The Little Mermaid

  • Review Date: May 19, 2003
  • Rated: G
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 1989
  • Running Time: 83 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Superb, entertaining animated musical has some scary stuff.
  • Review Date: May 19, 2003
  • Rated: G
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 1989
  • Running Time: 83 minutes





What parents need to know

Educational value

Kids can try to name all the sea creatures -- crabs, oysters, dolphins, etc. -- when Sebastian sings "Under the Sea." They can also look up the original (much darker) story by Hans Christian Andersen and decide which version they like better.

Positive messages

This movie places high value on romance and the concept of true love -- Ariel is so enamored with Prince Eric that she sacrifices everything, from her family to her voice, in order to be part of his world. Many think this storyline is problematic because it reinforces the idea that a woman should give up her pursuits and opinions in deference to a man. But others can put this concept aside to enjoy the sweetness of the central character and the universal challenges of love.

Positive role models

Ariel is adventuresome, rebellious, and brave. She also gives up everything -- her family, her home, her voice -- for love, even though her trust in the sea witch puts everyone she loves in danger. Eric doesn't show much of a personality. Sebastian is loyal and tries hard to help Ariel even though he doesn't agree with what she's doing. Ariel's father is protective and will do anything to help save his daughter.

Violence & scariness

Ariel's father is imprisoned by the cruel sea witch, Ursula, who also grows larger than a ship and tries to crush it wielding a giant trident. Ursula brags about all the mermaids she's imprisoned and those "poor unfortunate souls" are shown shrunken down and sad. A French chef runs around the kitchen after Sebastian the crab with a cleaver and merrily chops up other fish. Eric almost drowns when his ship sinks in stormy waters. Ursula dies rather dramatically in the end.

Sexy stuff

The entire movie revolves around Ariel's crush on Prince Eric and her desire to be with him. One sweet-natured song is all about getting a kiss out of Prince Eric.

Not applicable

Ariel is a very popular Disney princess, whose brand reaches far and wide, with princess branding on consumer merchandise, food products, etc. as well as in books, websites, and other media.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Disney's full-length animated feature The Little Mermaid, is based on the story by Hans Christian Andersen story and has some scary moments. The sea witch grows into a giant and wields a trident in a climatic scene. Also, a bloodthirsty French chef merrily chases after Sebastian the crab with a cleaver, hoping to make him the main course. Parents may also want to keep in mind that Ariel is a very popular Disney princess, whose brand reaches far and wide, with branding on consumer merchandise, food products, etc. as well as in books, websites, and other media.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

THE LITTLE MERMAID tells the story of Ariel, a mermaid princess who collects human artifacts she finds in the sea. One day, she rescues Prince Eric, who was thrown from his ship during a storm, and Ariel falls in love. Desperate for the chance to have a life with Eric, Ariel enters into an agreement with a sea witch, Ursula. She gives up her voice and gets legs, in hopes of wining him and being part of his world. But she only has three days to woo Eric. If he doesn't kiss her in that time, she will become Ursula's slave forever.

Is it any good?


After some lackluster years, Disney came back into the top rank of animated features with this superbly entertaining musical, based loosely on the fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen (but with a happier ending). Ariel was the first in a series of refreshingly plucky Disney heroines. Instead of dreaming about the day her prince will come, or waiting for a fairy godmother or a prince's kiss, Ariel is a spirited and curious mermaid who is willing to take action in order to meet Prince Eric, the man of her dreams, though she is gullible and impetuous in agreeing to the terms demanded by the sea witch in exchange for making it possible for her to go on land.

The wonderful voice characterizations in this film include Buddy Hackett (The Music Man) as Scuttle the scavenging seagull and Samuel E. Wright as Sebastian, the calypso-singing crab. The first-class musical score by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman (who worked together on the off-Broadway hit, Little Shop of Horrors) ranks with the best of Broadway and won Oscars for Best Score and Best Song ("Under the Sea"). Some viewers criticize the movie for providing yet another wasp-waisted Disney heroine whose whole world revolves around a man. But Ariel is adventuresome, rebellious, and brave. It's true that she makes the mistake of giving up her voice to the sea witch (a very strong female character, to say the least), which provides a good opportunity for family discussion.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about villains. Why is Ursula both a little scary and a little fun?

  • Why do you think Ariel chooses to give up her voice (and her family) to meet Eric? Are you troubled by the message her decision sends about women and their priorities, or is that over-thinking this kind of movie?

  • Families can also talk about Disney princesses. How often do you see your favorite princesses on display when you're out shopping? Does watching this movie make you want to buy more Ariel stuff?

  • Why do you think Sebastian tries to help her even though he doesn't agree with what Ariel's doing?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:November 15, 1989
DVD release date:October 1, 2013
Cast:Christopher Daniel Barnes, Jodi Benson, Rene Auberjonois
Directors:John Musker, Ron Clements
Studio:Walt Disney Pictures
Genre:Family and Kids
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Princesses and fairies, Book characters, Music and sing-along, Ocean creatures
Run time:83 minutes
MPAA rating:G

This review of The Little Mermaid was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Written byAnonymous March 17, 2013

Not for Kids = A Sex Scene in this Disney Animated Film.

Sex is an issue here. Disney make movies and add Sex right in. With this one Disney adds a Sex Scene with Female Nudity = Not a G Rated Film. Violence is also an issue and it's on a PG Level. Sex is more like NC-17 then a G Rating. I say Not for Kids.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much consumerism
Teen, 15 years old Written byCSM Screen Name... April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age

Another movie to shame Walt

What are we teaching our kids? Everyone says that morals are going down the drain and no wonder! Our "kids" and "family" films descreetly... and sometimes undescreetly, teach bad morals. Let's show girls how to wear sea shells on their breasts and flaunt their bodies. Let's show them how cool and great it is to do stupid things to flip for some guy you don't know and show how, in the end, it'll all be great! Wow! What a great thing to teach our kids! Yep, another classic family film! The one star is for the songs. Fantastic. Still....don't see it.
Adult Written byuniversalxoxo September 2, 2010

You're kidding...

You've got to be kidding me. Some of you parents who say that this movie is 'seductive' and 'scary' must have kids who get beat up at school. Now, I'm not the type of person who wants you to show your kids 'The Hangover' and 'Silence of the Lambs,' but 'The Little Mermaid?' A Disney classic? That has got to be the stupidest thing I have ever heard of. You can't do that to your kids. You can't forbid them from watching anything but the Wiggles (but you all probably think that that's inappropriate too) until they're 18. You can't shelter them. They've gotta figure out the real world. Not by watching Rated R movies, but you've gotta at least let the watch 'The Little Mermaid.' For God's sake.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Teen, 15 years old Written byEmmaLu April 15, 2011
I have loved this movie since I was little bitty! I think it is great and EVERYONE needs to see it!
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models


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