To say 3D conversion adds “depth” to a 2D film has become quite trite, but in the case of “The Little Mermaid” this double entendre is most appropriate, as the undersea world of Ariel, Sebastian, Flounder, and Ursula has truly become deeper with the additional visual dimension.
Disney never did widely release “The Little Mermaid” in 3D to theaters, largely due to lackluster box office results of other recent 3D conversions. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth seeing. For a film that’s nearly 25 years old, this animated classic looks great in its new digital restoration and, more importantly, in its 3D conversion. Though it’s a traditionally hand-drawn 2D film, the 3D conversion surprisingly does not result in obvious layers of flat animation stacked in front of each other (like a Viewmaster reel).
Instead, the 3D flows throughout each scene, an interesting and visually appealing blend of both styles. It’s not photorealistic like so many of today’s computer generated 3D films, but it’s absolutely not meant to be either. Instead, it simply comes across as a fun new way to watch this timeless movie.
“The Little Mermaid” is a film that instantly draws viewers in. It’s nearly impossible to watch just a scene or two without being entranced by Alan Menken’s gorgeous score and the songs he wrote with Howard Ashman. And in HD on Blu-ray, it’s the best this film has ever looked. Visuals appear a little soft at first, but only because they are intended to be underwater. Above the surface, colors pop brightly while animation flows smoothly. The only exception is the unavoidable dimming effect caused by wearing 3D glasses, an unfortunate side effect.
The release’s new bonus features are equally enthralling, particularly a look inside Walt Disney Animation Studios, called “@DisneyAnimation” – an oddly named Twitter reference. This extra follows a group of young Disney animators recounting how they started with the company and how incredible it seems to work there, described at one point as “animation heaven.” Also seen are Ron Clements and John Musker, co-writers and co-directors of “The Little Mermaid,” as well as a whole lot of now-awkward screentime for Oscar-winning “Paperman” director John Kahrs, who just recently left Disney. Bad timing with Kahrs aside, this bonus feature is a joy to watch, inviting visitors to be “part of that world.”
Also seen is Ariel voice and Disney Legend Jodi Benson visiting New Fantasyland and her new namesake attraction, a clip of which is included below.
More bonus features dive deeper into the making of the film from years ago, including additional words from Musker and Clements as well as Howard Ashman delivering a fascinating lecture on music in movies. And pressing pause during the film offers some great surprises via Disney Intermission.
The only seasick moment comes as “Call Me Maybe” singer Carly Rae Jepson sleepily sings her way through “Part Of Your World,” a recording and music video that never should have been made.
Fans of “The Little Mermaid” should not hesitate to pick up yet another copy of this film, particularly for those who are fans of the 3D format. Without this version, no fan’s collection is complete.
“The Little Mermaid” Blu-ray 3D is available now via Amazon and major retailers.