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The Little Mermaid
Album Cover Art
1989 Original
1997 Re-Pressing
Album 2 Cover Art
2006 Special Edition
Album 3 Cover Art
2014 Legacy Collection
Album 4 Cover Art
Co-Composed and Produced by:

Co-Composed and Lyrics by:
Howard Ashman

Orchestrated by:
Thomas Pasatieri

Conducted by:
J.A.C. Redford
Labels Icon
Walt Disney Records
(November 17, 1989)

Walt Disney Records (Re-Pressing)
(October 14, 1997)

Walt Disney Records (Special Edition)
(October 3, 2006)

Walt Disney Records (Legacy Collection)
(November 24th, 2014)
Availability Icon
All versions of the album are regular international releases. The 1989 album was out of print by the mid-1990's, but it eventually sold on the used market for only $1. A re-pressing by Disney in 1997 flooded the market with an album featuring identical contents but a new cover. This album went out of print and sold for as much as $15. The 2006 'Special Edition' and 2014 'Legacy Collection' 2-CD sets were both offered at an economical $14 in their initial pricing.
The song "Under the Sea" and the score both won Academy Awards and Golden Globes. That song also won a Grammy Award. The song "Kiss the Girl" was nominated for an Academy Award, a Grammy Award, and a Golden Globe as well. The score was also nominated for a Grammy Award.
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Availability | Awards | Viewer Ratings | Comments | Audio & Track Listings | Notes
Buy it... if you are one of the few remaining fans of musicals who hasn't already formed a polarized opinion about this film, because its main ballad and two calypso songs alone are cinematic classics.

Avoid it... if you've never been impressed with Alan Menken's superior and equally awarded works for the subsequent Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin, the seeds of which clearly evident in especially the score here.
Review Icon
WRITTEN 8/29/97, REVISED 6/14/15
The Little Mermaid: (Alan Menken) Disney had gone twenty years since The Jungle Book in 1967, the studio's last classic and popular animation film, and Universal, under the guidance of Steven Spielberg, was threatening to take control of the genre in the 1980's. It was at that time that new Disney leadership tasked with reversing that trend approached veteran Broadway composers Alan Menken and Howard Ashman about a small project based on Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale of a mermaid coming of age. Menken, whose work with Ashman was best known for 1982's Little Shop of Horrors, admits that he had never heard of the Andersen story when he agreed to become involved. Expectations for The Little Mermaid were extremely low, especially on the Disney lot, where the 1989 production of only 62 minutes in length was ignored by most in the studio. Because Ashman was one of the producers of the film, he gave himself and Menken a significant amount of creative control over the project, and with studio executives knowledgeable about the music demos thrilled about the possibility of a surprise success, the film's creation was mostly smooth sailing. This despite Menken's own nervousness about being up to the assignment, especially when Ashman suggested that he not only supply the song melodies but write the score as well, a relatively foreign concept for Menken at the time. The intent of the music, as well as the film as a whole, was to return to the classic days of Disney's innocence, and, as Menken said in 2006, "it's very heartfelt and it's pretty free of manipulation; it's really telling the story in a way that incorporates Howard's and my musical theater skills and a great love for the history of the Disney animated musical." There was also a concerted attempt to make The Little Mermaid "hip" enough for young audiences to accept it in the digital era, and while a longing ballad would still anchor the heart of the film, Ashman and Menken decided upon incorporating a Jamaican, calypso spirit for the character of Sebastian the crab, allowing two of the production numbers to provide that desired, exuberant spirit. Their efforts definitely paid off, with the film grossing $222 million worldwide and earning Menken and Ashman their first Academy Awards.

In retrospect, The Little Mermaid has suffered from some collective eye-rolling due to relentless campaigns regarding women's equality issues (Ariel isn't exactly a fantastic role model for young women) and hidden phallic imagery in the film's promotional art, but its legacy and important place in Disney history has remained intact. The film rejuvenated the animated musical genre, leading to a renaissance of eight years that netted Menken a stunning eight Oscars in only 15 nominations. Ashman, who confided in Menken that he was HIV-positive shortly after the 1990 Oscars, would provide lyrics for Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin before his death from AIDS in 1991. Menken and the film's other producers look back fondly on The Little Mermaid, partly because of Ashman's significant role in its success and partly because of its immense influence. All of these results happened without many compromises in the production process and with a minimal level of hype. Menken recalls that one of the few debates involved in the making of The Little Mermaid was whether to cut out the song "Part of Your World" because of the possibility that youngsters wouldn't have the patience to sit through it. Luckily, that didn't happen, and this song, along with the two calypso numbers, would receive rounds of applause at test screenings that foretold Menken and Ashman of the their success. While The Little Mermaid won the Academy Awards and Golden Globes for the song "Under the Sea" and Menken's score, setting a trend that would force the Oscars to temporarily expand the music awards into two categories (with one specifically to accommodate the triumphs of Menken), the songs of the film are much more memorable than the rather sparsely orchestratred score. Menken and Ashman wrestled over the songs at much greater lengths, working endlessly to establish the right rhythms for "Under the Sea" at Menken's Pennsylvania farm. Ashman's intelligent lyrics, especially for "Under the Sea," are outstanding. The score, conversely, was more troublesome for Menken, who did not have extensive experience with orchestral underscores for outside of interludes in mainly his stage credits. He recalls that he asked a more experienced composer for advice on how to score the film and he was told not to sweat it. After all, the other composer said, "nobody takes animated films seriously."

While the score for The Little Mermaid is nowhere near as accomplished as those that would follow (Menken would find his instrumental voice with great success by Aladdin) there is no question that several the songs for the film are nothing less than classics. Menken and Ashman co-wrote seven songs for The Little Mermaid in 1988 and, unlike subsequent productions, all would appear in the film. Two decades later, Menken would team up with established Broadway writers to add twelve additional songs. A crappy straight-to-video sequel to The Little Mermaid in 2000 brought back the principal singing voices, and Menken arranger Danny Troob would adapt Menken's original material with new themes. Of the seven songs in The Little Mermaid, the first two are weaker ensemble pieces that cannot compete with the lengthier production numbers that follow. The working voices of "Fathoms Below" are strong both in their representation of the sailors and in their recording quality. Had this song been expanded for the film as it would be for the Broadway show, it could have been a hit. The only truly intolerable song in the film is "Daughters of Triton," with a tone so trite and obnoxious in the treble that you'll be thankful for its brevity. The longing beauty of "Part of Your World" is the film's most consistent thematic idea. The theme for this song opens and closes the film and serves as the only significantly reprised vocal song. Jodi Benson's voice is tender enough to be believable in the role while also accurately resonating at the necessary high ranges. Setting the table for songs like "Belle" and several others in the years to come, the gorgeous ballad would become a concept that Menken attempted to infuse in each subsequent effort. This film, though, never had the eventually inevitable rock song variant. The highlight of the film is the wild reggae/calypso song "Under the Sea" which has, through the years, proven itself as one of the most memorable and infectious songs in the history of cinema. Vocalist Samuel E. Wright won the role of Sebastian sight unseen, his taped demo of this song the only evidence needed by the producers for his casting. The fact that "Under the Sea" hit the charts with such ferocity was a relief to Menken and Ashman, whose Jamaican style for the scene, as well as the bright colors that accompany it on screen, were met with some initial hesitation. The orchestration behind this recording is remarkably conceived in its layers and humorous in its tone, alleviating some of the issues with the otherwise shallow mix.

Ratings Icon
Average: 4.03 Stars
***** 7,840 5 Stars
**** 3,805 4 Stars
*** 2,419 3 Stars
** 1,033 2 Stars
* 921 1 Stars
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Legacy Collection
Stephen - December 18, 2014, at 7:28 a.m.
1 comment  (1751 views)
Ariel rules
Marijetos - June 23, 2009, at 7:50 a.m.
1 comment  (2722 views)
I love Menken
Aaron Caldera - February 9, 2007, at 8:21 p.m.
1 comment  (3689 views)
it sucks
Haley Jensen - January 28, 2007, at 12:33 p.m.
1 comment  (3682 views)
well what can i say
Danielle Duncan - August 7, 2006, at 6:00 a.m.
1 comment  (3727 views)
The Little Mermaid
Emma Jenny Taylor - March 27, 2006, at 2:32 a.m.
1 comment  (4891 views)

Track Listings Icon
Audio Samples   ▼
1989/1997 Albums Tracks   ▼Total Time: 43:17
• 1. Fathoms Below (song) (1:41)
• 2. Main Titles (1:26)
• 3. Fanfare (0:30)
• 4. Daughters of Triton (song) (0:40)
• 5. Part of Your World (song) (3:15)
• 6. Under the Sea (song) (3:15)
• 7. Part of Your World (Reprise) (song) (2:18)
• 8. Poor Unfortunate Souls (song) (4:51)
• 9. Les Poissons (song) (1:36)
• 10. Kiss the Girl (song) (2:43)
• 11. Fireworks (0:38)
• 12. Jig (1:34)
• 13. The Storm (3:20)
• 14. Destruction of the Grotto (1:55)
• 15. Flotsam and Jetsam (1:25)
• 16. Tour of the Kingdom (1:27)
• 17. Bedtime (1:23)
• 18. Wedding Announcement (2:19)
• 19. Eric to the Rescue (3:43)
• 20. Happy Ending (3:11)
(track lengths not provided on packaging)
2006 Special Edition Tracks   ▼Total Time: 55:53
2014 Legacy Collection Tracks   ▼Total Time: 107:03

Notes Icon
The inserts on all versions of the original 1989 and 1997 albums include no extra information about the music or the film. The 2006 album packaging includes complete lyrics. The insert for the 'Legacy Collection' is impressively extensive, with long notes from Menken and numerous others. Lyrics are also included on that insert, though there's oddly nothing written about the release itself.
Copyright © 1997-2021, Filmtracks Publications. All rights reserved.
The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten
or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. All artwork and sound clips from The Little Mermaid are Copyright © 1989, 1997, 2006, 2014, Walt Disney Records, Walt Disney Records (Re-Pressing), Walt Disney Records (Special Edition), Walt Disney Records (Legacy Collection) and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 8/29/97 and last updated 6/14/15.
Ariel is an insult to professional women everywhere.
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