Disclosure: I was provided with a paid trip to Los Angeles, CA in order to make this interview content possible. However all opinions expressed are 100% my own.
Whenever I hear “The Little Mermaid” I think of two things. First I remember watching it with my oldest, who is 25 years old now. Second I remember watching it again with my now 18 year old. When she was little it was her favorite movie and we would watch it over and over again. When she got older and her younger sisters joined our family I remember her singing the song “Under the Sea” to her youngest sister while rocking her and it would for some odd reason soothe her. So, when our family found out that “The Little Mermaid” was making another grand appearance, more precisely a “diamond” appearance Oct. 1, 2013 as The Little Mermaid (Three-Disc Diamond Edition) (Blu-ray 3D / Blu-ray / DVD + Digital Copy + Music) it quickly became a movie to add to our Amazon wish list, and then to pre-order. For those reasons, and many more I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to join some other beautiful bloggers in the “Ariel” group for the chance to interview writers and Directors Ron Clements and John Musker, as well as Jodi Benson, as the voice of Ariel.
When asked if the directors thought “The Little Mermaid” would be the success that it turned out to be their responses were humble. Of course they hoped for success.
Ron Clements said, “No, we, we didn’t. I mean we, we felt it had potential to be a really good film, I think, from, from fairly early on and we were intimidated because it was the first fairy tale. ” He continues with, “MERMAID felt like it was kind of special ’cause it was the first film that was a fairy tale and it, and so it harkened back to the, like, SNOW WHITE and CINDERELLA. So we felt a certain amount of pressure with that. But, um, but no. We didn’t.”
John Musker shares that when he heard “Steven Spielberg says it’s gonna make a hundred million dollars.” His response was, “Really? Spielberg thinks it’s gonna make a hundred million dollars?” And so we were getting, there was excitement building. But as you’re doing it, you’re, we were the audience for the movie, really. You’re just trying to make a movie that you think — that we would like to see and, uh, and you hope somebody else will like to see it to. So we didn’t really anticipate it.”
How did the directors know that the film was really making an impact? Several factors stood out to them.
John Musker felt like it had really made an impact when the Halloween after the movie came out, there standing on his doorstep saying “Trick or Treat” was a little girl dressed as Ariel. He thought “We made it into the popular culture! We crossed over! This is not even one of my own children! This is a stranger!”
And the pop culture interest grew if the new line of clothing available at Hot Topic and the make up available at Sephora is anything to go by!
“The Little Mermaid” is a beloved film by children and adults alike. This came as a bit of a surprise to the writer/director team.
Ron thinks that the adult appeal “took everybody by surprise.” With a large emphasis by Disney on making films that adults could enjoy just as much as their kids an, and a lot of emphasis on quality that a viewer, making a movie that was just for kids’ “wouldn’t do.” So they were very happy when it became more of a family film.
Both Clements and Musker aspired to work with Disney while they were growing up, and although they lived in two totally different midwestern cities, their career paths took some very similar twists and turns.
Ron Clements drew a lot as a child and was a big animation and Disney fan. When he younger he saw “Pinnocchio” and decided as he came out of the theater, “That’s what I wanna do. That’s what — I wanna, I wanna be involved in animation in some way.” Without much information he went to the library and got all the information he could, including checking the book “The Art of Animation,”by Bob Thomas and checked it out over and over and over again.
John Musker knows this book and he great up with the same goal, but headed first into comic books, thinking he may like to work with Marvel Comics or be an editorial cartoonist for a newspaper. A college course at Northwestern rekindled his interested. He decided to submit a portfolio of animals drawn from a visit to the zoo and he was rejected by Disney at first, with the comment his drawings were too stiff. He then headed to CalArts, (California Institute of the Arts) which were just starting a character animation program with Disney veterans teaching it. There he was the same class there as John Lassetter. The “nine old men” of Disney were his teachers and from these veteran animators, he learned animation.
When asked what they think makes a great animated movie and what, is the future to the animation as you see it, John responded, ” We always like to do something that can also be done better in animation than it could be in live action.” Ron states, “I think the thing they all sort of share in common is wanting to create really strong characters.” He advises that the characters should be something that the viewers really can believe in and that will bring them into the story. The story is also just as important. That when that happens it almost is “like a magic spell that was cast on the audience because some part of, something in your brain, you know it’s not real, you know it’s all made up, and when it’s over you actually feel almost like you’ve been transported somewhere and you’ve had this kind of magical experience, which really was that kind of Disney experience.”
He shares, It isn’t easy to involve an audience in the sort of, um, um, make believe, everything is sort of just made up. But when it works it is, it is really sort of magical and, and special, I think.”
He is right, being able to create a whole new world of fantasy and magic for families is sort of magical and special.
Look for some more fun facts about the making of The Little Mermaid, in our next interview installment and in the meantime, look for it to be available in stores and online, Oct. 1, 2013.