Ralph Potts reviews the Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Hans Christian Andersen’s enchanting fantasy of a beautiful young mermaid who risks life and “limbs” to be part of the human world when she meets the prince of her dreams.
The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )
Audio/UHD Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Disney – 1989
MPAA Rating: G
Feature running time: 83 minutes
Disc Format: BD-66
Video Aspect: 1.78:1
Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1, French/Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Starring: Jodi Benson, Samuel E. Wright, Pat Carroll, Buddy Hackett, Christopher Daniel Barnes, Jason Marin, Rene Auberjonis
Written & Directed by: Ron Clements & John Musker
Music by: Alan Menken
Region Code: A,B,C
Release Date: February 26, 2019
“Ariel (voiced by Jodi Benson), is a free-spirited mermaid, who is off on the adventure of a lifetime with her best friend, the adorable Flounder (voiced by Jason Marin), and the reggae-singing Caribbean crab Sebastian (voiced by Samuel E. Wright) at her side. But it will take all of her courage and determination to make her dreams come true—and save her father’s beloved kingdom from the sneaky sea witch Ursula (voiced by Pat Carroll).” – Disney Home Entertainment.
I reviewed The Little Mermaid when it was released on Blu-ray in 2013. This review will contain comments from that article as well as new ratings for the Ultra HD video, Dolby Atmos sound and, the new bonus material.
Disney animation returned to its classic fairy tale roots in 1989 for the first time in three decades with its 28th full-length animated feature “The Little Mermaid.” Hans Christian Andersen’s enchanting fantasy of a beautiful young mermaid who risks life and “limbs” to be part of the human world when she meets the prince of her dreams provided the Disney creative team with one of its strongest stories in years and one of its greatest challenges ever.
Along with a colorful cast of animated characters, dazzling art direction and effects animation, the film features seven outstanding tunes, resulting from a unique collaboration with the celebrated songwriting team of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken (“Little Shop of Horrors,” “Beauty and the Beast”). The songs are integrally woven into the plot and add a memorable sense of theatricality that thematically enhances the film. Not since 1959, when the studio released “Sleeping Beauty,” had the Disney animators tackled a traditional story of this type. Other examples of animated classics derived from classic fairy tales include “Cinderella” (1950) and Disney’s very first animated feature, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937).
I love this film. I haven’t seen it in a long time but watching it again brought back wonderful memories of watching it countless times with my kids when they were little. The little Mermaid is an enamoring film with incredibly endearing characters and one of the most memorable music scores in the Disney canon. It helped define Disney animation for a new generation as the first film in the “Disney Animation Renaissance” (1989-1999) and revitalized animated features by captivating mature audiences while still delighting young viewers.
Walt Disney was truly a pioneer whose vision has brought us some of the most beloved characters (both animated and living) in American cinema. This is a classic that easily stands the test of time and like many of Disney’s animated films has touched and will continue to touch generations of viewers. My daughter was quite a fan and loved singing along to the musical numbers. I am sure that my children, like me, will share the experience of The Little Mermaid with their children when the time comes. What an immeasurable legacy for Disney, which is a class act with an impeccable track record for wonderful family films.
This Ultimate Edition release of The Little Mermaid is another example of Disney’s fervent commitment to consistently yielding technically impressive results along with fan friendly supplemental material. Their willingness to restore their films while carefully preserving the original source elements allows fans and newcomers alike to experience them looking and sounding better than ever. I am thrilled that this animated classic has finally arrived in Ultra High Definition. I can’t think of a better way to experience it all over again or perhaps for the first time.
This film is suitable for all audinces.
AUDIO/VIDEO – By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
UHD Presentation: 90
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- HDR: Dark Highlights:
- HDR: Bright Highlights:
- HDR: Expanded Color:
- Visual Impact:
Dolby Atmos Rating: 90
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Level of immersion:
- Soundstage integration:
- Audio object placement:
- Effectiveness of Atmos platform:
- Entertainment factor:
The Little Mermaid comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from Disney Home Entertainment featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 channel sound.
In 2013 this film underwent a restorative process and the results as translated in Ultra HD are impressive. Colors shine brilliantly with pleasing saturation and striking blues that look absolutely beautiful. The original film elements don’t have the highly polished gloss of today’s digitally enhanced animated films which is to be expected but, this presentation makes the most of them. On several occasions I found myself marveling at just how good this 30-year-old animated feature looks.
Fidelity is intact and images have excellent visual depth with deep, rich, color fidelity and stable contrast that enhances dimension. I can fully appreciate the attention to detail that went into design of each of the animated characters. Contrast is stable and strikes a wonderful balance that highlights the multi-layered grays and delineated chromatic elements within the video. Blacks have excellent dynamic range are served well by HDR’s ability to create eye catching delineation with darkened areas of the image. Whites sparkle and appear crisp, bright and punchy. The Little Mermaid has never looked better on home. As fans I don’t think that we could ask for more than that.
In listening to the Dolby Atmos soundtrack I was pleased with how active the mix is. The use of overhead sound objects elevates proportional correlation. When compared to the 7.1 channel (Atmos core and original DTS-HD Master Audio) mixes the immersive track offers a noticeable improvement by opening up the soundstage, elevating the perception of low-level detail. During the storm sequences, undersea encounters and musical set pieces the track brims with atmospherics, off screen cues and discrete sound effects that when applied using the freedom of object-based placement adds an enriching layer to the soundtrack. This is noticeable right from the opening sequence with noteworthy examples being found throughout.
This Atmos mix took a subtle and more active approach when appropriate, and conveyed the spirit and overall feel of the original soundtrack while adding a complimentary element. I didn’t feel let down by it and ultimately had lots of fun.
For those not familiar with the details regarding Ultra HD Blu-ray you can refer to my article that includes some pertinent data on the subject. Here is the link:
- Disc 1: The Little Mermaid Ultra HD Blu-ray
- Disc 2: The Little Mermaid Blu-ray
New Bonus Features:
• Sing-Along Mode – Sing along to the movie in this sing-along version of the film.• Alan Menken & the Leading Ladies Song – From the voice of a mermaid to the tunes of a muse, the music of Alan Menken has scored the soundtrack for some of Disney’s most iconic leading ladies. Join Alan, Jodi Benson (Ariel), Paige O’Hara (Belle), Judy Kuhn (Pocahontas Singing Voice), Lillias White (Calliope) and Donna Murphy (Mother Gothel) as we celebrate the music of their films in honor of the one that started it all … “The Little Mermaid.” In this discussion, the ladies will share their memories of musically creating their characters with Alan, discuss what it means to be part of the Disney Princess/leading lady legacy and create new memories as they sing with Alan around a baby grand piano.
• “What I Want From You…Is YOUR VOICE” – Enter the recording studio and get an inside look at the cast of “The Little Mermaid” in their original recording sessions.
• Stories From Walt’s Office – Gadgets & Gizmos – Like Ariel, Walt Disney was a collector of many different things from miniatures to early mechanical characters that inspired the invention of audio-animatronics. We take a look at some the collections that Walt kept in his office in the third episode of this series.
• #Treasures Untold – Join Ruby Rose Turner and Olivia Sanabia from the Disney Channel Original Series “Coop and Cami Ask the World” as they take a deep dive to explore some hidden treasures and fun facts about Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.”
• DCapella “Part of Your World” Music Video
• Classic Bonus Features – revisit four exciting bonus features from previous releases including:
o Deleted Character: Harold The Merman
o Under The Scene: The Art Of Live Action Reference
o Howard’s Lecture
o Audio Commentary With Ron Clements, John Musker and Alan Menken
• “Part of Your World” – A 30-Year Retrospective – Songwriter Alan Menken and Jodi Benson, the acting and singing voice of Ariel, sing the epitome of Disney “I Want” songs “Part of Your World” and discuss its impact since it was first heard 30 years ago.
• Classic Bonus Features – Over 3 additional hours of previously released classic bonus features including Deleted Scenes, Easter Eggs, Music Videos and more!
- Digital Copy
For Disney fans The Little Mermaid is among the most anticipated Ultra HD Blu-ray releases to date. It is a marvelous family film that has an endearing charm and entertaining story that people of all ages can appreciate. Going into this Ultra HD video review I kept my expectations in check but, am happy to report that the experience enhanced my enjoyment of the film. This Ultimate Collector’s Edition release includes new bonus supplements, with the bulk of the previously released extras included as part of the Digital version only. The new features are worth exploring if you’re a fan. If you have an Ultra HD Blu-ray setup this release is worth considering. I will add this release to my video collection, right along-side the Diamond Edition Blu-ray.
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Reference Review System:
JVC DLA-RS500 3D/4K Ready High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6-HDR Meter from Spectracal)
Stewart Filmscreen – Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16×9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV7704 Audio/Video Processor
Emotiva XPA-7 Gen 3 Seven Channel Amplifier
Emotiva XPA-11 Gen 3 Amplifier
Panasonic DP-UB820 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton “Ergo” and Canton In-Ceiling Series Speakers
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
Dual SVS PC4000 Cylinder Subwoofers
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) – Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
AC Infinity Aircom T8 Component Cooling Systems