Fritz being the little ass kicker that he is disposes of all but a few of the hundred or so that there are and once again saves Maria's tail (get it... tail... eh eh?).
Pressing onward they finally come to the heart of darkness, the core where the Sea Witch resides and conducts her mischievous business. Fritz hopelessly throws one last tantrum as he watches Maria fade into the abyss.
So up until this point in the film, the Sea Witch has been hidden by coral or lurking in the shadows, but now we get our real first look at her. Let me just be the first to point out that she's bigger than any Sea creature I'm aware of, and she looks very formidable, no wonder Maria's dad decides to turn a blind eye to all of this.
The Sea Witch knows exactly why Maria has come to her... no, not to sell a subscription to Mermaid Weekly, but to find a way to be united with her Prince. The Sea Witch lays out the entire deal for her; Maria must trade her voice (in the real story it's her tongue) for a potion which will cause her tail to form into legs at which point she can attempt to marry Prince, but if she fails to do so and Prince marries another woman she will die and dissolve into sea foam. I honestly can't tell if Maria is intimidated by the prospect of turning into sea foam or by the humongous breasts sprouting from the Sea Witch’s chest, you can be the judge of that.
Maria emerges from the dwelling to find Fritz in his new state of emotional instability, look at that poor porpoise he's a mess. Fritz has overheard the ultimatum set by the Sea Witch and can't believe his echolocators; he swims off and buries his head in a pitiful sob. For a moment it seems as though Maria is having second thoughts upon seeing Fritz react in such a way (this is a lot more harrowing than it sounds), but then she looks down at her little bottle of love potion number-nine and decides that some things are just more important than friendship.
As her family slumbers Maria says her silent goodbyes and swims off to face whatever may come. Reaching the shore Maria beaches herself and pugs the fishy looking potion (get it…fishy...eh eh?). Much wiggling and silent moaning ensue as the painful transformation from mermaid to human begins, her tail literally tears in half to form her human legs, a most excruciating experience which supposedly represents the loss of her virginity.
The next morning Prince is looking out over the beach and spots Maria's nude body lying on the beach, being the noble boy that he is he rushes down to see if he can offer her any assistance or a shot of royalty. Discovering quite quickly that Maria cannot walk on her own, Prince commissions the help of his surly maid who carries Maria inside.
The kindly maid does her best to clean the fish smell off of Maria and then fits her with some of Prince's more feminine clothing, who’d of thought they were both a B-cup. Maria tries to repay her kindness by offering over her lotus hairpin, but the maid graciously declines.
Rejoining Maria, Prince tries to find some way of communicating with her, since she can clearly understand what he is saying but cannot speak in reply. Prince offers her a pen so that she can write out what she means to say, but of course mermaids don't know how to write. Mermaids really don't know much of anything really, but I' m one to talk, I'm almost 21, and the only thing I really know for sure is that in order to dance the La Bamba a bit of grace is needed. Prince is quite understanding and patient with Maria, and assures her that all is well.
Jumping ahead a few weeks we find that Maria has grown quite accustomed to her new life and her and Prince have developed a very strong relationship, quite admirable considering the only way she is able to communicate is by playing the harp and making obscene gestures. Jump ahead a few more weeks and we'll find that the story has ended, so we won't do that.
While strumming away at her harp Maria hears the familiar squawking of none other than Fritz. Rushing outside Maria and Prince find three small boys throwing rocks at the poor little guy, there is nothing so innocent and so terrible as a child. As Prince scolds the boys for their cruelty Maria warmly welcomes Fritz back into her life, but Fritz is too upset at the sight of her in human form and mournfully swims away.
Prince sees that Maria is distressed by this whole affair so in an effort to cheer her up he suggests that they go for a ride on his horses. Dang, for a girl who could hardly walk a few weeks ago Maria certainly knows how to handle herself on a running horse.
I forgot to mention that Prince has a talking diabolical cat who has hated Maria since day one, I also forgot to mention that this cat is hiding in the very forest that Prince and Maria are riding through. The cat leaps from a tree and starts scratching the hell out of the horse’s derriere, and of course Maria is thrown to the ground. Prince continues to ride on ahead, unawares of the predicament that Maria is about to get into.
Emerging from the forest is a 6-pack of wolves who from the looks of things intend to rip Maria's hearts out, and yes I meant that in plural form. The chase is on as Maria frantically tries to flee from the ferocious canines, who are rapidly gaining on her.
About this time Prince realizes that Maria is no longer behind him, realizing that something terrible may have happened he rushes back from whence he came. Maria comes to a cliff and it seems as though this might be the end of the line for her since Fritz isn't here to save her this time. Prince in keeping with true Prince fashion shows up just in time to shine and dispense all of the wolves with arrows and his sword. Maria is once again safe.
The cat however is not alone in her quest to rid the castle of Maria once and for all; indeed there's been some very large talk behind Prince’s sleeping back. His parents have arranged for him to be married to a Princess in some far off land, upon hearing of this Prince dismisses the idea and tells Maria that he will spend the rest of his life with her, although he does confide in her that the one he really loves is the girl who saved him on that fateful day. Thinking all of this betrothal business is forgotten Prince and Maria join the King and Queen for a night cruise, but once they are safely from shore Prince becomes mindful of the fact that this is a trap, but he’s one step behind his parents and finds himself overpowered and ensnared by the guards. You can’t really blame Prince’s parents for all this because… ok maybe you can.
The Next morning the Prince is reluctantly escorted to meet his future bride. You’re never going to guess who this mystery princess is… that’s right, the girl from the beach! Both are pleasantly surprised to see each other and agree immediately to be married, their parents are of course thrilled at this lack of resistance from either side.
Meanwhile back on the good ship S.S. Unfaithfulness Maria nervously awaits the return of Prince. Upon his return he tells her of his good fortune and displays great enthusiasm in this strange turn of events. Maria however does not share in his joy and quite contrastingly is heartbroken… go figure.
That night there’s a huge celebration with fireworks and everything as Prince and Princess are carried through town just a few hours before they are to be wed. Meanwhile downcast Maria sits alone on the beach wondering how human boys can be so clueless and cruel.
As Maria solemnly sits in her pitiful state, good friend Fritz comes once again to her side. Through tears Fritz frets over the fact that as soon as Prince marries another Maria will turn to sea foam. Fritz desperately argues to himself that he can’t let this fate befall his best friend and vows to find a way to save her before dashing off again. This whole scene is very sad and quite frankly if it doesn’t make you cry… you’re not alone.
The following morning is quite a bit more peaceful than the night before as every person and their dog are drunk to the point of unconsciousness, everybody that is, but Maria. The Prince has married another lady and as the Sea Witch has promised the devastated Maria is left to face her fate, but then she hears voices calling from the side of the ship. Why it’s her five sisters sans their long outrageous hair. They explain that Fritz told them what has happened and they have surrendered their long hair to the Sea Witch in exchange for a special knife. When she stabs this knife into Prince’s cheating heart the blood will flow to her feet, causing her human legs to once again become a tail. Fritz jumps the knife up to Maria and they swim off to await her return to the sea.
Wow, this story has gotten pretty twisted within the last five minutes, it’s beginning to look like one way or the other one of these star crossed lovers is going to die. Creeping down the wooden steps Maria slides into Prince’s sleeping quarters with knife in hand. She finds him still sleeping next to his new bride, surprisingly with all of his clothes on. Raising the knife over her head she prepares herself to perform the hardest task she’ll ever have, but no… she can’t do it, even though Prince has married another Maria still loves him and cannot take his life even to save her own. Before retreating Maria gives him one final kiss farewell.
Standing on the rail of the ship Maria hurls the knife into the depths and prepares to take the plunge herself and face her fate. Prince awakens and looking out his window sees Maria perched on the rail and rushes to stop her from jumping. Rushing towards Maria, Prince is just in time to helplessly watch as she falls into the sea.
Where Maria stood mere moments ago, Prince finds her lotus and an oversized scale, much like the one that was over his wounded arm on that day he was found on the beach. Watch his face turn a whiter shade of pale as a flood of memories overflows his mind, at this point he finally realizes it was indeed Maria whom had saved him and whom he had fallen in love with. Unfortunately it’s too late for Prince and Maria since below the ocean surface Maria is slowly fading away, but she is not distressed because she reminds herself that although she will soon be nothing more than that nasty sea scum that sticks to peoples legs; this is the only way to keep her passionate love for Prince pure…
As Prince sits on the ship clutching to his chest the only two pieces of Maria he has left, Fritz dashes through the water fruitlessly calling out Maria’s name, never to hear a response. The End.
Now that... is one sad state of affairs, even more so since it completely abolishes whatever happy ending you attribute to this otherwise appealing story. The only thing more disturbing than this movie, is the fact that I own three copies of it.
And the only thing more disturbing than that, is this picture of a skating bear in Pink short-shorts and a headset; which some girl got in a secret Santa exchange and conveniently “forgot” in my car. Whoever saw it fit to mount that thing on a piece of wood to be displayed as art is not right in the head, even more so sickening is the fact that I’ve actually grown somewhat attached to it, and if there’s anything more disturbing than that I haven’t found it…
Don’t be too shocked by this ending though, looking at the original stories behind many of our Disney Fairy tales you’ll find many elements and themes that will drop your jaw and make you sad in your pants; did you know in the original Cinderella the Wicked Stepmother takes a saw to her daughter’s own feet? I guess the moral behind this one is “friends don’t let friends turn into humans to pursue true love which may result in a transmogrification into sea foam” so don’t let Maria’s death be in vain.
Real love is forever
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