The Little Mermaid"!
Released in 1989, it is the beautiful tale of a young mermaid who longs to have legs instead of fins. When she falls in love with a human prince, she gets help from a sea witch to be with her true love. But she only has three days to get the prince to love her back (without the use of her voice, no less) before the witch strips her of her magic, and she becomes the witch's prisoner forever. I don't think I can explain how much I love this film. I know it backwards and forwards, and I can't count the number of times I've annoyed my friends and coworkers by singing these songs at the top of my voice. (Luckily, I have friends who just sing along with me.) And now, my little three-year-old niece is getting into Disney films, and I'm so excited for her to watch this film! I hope we have many singing parties together in the future.
The Rescuers." Animation had become strictly for kids only. But then studio heads Michael Eisner and Jeffery Katzenberg greenlit "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" (1988) and a new vibe was sent into their expanded animation department. Disney went back to its roots and began focusing on animation again.
Oliver and Company" (1988), based on Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist. "The Little Mermaid" was pitched to Katzenberg and Eisner as part of the new animation push, but both turned it down, thinking it would be too similar to the sequel they were planning for "Splash" (1984). Also, Disney had not done a film based on a fairy tale since "Sleeping Beauty" in 1959. The "Splash" sequel never moved beyond development though so "Mermaid" was greenlit after all. The idea of turning Hans Christian Anderson's tale into a film, however, had been around the studio before. Back in Walt's day (aka the late 1930s), they had begun developing the story for a Hans Christian Anderson vignette film, but it was never produced. So when the Eisner-Katzenberg studio started working on "Mermaid," the production found some of illustrator Kay Nielsen's original artwork and sketches from the 30s, and incorporated some of the story elements and designs into the new film.
The Golden Girls" at the time and turned the role down. Patrick Stewart turned down the role of Ariel's father King Triton, also because of a television commitment ("Star Trek: The Next Generation"). That part went to Kenneth Mars instead, who you may recognize as the musical Nazi in Mel Brooks' original "The Producers" (1968).
Under the Sea" and "Kiss the Girl." It won Best Score and "Under the Sea" won Best Song. The film also won the same at the Golden Globes, while being nominated for Best Picture - Musical or Comedy as well. And thus, the "Disney Renaissance" had begun, continuing with "Beauty & the Beast" (1991), "Aladdin" (1992), and "The Lion King" (1994).
So, enjoy some quality time with your family this Thanksgiving weekend, both at the table and in front of the screen. Rewatch (or show your little ones for the first time) the classic "The Little Mermaid." Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Until next week.
(Post-tidbit: "Mermaid" was the last feature film at Disney to use the traditional hand-painted cell method. A little company called Pixar had created a computer system known as CAPS that helped animators get the depth in shots usually achieved with a multiplane camera and many individual cells. A few scenes in "Mermaid" did use CAPS, like when Ariel runs down the stairs of Eric's castle, but the system would not be fully used until Disney's next film "The Rescuers Down Under" (1990).)