If Disney's Little Mermaid had been faithful, would it have been better?

thejboy88

New member
Aug 29, 2010
1,515
0
0
Spoiler warning.

The 1989 Disney film, the Little Mermaid, was both a critical and financial success, ushering what is now called the Disney Renaissance, and thus heralded the start of hit after hit. But, one common criticism levelled against the film was that it wasn't as faithful to the original Hans Christian Anderson book as it could have been.

By this, most people tend to refer not to the songs or the original characters, but to the film's ending. In the book, the mermaid in question, who I don't think is ever named, does not receive a happy ending like the film version. Rather, the prince she loved married another, and the mermaid's only option to change back into her original mermaid form is to kill him. Instead, she chooses to end her own life, throwing herself into the sea.

An admittedly sober ending, I know, but nevertheless, many fans of the book have accused Disney of betraying the spirit of the novel by making the ending of their film adaptation a happy one. In that, the mermaid, Ariel, is NOT given that dark choice, but rather gets her prince after the traditional Disney showdown against the villain.

As much as I adore the Disney film, I do acknowledge that the book's fans have a point. The original story WAS far more serious and, as morbid as this may sound, I'd actually be interested in seeing Disney trying to use that original sadder ending rather than the one they eventually gave us.

But what about all of you? Would you want Disney to have made their Mermaid film more faithful? Do you think it might have been better as a result? Or are you perhaps just fine with what they did with the film already?
 

DefunctTheory

Not So Defunct Now
Mar 30, 2010
6,438
0
0
Do I think a movie primarily aimed at the low teens or below should have an ending where the primary character kills herself after being rejected by her potential love interest?

No.

80s Disney movies may have been a bit too light hearted on occasion, but I don't think the answer to that is grisly suicide and social rejection. More recent Disney movies have found a better compromise, where the movie is overall pretty light, but with enough complexity that the old farts can enjoy it too (Zootopia being a pretty good example).

EDIT: Not that the 80/90s stuff didn't have adult themes too, of course, but I think the balance has gotten better.
 

Scarim Coral

Jumped the ship
Legacy
Oct 29, 2010
18,157
1
3
Country
UK
Err ain't all Disney movie based on fairy tales and story books are NEVER faithful to the source material?

I mean wasn't the real Cinderella story had something about the Prince executing any women who didn't fit the glass shoe correct and something about turning Cinderalla wicked mum and sister into blind beggers?
 

sky14kemea

Deus Ex-Mod
Jun 26, 2008
12,760
0
0
Well the little kids probably wouldn't have liked it as much, that I can tell you.

Disney is mainly for kids. Sure they usually kill off a parent but it's off-screen and usually at the beginning. I doubt they'd ever have a tragic ending. Unless you wanna pay for childrens' therapy.
 

Chemical Alia

New member
Feb 1, 2011
1,658
0
0
sky14kemea said:
Well the little kids probably wouldn't have liked it as much, that I can tell you.

Disney is mainly for kids. Sure they usually kill off a parent but it's off-screen and usually at the beginning. I doubt they'd ever have a tragic ending. Unless you wanna pay for childrens' therapy.
Around the time that the Disney Little Mermaid came out, I remember having a videotape of this other Little Mermaid movie that was made in Japan in the 70's. The story was a much more faithful adaptation of the original, including the ending.

I still remember thinking about it and comparing the two cartoons to each other. Even as a young kid, I could tell that it was really low budget compared to Disney and was weirded out by the low frame rate and really bad voice acting because I didn't understand why it was like that. Some mermaids also didn't wear any bras, but others wore full outfits. I remember being annoyed by the fully clothed mermaids but all the boobs were no big deal.

I always thought of the anime one as "the serious one with the blonde mermaid and the sad ending" and the Disney one as "the happy one with the songs." I thought the ending was sad, but the sea monsters scene scared me a lot more. I happened to watch it again on Youtube just last week, weirdly enough, and looking back on it, the ending is a lot more disturbing to me as an adult than it was as a kid. Then again, I watched a lot of cartoons as a kid that had tragic stuff going on in them.

Did anyone else happen to watch it as a kid? I'm actually kind of curious as to how other people reacted to it.
 

mduncan50

New member
Apr 7, 2009
804
0
0
Seriously? Would this children's movie have been better if the main character had committed suicide because she could not get a man to love her? No. No it would not have been. Should Simba have died at the end of the Lion King too, to make it closer to the source material? In Pinocchio would you have preferred that, like the OG story, Pinocch is sentient as a chunk of wood before Geppetto carved him? And that every whittle of the knife made him scream in agony? I know I personally would have loved to see the ending of Cinderella where the evil step mother is forced, for the amusement of the new queen, to dance over hot coals in metal shoes until it kills her.
 

Addendum_Forthcoming

Queen of the Edit
Feb 4, 2009
3,647
0
0
Well... I mean is the original source material actually sad though? The fae in more traditional romantic and classical material always destroy those of whom ensorcelled, or those for which the fae find themselves curious of.

The story, La Sylphide, very much a contemporary mid 19th century performing arts script had both the fae and her bewitched murdered by fate and trickery. James Ruben driven to his death because of this fleeting chance encounter with the Fair folk.... driven lustful and self destructive.

The original source material was certainly easier on the human protagonists. But keep in mind... the Fair folk were creatures that inadvertantly or purposefully destroyed human lives. To theirs, inhuman infatuation and alien existences that serve to strip a man of all human sense and sensibility.

Only in the 20th century does lust and infatuation become themselves romantic elements. As such modern fairytales treat many of the fair folk as if mirthful and sweet, or evil and vengeful... but never as usurpers of reason and uniformily bringers of despair, chaos and death. Hence, TLM was merely a 20th century ideal ontop a 19th century romance where a human miraculously survived their touch with the Others. Is it sad, though? Not really. Not compared to other tales of the Fair folk
 

Saelune

Trump put kids in cages!
Legacy
Mar 8, 2011
8,411
16
23
Aladdin, Peter Pan, Pinocchio, Cinderella, and every other fairytale they made a movie about was not accurate to the source, mostly cause the sources were even darker than what Disney made (which is still pretty gruesome).

Don't know why you're pointing out the Little Mermaid as if its different than Disney's previous adaptations.

On one hand I generally prefer faithful adaptations, so it would be hypocritical of me to not apply that here, but the originals were depressing and aimed at people who actually had to worry about being eaten by everything. Most I have to worry about is hungry raccoons, let alone wolves in my grandma's clothing or turning into a mule.
 

Imperioratorex Caprae

Henchgoat Emperor
May 15, 2010
5,499
0
0
Not sure whats more disturbing, a story about a girl who falls in love, gets rejected and kills herself or a story about a girl who falls in love with a guy she hardly knows and gets married to the said dude... They're both pretty disturbing, the latter sends a message that crushes can develop into a lasting relationship which can set up a poor expectation of reality.

Happily ever after isn't something I'm comfortable with teaching kids because it actually hurts them in the long run, setting up expectations of life being all sweetness and light after marriage.
That said, the other story is more tragic and a cautionary tale to kids saying that things might not always work out the way you want but there's no reason to throw your life away just because someone doesn't love you.

I had a friend who ended up with a mix of those two things, she married a guy and after a few years the marriage fell apart and she jumped off a bridge. In her suicide note she called her marriage a fairy tale specifically and finding out that happily ever after is not to be. Dangerous mindset, and it ended up being her downfall.
 

mduncan50

New member
Apr 7, 2009
804
0
0
Imperioratorex Caprae said:
Not sure whats more disturbing, a story about a girl who falls in love, gets rejected and kills herself or a story about a girl who falls in love with a guy she hardly knows and gets married to the said dude... They're both pretty disturbing, the latter sends a message that crushes can develop into a lasting relationship which can set up a poor expectation of reality.
Well the movie version sets up some messed up expectations of what love can and/or should be, which is bad, however the book goes further and says that if life does not meet those messed up expectations then you should kill yourself. I'm going to have to go with that one being more disturbing.
 

Imperioratorex Caprae

Henchgoat Emperor
May 15, 2010
5,499
0
0
mduncan50 said:
Imperioratorex Caprae said:
Not sure whats more disturbing, a story about a girl who falls in love, gets rejected and kills herself or a story about a girl who falls in love with a guy she hardly knows and gets married to the said dude... They're both pretty disturbing, the latter sends a message that crushes can develop into a lasting relationship which can set up a poor expectation of reality.
Well the movie version sets up some messed up expectations of what love can and/or should be, which is bad, however the book goes further and says that if life does not meet those messed up expectations then you should kill yourself. I'm going to have to go with that one being more disturbing.
My last example, the friend of mine, is the reason I find both fairly equally disturbing. It can set up an unrealistic expectation for adult life. Granted the suicide ending is fairly disturbing but it comes to me as more of a warning against expecting things to work out the way you want them to and to not put all your faith and energy into the hope that your feelings will be reciprocated, but the other ending of saccharine nature is even more disturbing because its extremely unrealistic in its message.
 

mduncan50

New member
Apr 7, 2009
804
0
0
Imperioratorex Caprae said:
mduncan50 said:
Imperioratorex Caprae said:
Not sure whats more disturbing, a story about a girl who falls in love, gets rejected and kills herself or a story about a girl who falls in love with a guy she hardly knows and gets married to the said dude... They're both pretty disturbing, the latter sends a message that crushes can develop into a lasting relationship which can set up a poor expectation of reality.
Well the movie version sets up some messed up expectations of what love can and/or should be, which is bad, however the book goes further and says that if life does not meet those messed up expectations then you should kill yourself. I'm going to have to go with that one being more disturbing.
My last example, the friend of mine, is the reason I find both fairly equally disturbing. It can set up an unrealistic expectation for adult life. Granted the suicide ending is fairly disturbing but it comes to me as more of a warning against expecting things to work out the way you want them to and to not put all your faith and energy into the hope that your feelings will be reciprocated, but the other ending of saccharine nature is even more disturbing because its extremely unrealistic in its message.
That can honestly be said about the majority of fiction. The problems are solved, the evils are vanquished, and everyone lives happily every after. But in real life problems are rarely solved so easily, new evils fill the void of the old, and you just deal with it over and over again until you die. Let's face it, if movies and books really were "realistic" they would be extremely boring and unfulfilling.
 

Something Amyss

Aswyng and Amyss
Dec 3, 2008
24,759
0
0
sky14kemea said:
Well the little kids probably wouldn't have liked it as much, that I can tell you.
I don't know, I grew up with Return to Oz, Labyrinth, and the Black Cauldron. Kids might dig the real ending.

But you know who didn't? The literary audience. HC Anderson changed his original ending, such that the mermaid could earn her way into Heaven, attempting a saving throw on the ending.

So maybe skipping it was for the best.

And this is why I don't buy into the first draft culture.
 

mduncan50

New member
Apr 7, 2009
804
0
0
Something Amyss said:
sky14kemea said:
Well the little kids probably wouldn't have liked it as much, that I can tell you.
I don't know, I grew up with Return to Oz, Labyrinth, and the Black Cauldron. Kids might dig the real ending.

But you know who didn't? The literary audience. HC Anderson changed his original ending, such that the mermaid could earn her way into Heaven, attempting a saving throw on the ending.

So maybe skipping it was for the best.

And this is why I don't buy into the first draft culture.
The usual theory floated around about darker kids movies is that they can handle just about anything, so long as they get a happy ending, which all of those movies did. Compare that to something like Old Yeller or the Odd Life of Timothy Green where it is all bright and sunshine throughout the movie until the very end when it gets depressing and those are the kinds of things cited as childhood traumas.
 

Addendum_Forthcoming

Queen of the Edit
Feb 4, 2009
3,647
0
0
Something Amyss said:
I don't know, I grew up with Return to Oz, Labyrinth, and the Black Cauldron. Kids might dig the real ending.

But you know who didn't? The literary audience. HC Anderson changed his original ending, such that the mermaid could earn her way into Heaven, attempting a saving throw on the ending.

So maybe skipping it was for the best.

And this is why I don't buy into the first draft culture.
Labyrinth of the Faun is considered to be one of the greatest modern takes on authentic fairy tale traditions. It channeled itself well as bleak, dark and the fae as suitably Other-like.

Pretty sure it will give kids nightmares however. They tried to sugarcoat a little but it still gnaws at your soul and turns your blood cold.
 

Odbarc

Elite Member
Jun 30, 2010
1,155
0
41
Doesn't Quasimodo also rape the dead body of the love-interest instead of save her? I mean, Disney couldn't even go with that kind of ending. I think that's the 'magic' of Disney. Taking the worst possible endings and making them 'happily ever after' instead.
 

Something Amyss

Aswyng and Amyss
Dec 3, 2008
24,759
0
0
mduncan50 said:
The usual theory floated around about darker kids movies is that they can handle just about anything, so long as they get a happy ending, which all of those movies did. Compare that to something like Old Yeller or the Odd Life of Timothy Green where it is all bright and sunshine throughout the movie until the very end when it gets depressing and those are the kinds of things cited as childhood traumas.
I have trouble calling The Black Cauldron a happy ending, even if they left out much of the source material.

Old Yeller still never got me, I have to admit.

PaulH said:
Labyrinth of the Faun is considered to be one of the greatest modern takes on authentic fairy tale traditions. It channeled itself well as bleak, dark and the fae as suitably Other-like.

Pretty sure it will give kids nightmares however. They tried to sugarcoat a little but it still gnaws at your soul and turns your blood cold.
Joke's on them, I have no soul!

Mwahahahahahahahahahaha!

I've not heard of this before. Book? Movie? I may have to check it out and see if it nibbles at anything else.
 

Ogoid

New member
Nov 5, 2009
405
0
0
Andersen's story doesn't actually end there, though the ending is actually, if anything, bittersweet:

The Mermaid's body dissolves into foam, but her spirit is taken among air spirits, who can earn themselves an immortal soul and therefore entry into Heaven by doing good deeds on mankind's behalf for 300 years, that time being lengthened or shortened (as I recall - it's been a while) depending on how human children behave.

I'm pretty sure any movie following that to the letter would certainly not be a Disney movie, though.
 

Addendum_Forthcoming

Queen of the Edit
Feb 4, 2009
3,647
0
0
Something Amyss said:
I've not heard of this before. Book? Movie? I may have to check it out and see if it nibbles at anything else.
Del Toro film. Set after the Spanish Civil War. It's.... phenomenal. But it makes you less happy-shiny.
 

CaitSeith

Formely Gone Gonzo
Legacy
Jun 30, 2014
5,231
241
68
Would it had been better? I don't know. But maybe you can compare it with the cartoons that were more faithful. Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid (anime from 1975) is a good example (it includes the dramatic decision and the tragic ending).