Friday, August 3, 2012

My Summer of Sequels: "The Little Mermaid - Ariel's Beginning" (2008)

We've made it!  We're at the end!  We've only got one more movie to tackle!

And if you are at all curious about any of the DTV sequels I did not cover during this project, you better watch them and write about them on your blog yourself.  Or go watch the much more extensive two-part episode of The Nostalgia Chick on the same subject that -and you have to believe me here- I just now became aware of.  Because I cannot emphasize enough that I am done with these damned things.  Forever.

So DisneyToon made direct sequels, distant epilogue sequels, next generation sequels, alternate point-of-view interquels, all-dog country band involving midquels (once again, writer who came up with that plot point, what the f**k?), and even an alternate-universe time-travel retcon-the-whole-original-to-hell-and-back-quel.  And if I am not mistaken, "The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning" (which sometimes goes by the utterly confounding title, "The Little Mermaid 3: Ariel's Beginning") is their only true prequel.  And boy, don't we all love prequels?  You bet!  Prequels are always a good idea!

I very strongly believe that of all the sequels I have subjected myself to during this project, this one was the very worst.  And a big part of the reason why is that, like many prequels, it is ultimately pointless.  We know where these characters end up.  Any drama in the prequel is kind of silly, since no matter what happens during the movie, we know the characters survive to be in the original movie.  Since the characters are who they are in the original film, there isn't much new you could learn about them in a prequel that wouldn't directly contradict things in the original.

And then, there is the question of conflict.  Now, think back to "The Little Mermaid".  There actually was a briefly referenced potentially interesting back-story mentioned there: Ursula states that she once lived in Triton's palace.  I was thinking maybe the prequel would tell that story. 

Well, guess what?  There is a bombastic power-hungry female antagonist named Marina in "Ariel's Beginning".  She's part of the palace staff and is obsessed with her appearance, which leads this this bit of WTF in the end credits:

Yeah, really.

Anyway, Marina deeply resents Ariel and Triton.  She has a villain song solo, a desire to do horrible things to all the nice creatures in Atlantica, a purple color scheme, deep blue and violet rings around her eyes, crazy hair, pet eels... 

...and she very definitely does not turn into Ursula by the end of the movie.  It's flabbergasting, since the whole movie seems to be building to this.  She's locked in jail, with the weird implication that everyone forgot about her by the time the original happened.  And this is the LEAST stupid thing about "Ariel's Beginning"!

Because here's the thing.  During the making of "Ariel's Beginning", if there was a right decision and a wrong decision to be made, the filmmakers instead took a third option: make a stupid decision.  And the entire film is profoundly stupid.  Like a lot of the sequels I've seen during this project, it genuinely feels more like a really really crappy fanfiction than an officially authorized Disney movie.  But this time, it almost feels as though the writers were actively trolling the young Ariel-loving target audience.

You know how I said that most of these sequels could more accurately be subtitled, "The Search For More Money"?  This one could more accurately be subtitled, "Whatever!  You'll Pay To See It!  F*** You!"

Here's the conflict of "Ariel's Beginning".  Triton forbids Ariel to do something.  Ariel does it anyway.  Triton gets mad.  Ariel flees to pursue the forbidden thing.  Triton realizes he has gone too far and is very sad, so he sends a rescue team.  Ariel saves the day somehow.  Triton admits he was wrong, sets everything to right, and good times are had by all.

I swear I am not kidding.  The plot of the prequel to "The Little Mermaid" is "The Little Mermaid".  I know we've run into DTV sequels whose plots are essentially identical to their originals, but the fact that this happens before the original makes it so much worse.  It ends up looking like the characters in the original movie have not learned a thing from the previous similar events.

That and you've got the details of the plot, which is that long ago, Triton got to see his wife and mother of their eight or nine daughters get run over by a pirate ship(!?!?!) while all the merpeople were having fun and playing music.  And so Triton declares war on... music.  Not pirates.  Music was the problem there.  Ariel grows up without music until she learns that it is a thing thanks to Flounder and Sebastian, and you can guess the rest.

So we get to see Flounder beat-boxing and playing air-guitar, which is even more tedious than it sounds, and we also get to see him generally acting not the least little bit like he does in the original (for extra fun times, he also has been given a screechy, earsplitting, hyperactive little kid voice -- though thankfully not a lot of screentime).  The animation is sloppy, to the point where they forget that the whole thing takes place in water and they forget to do things like not break the 180 degrees rule.  I have not got the slightest idea what in the hell the aforementioned villain was exactly trying to accomplish.  Or, come to mention it, why any of the characters were doing the things they were doing.

There's also the fact that it was very prescient of me to watch that Patton Oswalt sketch linked above some time before I watched this.  Because in opening scenes of this prequel, Ariel is a little girl and her mom dies and she's sad.  Honest to God.

And oh, the songs.  They are a disgrace.  When your best song is a cover of "Jump in the Line" (no, they couldn't even be bothered to write a new original song for Sebastian; that tells you everything you need to know about this "Little Mermaid" prequel), and even the villain song is terrible, you don't deserve to even have "Little Mermaid" in your title.

"The Little Mermaid 3" was famously, mercifully, Disney's very last official DTV sequel.  All told, they spent fourteen years making sequels and made nearly thirty of the damn things.  It was a very weird and mostly regretful period in the studio's history.

There is a part of me who is glad that I satisfied my morbid curiosity about this, but it's going to take an awful lot to detox my brain.


Sketch of the Day!

Hipster Tiktaalik was hating DTV sequels before it was cool!

It's Hipster Tiktaalik!


raptor_044 said...

"Or go watch the much more extensive two-part episode of The Nostalgia Chick on the same subject that -and you have to believe me here- I just now became aware of."

Out of curiosity, was it my comment about the "1 reviewer" that led to you finding out about The Nostalgia Chick? Also, is your Tiktaalik wearing tiny sunglasses?


Trish said...

I watched the "Nostalgia Chick" episodes right before you posted that, as a matter of fact. And yes, he's wearing tiny Hipster-glasses.

(I don't know what a Hipster is.)