Things about The Little Mermaid you only notice as an adult

You may have known every word of “Part of Your World” since you were a kid, but when’s the last time you gave the Disney classic, The Little Mermaid, your proper attention? From tyrannical sea kings, to mean-girl mermaids, to child brides getting washed up on shore, and all of the cannibalistic sea creatures in between, The Little Mermaid is a feast for the eyes when you look upon it for the first time as a full-fledged adult. Here’s what you missed when you watched it through the eyes of a child.

Does King Triton have slaves?

As all the happy and seemingly equal sea creatures of King Triton’s kingdom gather in the concert hall to hear Sebastian the crab’s latest and greatest work, Triton triumphantly enters… on a sea chariot guided by chained dolphins. Sebastian is not far behind, in his own tiny chariot, guided by chained goldfish. Was there some kind of work study program in Atlantica for under-the-sea Uber drivers? Why were these particular ocean dwellers kept like slaves or animals, in spite of being surrounded by others of their own kind who were fortunate enough to freely attend concerts at their leisure? King Triton doesn’t seem like quite the magnanimous leader he did when we were kids.

Didn’t anyone notice that Ariel wasn’t in the clam shell?

It must take some doing to get a petite, 16-year-old mermaid ensconced safely in a giant clam shell. Yet Ariel’s sisters, her castmates in the show, along with the entire audience and production staff, are seemingly horrified when that clam shell opens sans Ariel. Did this huge, expensive production not have a stage manager? Did nobody call places? Isn’t that clam shell alive? Why didn’t Mr. Clam just tell everyone that Ariel wasn’t where she was supposed to be? Maybe those sisters of hers wanted it to play out that way… they must not have enjoyed rehearsing for weeks to sing a song about how their baby sister is so much more awesome than they are.

Ariel is totally rude to Flounder

Every sea creature we have met thus far seems to have a proper name. We’ve got Triton, Ariel and her sisters, Sebastian the crab… and then we have Flounder. Why just Flounder? Why doesn’t he get a real name? This is the equivalent of just calling some kid “Girl” or “Boy.” And is he even really a flounder? Nope, not even close. He’s some kind of non-specified, tropical fish that certainly wouldn’t be found floating around near Denmark, where the tale is supposedly set.

With all the odds already stacked against young Flounder, you’d think Ariel would have taken him under her fin, and looked out for her little buddy. But no, Ariel did just the opposite. She peer-pressured him into risking life and gills to skip the concert, dragged him to forbidden zones, and put him in the path of a hungry shark. When they barely made it away in one piece, Ariel teased Flounder for being frightened, and told him he’s “such a guppy.” Let’s face it, folks. Ariel is a bully.

What does Ursula mean by “when I lived in the palace…?”

When we first encounter Ursula in her murky lair, we learn of her deep contempt for King Triton, but with little to no explanation. She casually reminisces about the days when she “…lived in the palace.” Say what now?

If you are a devout fan of The Little Mermaid franchise, you know that the Broadway musical answered this question, by making Ursula and King Triton siblings. The implication is that Ursula was perhaps the one really in line for the throne, but fell from grace. In the movies, however, this is never said. But at least we never had to figure out what was going on in that castle to produce offspring of such interesting and disparate body parts.

That storm came out of nowhere

As lovelorn Ariel gazes upon/stalks her sudden fixation, Prince Eric, he and his merry gang are on what seems to be a birthday pleasure cruise. The ship’s crew all ham it up as Eric plays the snarfblat, they gift him with a tacky statue, watch some fireworks lighting up the tranquil skies, and then smack, bang, boom, they are right in the middle of a deep ocean, tsunami-inducing hurricane that threatens to destroy them all. The ship might have made it out OK too, if it wasn’t for the ridiculous amount of gunpowder barrels being stored on the starboard bow. These seem like capable seamen… didn’t someone check the ship’s manifest for inconsistencies before setting sail for the evening? How about a weather report? Nobody ever told these guys to check for a “pink sky at morning…?”

All of those fish cannot possibly be buddies

From Sebastian’s failed concert, to his much-more successful Under the Sea number, to his in-the-mood classic “Kiss the Girl,” we meet musically gifted and extremely enthusiastic sea creatures who love nothing more than to get down together to some funky beats. As these slimy friends all jam and harmonize so beautifully with one another, one has to wonder… don’t they all want to eat each other? 

Sebastian name checks quite a few fish in “Under the Sea.” We’ve got the blowfish, the sturgeon, the fluke, the carp, the ray… the list goes on. And what do all of these underwater denizens have in common, besides their Atlantica zip code? They all like to eat crustaceans. As in crab. Either Sebastian is the master of some pretty impressive mind manipulation techniques, or he’s the mark in a very long con. Let’s hope those fish wake up before Scuttle the seagull beats them to it… that is if he isn’t too busy munching on Flounder.

How did Flounder get that huge statue to the grotto?

Though the out-of-nowhere hurricane caused enough lightning-and-gunpowder induced destruction to rip Prince Eric’s ship to shreds, his ginormous statue remains remarkably intact, sinking to the bottom of the sea. Good thing Flounder was there. Weighing in at about one and a half pounds, literally soaking wet, Flounder somehow manages to transport the half-ton statue all the way to Ariel’s secret grotto, where he also figures out a way to squeeze it through one of the tiny portals that are barely large enough for a teenage mermaid. Let’s hope Flounder included this mad skill set on his University of Atlantica application.

Ursula’s bright red lipstick

When Ariel first enters Ursula’s lair, she sees Ursula in the midst of her beauty routine, which involves some jellyfish-goo hair gel, and shellfish-lipstick that paints Ursula’s lips her signature, cherry-red. But watch the scene again as an adult, and it’s easy to spot the flaw. Ursula’s lips are already bright red when Ariel enters, and remain bright red as she applies her hair gel. It isn’t until she reaches for her shrimp-stick that the camera cuts to Ursula’s face, now with pale, grey lips, which she then colors. Did we miss the part where she removes the first coat of lipstick with a sea sponge?

Ariel isn’t bright, but at least she can read and write

We have already determined that Ariel isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. She forgets the concert, she becomes hopelessly hung up on a human that hasn’t said boo to her, and she gets sucked into the sea witch’s devious plot. She even combs her hair with a fork, despite the fact that her dad has been carrying a gigantic, magical fork around for her entire life, and he isn’t exactly running a beauty parlour. Despite all of this, we do know that Ariel can at least read and write. We saw her read and sign Ursula’s contract. So then why doesn’t this literate mermaid just write her prince a letter, explaining who she is, and what happened to her glorious voice? We actually saw her sign her name on Ursula’s scroll, yet Eric has to keep guessing lady’s names until a crab whispers “Ariel” on the wind. Sebastian was right, this mermaid really does need to “get her head out of the clouds, and back in the water where it belongs.”

Eric has quite the selection process for picking a wife

We learn at the beginning of the film that there is some pressure from the kingdom for Prince Eric to get hitched, but not exactly the amount of pressure that would justify his choosing to marry a girl that he’s known less than 24 hours. Sure, Ursula has Eric under a magic spell when she nearly tricks him into marrying her alter-ego, Vanessa, but none of it really explains what his mad dash is to marry a 16-year-old mermaid, good pipes or not. Besides, doesn’t the kingdom have some kind of policy against their crowned prince marrying random broads that wash up on the beach?

King Triton isn’t really the best king

We’ve already established that King Triton keeps slaves, so let’s examine a few other ways the sea king really lets his underwater citizens down. First of all, there’s that whole destroying his daughter’s most prized possessions in the grotto thing, which doesn’t exactly make him the father of the year. Then, we really need to face the fact that hundreds of his own merpeople have obviously fallen prey to Ursula’s magic, condemned to live for eternity in her bizarre, shrunken-head garden of unfortunate souls. He’s a super-ripped sea king with a giant, magic pitchfork. He couldn’t just spear Ursula himself, and set his merpeople free? He doesn’t seem to give a whit about what Ursula’s up to until it affects his precious Ariel. Two words for the merpeople of Atlantica: democratic elections.

The psycho chef

Aww… Chef Louis, the charmingly sadistic chef. He doesn’t just love cooking “les poissons”, he revels in their torture, killing, and dismemberment as well. Sebastian the crab has already narrowly escaped the chef’s briny chamber of horrors, only to encounter him again at Ariel and Eric’s wedding. The chef then disrupts the nuptials by chasing Sebastian throughout the ship while violently wielding a chef’s knife, which he uses to completely viscerate the eight-tier wedding cake. Who even invited this guy? Last time we checked, Sebastian was an invited guest, but Louis is just the hired help. Somebody get that guy back on the carving station before he accidentally guts a bridesmaid.

When is the last time you watched?

It’s amazing how much you notice about a childhood favorite from just one viewing as an adult. The other amazing thing? No matter how ridiculous you may realize some parts of Disney’s The Little Mermaid to be, it won’t take away how much you’ll enjoy watching it again, all these years later. Remember how hot you thought Prince Eric was, or how much you wished you could have a dog just like Max? So next time you’re wondering what to watch, why not kick back, fix your hair with your favorite dinglehopper, and belt your heart out once again to the crashing wave finale of “Part of Your World.”