Yes, it has been 25 years. Pause your omg I’m so old crisis so that we can talk about The Little Mermaid for a bit.
Regardless of your personal opinion on the film, The Little Mermaid set off an era of Disney films that shaped a generation, changed the face of animation in general and led the way for the film related consumerism that drove parents crazy in their search for every Frozen toy in existence since a year ago.
While The Little Mermaid was of course a huge hit for Disney Animation and a spearhead for the great deal of change that came to Disney in the 90’s, we hardly ever talk about the people who made it all possible. We all talk a lot about Ariel and Ursula and the music and all the movies that came after but in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the film’s release, here’s a “Where are they now?” for the people who brought all the magic of TLM and the Disney renaissance to life!
Jodi Benson: Ariel’s voice actress
Jodi Benson continued to work for Disney years after TLM. She voiced additional characters like Lady in some flop Lady and the Tramp sequel and Anita in another flop sequel this time for 101 Dalmatians. She also betrayed all her Disney roots and principles by voicing an embarrassing flop of a Don Bluth movie Thumbelina which, nobody ever admits to watching (except for some Tumblr ppl that even made gifs out of it) Her sticking around Disney ultimately provided us with the joy of her voicing Barbie on the Toy Story movies. Jodi was crowned a Disney Legend™ during the D23 conference of 2011 and killed it by singing Part of Your World like she recorded it last week.
Glen Keane: Supervisor animator for Ariel
Glen Keane had never animated a leading lady until Ariel but from then on, he took on some of the most significant and successful animated leading characters of the Renaissance period. He animated the Beast on Beauty and the Beast, Pocahontas, Aladdin, Tarzan and many years later, acted as the first director for Tangled a period during which he mentored young animators at Disney about how to make their CGI characters look less like plastic toys. He quit his job as director of Tangled because he fell ill. Later on, he ended up quitting Disney for undisclosed reasons but probably because he won’t put up with the shit of John Lasseter and because the current state of animation and the Pixar Brain Trust are horrid and embarrassing. People also believe he was very mad about what the Brain Trust did to Brenda Chapman and every single Disney animation fangirl died a little death when he quit, calling it the end of animation as we know it. He was made a Disney Legend the following year, prob to appease the dramas but also because he was fucking overdue.
Howard Ashman: Lyricist and Producer
Howard Ashman brought to us all the Disney Renaissance. He was the catalyst behind the new era of animated musicals that unfolded starting with TLM. He went on to work on Aladdin right after TLM but soon after, production on Beauty and the Beast became a mess and he and Alan Menken were begged to come fix it. Howard suffered from AIDS and died while Beauty and the Beast was in production. He never got to watch the final version, or go back to work on Aladdin (where Tim Rice was brought in to fill in for him). Howard’s legacy is timeless and continues to live on, all 3 of his Disney films were subsequently made into Broadway musicals with varying degrees of success (because el oh el TLM on Broadway) and the way he shaped the animated musical continues to influence the films we watch these days… Frozen not withstanding because lol nobody there heard Howard’s lectures. His sister runs a lovely website with memories, pictures and discussion about his legacy. Beauty and the Beast was dedicated to him with the legend: “To Howard, who gave a mermaid her voice “.
He was posthumously made a Disney Legend in 2001.
Alan Menken: Composer
Alan Menken became the most prolific Disney composer since the Sherman brothers. He composed for Aladdin, Pocahontas, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Home on the Range (lol Alan bro come on), Hercules, Enchanted, Tangled and even some other Disney flops cause no legend is without a flaw. Disney tried, incessantly to find him another lyricist partner who could match him the way Howard Ashman did and they found him somewhat good matches in Tim Rice and specially in Stephen Schwartz but he’s never found a lyricist partnership as brilliant and seamless as the one he had with Howard. He composed for all the Broadway adaptations of his films, including the latest Hunchback of Notre Dame which opens on Broadway this year and a great run of Newsies that earned him a Tony award in 2012. Alan Menken is the person alive with most Academy Award wins at 8 and was named a Disney legend in 2001.
Ron Clements and John Musker: Directors
Both Ron and John continued to work together through the Disney Renaissance, directing new classics like Hercules and Aladdin. But then they did that flop Treasure Planet which, although super pretty and critically accepted, was watched by nobody and is owned on bluray by like 3 people (me being one of them). They also directed Princess and the Frog and should not be blamed by the mediocrity of Randy Newman because Alan was originally meant to compose but Glen stole him away for Tangled so Randy Newman ruined PatF more than Ron or John could’ve hoped to. Due to the fact that PatF was not nearly as successful as everyone hoped, they were ignored for a few years until they were given the newest Disney animation project, Moana. Let’s just hope they don’t have to deal with Randy Newman for this one.
Peter Schneider, Roy Disney and Jeffrey Katzenberg: Executives
In short, they broke up.
During production of The Lion King, tension increased between Jeffrey and both Roy and Peter. Jeffrey later had a horrible and public professional breakup with Michael Eisner (then CEO of Disney) in which he mostly wanted the chairman position but Michael was bitchy and wouldn’t give it up and then Jeffrey sued the Disney company for a shitton of money that he used to found Dreamworks with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen. For the first few years, he tried to make both good movies (Prince of Egypt) and flops like Chicken Run but then Shrek happened and a series of sequels of every movie they ever make will continue to haunt us all forever. Admittedly, Jeffrey has done a lot of good for animation and Dreamworks has innovated in many things before Disney (female directors, for one).
Peter Schneider continued to work at Disney and do the lord’s work at keeping the studio fresh and creatively sharp until 2001, when he left to go back to doing theater. At the end of the decade, he and Don Hahn produced a genius film about the behind the scenes tea spillage of the Disney Renaissance titled “Waking Sleeping Beauty” and if you like Disney animation you must watch this film.
Finally, Roy Disney was the most eager and successful advocate of animation in Disney until the day he died in 2009. He had a very intense fight with Michael Eisner when he started to fuck up the Disney company which led to one of the most scandalous outings of a CEO: He left the Disney board of directors, publishing a letter to call out Michael on his mismanagement and created an online petition (this aint no joke, it was called SaveDisney.com) to inform and spread the message to shareholders so that they’d vote Michael out of the board and subsequently pressured him to resign. Thanks to Roy, Disney changed their CEO, repaired their relationship with Pixar by buying it out and under Bob Iger, gave us Marvel, Lucas Films. Keep this in mind the next time you’re happy we get all these Marvel movies: Roy made it happen for us all. He was made a Disney Legend in 1998.
Don’t you just hate it when your thirst for some guy leads to sea witches fooling you into stealing your voice?
Disney Renaissance post, go crazy!
Let me know if there’s interest and I may do more Disney originals about the Renaissance :)