After our trip through some of the most amazing vaults that the Disney Animation Research Library has to offer Team Ariel has the opportunity to view some of the original artwork of “The Little Mermaid” as we visit with Leila Smith, the Creative Director at ARL where she gives us the inside scoop on behind the scenes in the making of The Little Mermaid (Three-Disc Diamond Edition) (Blu-ray 3D / Blu-ray / DVD + Digital Copy + Music) which will be available on Oct. 1, 2013. As we approach the table some of the original art work started a series of questions.
Here are some highlights from our visit and what we learned about “The Little Mermaid’s” beginnings:
Q : Ariel started off blonde?
LEILA SMITH : That’s part of the process is just trying the characters every way because, you know, Hans Christian Andersen would probably — his Ariel probably would have been blonde because it’s Scandinavian.
There were lots of Ariel drawn, lots of discussion of the story and the team decided to have a happy ending. And what’s interesting is when they went into the research that was done in the 30s Walt Disney’s team was also going to give it a more positive ending because, you know, Walt Disney was all about family entertainment.
When asked about the different renditions of the character of Ursala she replied:
You have concept art there with Ursula. As I said, she changed a lot over time. they really had trouble defining that character. it just wasn’t working until they came upon the, the final image of her.
The Ursula before she was gonna be wild, wild Ursula. Scary sea creature. We love our divine version. Pretty fun, huh? Ursula changed her look many times. At one time she was kind of copied after Joan Collins’ role. It was Roy Disney who said no, no, no she should be more like an octopus.
How long does it take to create a hand drawn animated film like the Little Mermaid from production to ending?
LEILA SMITH : It was not unusual to take three to five years. of course they were some films like Sleeping Beauty depending on who you took to, it took 16 years.
Did you know that they are trying to release ONE animated film a year, now?
“The Little Mermaid” was based on the fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson, but had some changes made. When asked about why some people wondered why the end was changed she responded:
Well, fairy tales change through every telling and it wasn’t until the 1800’s or so that they began to even be written down. So, I think Disney carefully looks at the original fairy tale or that type of fairy tale. But then they feel totally comfortable going off in a totally different direction. There are similarities here but there was an underwater sea witch, a sort of Ursula and there was the mother of the girls and Disney chose to have a father.
So there were differences in the story but, you know, there’s a lot about the story that remained and of course it became a musical.
Another question asked was, “Did they ever run into issues with the fact that Ariel is sixteen and she’s getting married?”
Leila explains: That’s a good question. When the stories are based on fairy tale the princesses may seem young but if you think about it original Grimm’s fairy tale Snow White was seven and her mother was the queen when she decided that she would kill her daughter. So fairy tales always had young women because back then young woman got married earlier.
What’s different about the newest version of “The Little Mermaid?” There are some amazing bonus features that can give you the inside scoop like those shared here and in our interview with Directors/Writers John Musker and Ron Clements. Look for those changes and so much more when you pick up the Diamond Edition.