Disney's The Little Mermaid finds its "Diamond" release this week on BluRay and DVD. While on one hand, I find it to be a crass exploitation of the product and a continuing milking of their customer base, you can't blame the suits for making the most of this classic and beloved 1989 animated film.
The bigger questions in my mind center on two thoughts regarding the attractions that celebrate the film- one in California Adventure and the other in Walt Disney World's beautiful but lacking New Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom.
Question One- "Dear Walt Disney Suits and Imagineers, what took you so long?" With an unexpected smash like this film that continues to have a strong fan base, why was it 25 years before there was an attraction built in the parks? Imagineer Tony Baxter had wisely planned one for Disneyland Paris two decades ago. Granted, it wasn't the version that finally got built, but the bones are there. What could it be? How could the company that excels at squeezing profits out of every opportunity overlook something like this?
Question Two- "What the (bleep!) were you thinking by creating the attraction but giving it a lifeless, lackluster, third act?" Where the film ends with a spectacular climax, the same cannot be said for the attraction that was built. After the incredible and convincing Audio-Animatronic of Ursula the Sea Witch, the sense of drama and danger quickly morphed into a sappy and biteless ending, the gorgeous Kiss the Girl scene notwithstanding. Let's just say that Imagineering or budgeteering missed the mark big time. What should have been the reason to hop back in line by giving riders a show stopping storm and confrontation between good and evil, is instead a nice, safe storybook version for the skittish two year old. A wasted opportunity to take some teeth out of the Wizard next door in Florida and soon, California. Harry Potter and his Forbidden Journey ultimately have nothing to worry about.
Let's just hope that by the time this attraction makes Tokyo, Paris, Hong Kong, or Shanghai, the ending- and a few other details- are fixed to create the ultimate Ariel's journey.
(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)