Hey, everyone! This is my first article for RetroJunk, so please be kind! ^_^
Before I start this show, let me just say that yes, I'm a dude. And yes, as a mini dude, I did play with dolls. LEAVE ME ALONE!!!! >.<
Anyhoo, does anyone remember the mermaid craze that swept through the '90s? I know I do. And that craze was started by none other than Disney's The Little Mermaid.
This movie was my favorite film growing up, and possibly always will be. BUT! This article isn't about Ariel; it's about the forgotten mermaids of the '90s!
Truth be told, Disney's version wasn't the very first The Little Mermaid animated feature to be spawned, but it was definately the most popular. After it's release in November of '89, it became so popular that it was followed almost immediatly by toy companies attempting to cash in on the mermaid mania.
For starters, we have Mattel's Lil' Miss Singing Mermaid.
I recieved this doll for Christmas of '92 or somewhere around there, and I fell in love with her! Like all the dolls in the Lil' Miss line, she had a sickeningly sweet face, a star on her cheek, and a head of bushy blonde hair. Unlike the other dolls, she had a beautiful light blue tail with seashell and star moldings and gems, rainbow colors on her fin, white lilac-like accesories on both her wrists and around her neck, and a pink crown. Then whenever you gave her a hug (or as grownups would hear it, squeeze the bitch's belly reeeaaally hard), she sings a little tune that sounds an awful lot like the tune Ariel vocalizes whenever Ursula casts the spell to take her voice. And according to the commercial, she could also be submerged in water, and the singing wouldn't be affected at all. I don't remember what would actually happen, or if I ever put the doll underwater, but I'm pretty sure that the sound would get a bit gurgly or something. :/
The next and probably most obvious Ariel rip-off is PlaySkool's My Pretty Mermaids.
I also had one of these dolls; the one with the blonde hair, blue tail and yellow fin to be precise. I actually had this doll before I got Lil' Miss Singing Mermaid, and after I got her I gave My Pretty Mermaid away to my cousin. Anyhoo, what makes these dolls Ariel rip-offs are their eyes, and even their hair style. Well, kinda. They at least have the poofy bangs. ^_^' My Pretty Mermaids were made by the same company that brought you My Little Pony (just hunt down an advertisement for them and listen to the theme song), and I must admit, they were pretty damn adorable. Each mermaid came with her own name, which would be revealed by a symbol that appears on her fin whenever it's dipped in cold water. The dolls weren't too impressive, what with their size and all. But they seem like a joy none the less. Nowadays, hardly anybody remembers them. I looked up the dolls on Ebay, and nothing came up. However, I typed in PlaySkool Mermaids, and some finally came up! So try typing that in, just in case the owners don't know what they got.
The dolls proved to be rather popular in their day, spawning lunch boxes, dresses for the dolls, and even a book. There were also several different types of dolls produced; the original mermaids, Gem Bright(?), Princess, and even glow in the dark! So if your really desperate for one of your own, I'm sure you'll find at least one if you do enough digging.
The next and last mermaid on my list isn't actually a rip-off of Ariel, but one that was long forgotten thanks to her. Around 1994 or so, a Japanese and Korean animation company decided to band together and create a TV series. The love child that spawned from this union was known in Japan as Ningyo Hime Marina no Bouken, which translates to Mermaid Princess Marina's Adventure.
The story took elements of Hans Christian Andersen's tale; Marina, a mermaid princess, saves Prince Justin from a stormy sea. She brings him to shore, and returns to the water when she's sure he's still alive. He's discovered by Cecily, a young woman who Justin's parents want him to marry. Desperate to be with the prince, Marina visits Hedwig the sea witch. Hedwig gives her legs for her voice yada yada yada, blah blah blah. Anyhoo, Marina comes under the impression that Justin loves Cecily instead of her, so she runs out of the castle. With her eyes full of tears, she can't see where she's going and falls off a cliff and into the sea. Now, this is where the story starts differing from the original tale.
We meet an old wizard named Anselm and his otter assistant Ridley. Anselm knows of Marina's true nature, and wants desperately to help her. So he casts a spell on Ridley and tosses him into the ocean. When the otter reaches Marina, he uses the magic bestowed upon him to turn her back into a mermaid. Marina's seahorse friend Winnie is overjoyed to have her back, but Marina falls into a deep depression, still assuming that Justin loves Cecily. But Ridley later informs Winnie otherwise, which she tells Marina. The pair go back to Hedwig to beg her to make Marina human again, but the sea witch refuses and attacks.
Meanwhile Justin and his page Chauncy pay Anselm a visit. Anselm serves as Justin's tutor, and keeps his magical abilities a secret from the young prince. Justin tells Anselm that he loves Marina, and that the only problem is that she's a mermaid. Anselm then gives him a magic potion that he says he got from a peddler, and explains that it can grant whoever drinks it the ability to breath underwater. Justin and Chauncy take the potion, and rescue Marina and Winnie from the sea witch. And that was just the first episode!
The rest of the series has Justin and Marina searching for the Golden Tablet, a magical item used to change merpeople into humans and vice versa a long time ago when the two were friends. But after a greedy human stole the tablet, the Merman King furiously decreed that the friendship between merpeople and humans was over forever. Hedwig eventually gets a hold of it, which becomes the plot device for the remainder of the series.
The series was a hit in Japan, and was picked up by Saban Entertainment for an English dub. The dub did moderatly well, even spawning a Marina doll.
But sadly, it was not to last. Disney had never made a TV series based off one of their movies before, so they decided to try it. The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventures begain airing in '94 or '95, and was an instant hit. So much so, that poor little Marina was given the brush off, never to be heard from again.
Now, I liked this series myself. The only problems I had with it were 1)the mermaid had the same name as another mermaid from an anime show made by the same company!
And 2)the series ended without anything being resolved! Marina and Justin never got the tablet, so Marina remained a mermaid. Her and Justin didn't even kiss, for crying out loud! Anyway, you can find VHS tapes of this show scattered around Ebay and Amazon, and all the episodes are currently on YouTube. There are DVDs too, but you'll need to be able to play Region 2 DVDs. :/
Well peeps, I hope you liked my first article! Please leave me feedback about how I did!