August 26, 2008 – The Direct-to-Video Animated Feature The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning is Released
“The world above is a wonderful place, but everyone knows the true magic lies under the sea.”
On August 26, 2008, the direct-to-video animated feature The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning was released on DVD and Blu-Ray. The film, a prequel to the hit 1989 animated feature The Little Mermaid, was written by Julie Selbo and Jenny Wingfield, with screenplay by Robert Reece and Even Spiliotopoulus. It was directed by Peggy Holmes, and stars Jodi Benson as Ariel, Samuel E. Wright as Sebastian, Sally Field as Marina Del Ray, and Jim Cummings as King Triton.
The film begins with an introduction of Atlantica, with a young King Triton playing with his daughter Ariel, and listening to his wife Athena sing to their daughters. Triton gifts Athena a special music box that plays their song, and it is revealed that life is wonderful and magical. Things change when a strange boat of pirates travels to their cliffs, and Athena is killed when she tries to retrieve the music box, and the pirate ship crashes into her. Triton is devastated at his loss, and music was banned from Atlantica. Ten years later, Atlantica is still thriving, and Ariel is as precocious as ever. The girls are woken by their governess, Marina Del Rey, who hates her job. The girls go to greet their father, as is routine, and Ariel asks that they go swim by the reef instead. Triton, still grieving for his loss, strictly forbids it, and the group goes on their morning walk, where Ariel plays a prank on her sister. Ariel gets lectured by her father for disrupting their routine, and he punishes her harshly.
Marina vents to her assistant Benjamin the Manatee, as she wants Sebastian’s job. She comes up with a plan to rid the kingdom of Sebastian and take over his job. Meanwhile, as Ariel toils away at her punishment, Flounder swims on by, playing some music. Ariel hears him and asks him to do it again, but he nearly gets arrested by two guards for breaking the Triton Act, the law that outlaws music. Flounder grabs her and the two swim away, with the guards in pursuit. The pair run into Sebastian, and Sebastian orders Flounder to be taken away to the dungeon. Ariel covers for him, and he is let off with a warning, though Ariel is sent back to her room. Triton comes by to bid the girls goodnight, but Ariel is less than receptive. Soon after Ariel spies Flounder sneaking out of the palace grounds, and she decides to follow him. She finds him heading into a secret building, which is revealed to be a music club, surprisingly led by Sebastian. Ariel’s appearance spooks the club members, even though she promises not to tell. She starts recalling a melody from a long time ago, and the sea creatures join in with her song. Sebastian begrudgingly makes him a member of her music club.
The next morning, Sebastian and Marina are called in front of Triton, who says that there is a problem with Ariel. Triton asks Sebastian to take care of Ariel, much to the surprise of both Marina and Sebastian. Ariel’s sisters question where she was the previous night. Attina, the eldest, worries about Ariel, and Ariel finally explains the underground club. The girls suddenly realize how much they miss their mother, and they all ask her to take them to the club. Marina is confused and suspicious as to why the girls are awake on time. That night, the princesses all head to the club, and see Sebastian, who is less than thrilled to see the princesses. Although they are having the best time, they absence does not go unnoticed by Marina, who tracks them down to the club. Once she sees Sebastian, she realizes that she has her leverage to get his job, and runs straight to Triton.
The girls continue to go to the club, and one night, the club is invaded by the palace guards and Triton. Triton has Sebastian and the other club goers locked away, and gives Marina Sebastian’s job. Triton then destroys the entrance to the club. Back at the palace, the girls are placed under house arrest, and Ariel demands to know why music is forbidden in the kingdom. Triton tells her that there will be no music in the kingdom, to which Ariel replies that her mother wouldn’t have wanted that before swimming away. Ariel’s sisters turn their back on her as well, as they believe she’s made the situation worse. Marina is over the moon about her new position, with the power going straight to her head. That night, Triton finds a statue of his wife and sits by it, distraught. Ariel, similarly distraught, swims out of her room and heads to the jail to free Sebastian and the other band members. She decides to run away from Atlantica, and the group goes with her. Sebastian leads them to a secret area, with Flounder leading them song on the way.
Benjamin has noticed Ariel’s absence, and pulls Marina aside to tell her, although Attina tells Triton first. Triton reassures her that they’ll find Ariel, and heads off to find her. Marina, angered at this slight, especially since Sebastian is missing as well, heads off on her own search with her group of electric eels, vowing to get rid of Ariel as well. Sebastian has led the group to their destination, and explains to Ariel that there’s more to this place than it appears. The next morning, Ariel wakes up and hears something nearby, and finds her mother’s old music box. Sebastian explains that it was an anniversary gift, and why Triton took Athena’s death so hard. Ariel, finally understanding her father’s pain, decides to bring the music box home to Triton, much to Sebastian’s glee. Ariel, Sebastian, and Flounder head back, but meet up with Marina’s eels, who attack. Sebastian tries to protect Ariel and Flounder, and the rest of the band appears to help protect the trio. Ariel gets hurt when she rushes to protect Sebastian from Marina, and Triton, who saw the entire thing, rushes to her side. The music box opens and plays the song, and Triton sings it, waking Ariel. In the end, Triton brings music and happiness back to the kingdom, and appoints Sebastian as the court composer. Marina is locked in jail with Benjamin, and after Benjamin consoles her, the two dance in their cell.