This collection of four press photos, promoting the release of Walt Disney’s 1989 classic The Little Mermaid, features a behind-the-scenes shot of the film’s production, as well as three stills representing some of the film’s most memorable moments.
In addition to its immense popularity, The Little Mermaid, which was released on November 17, 1989, is also significant for its role in sparking the ten-year revival of Disney animation, known as the Disney Renaissance, which brought unparalleled success to the studio, after the disappointing downturn in quality and public reception of its animated features in the years following Walt Disney’s death. The film, based on the Hans Christian Andersen story, also saw a return to the traditional fairytale genre, within which Walt had initially established his animation empire. The writing, producing, and directing talents of Ron Clements and John Musker, along with the inspired animation of Disney artists such as Glen Keane, Mark Henn, and Andrea Deja, and memorable compositions by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman propelled the film to three Academy Award nominations, two of which it won.
Glen Keane, who can be seen in the first of the black-and white photos, served as character designer and supervising animator for the film’s beloved heroine, Ariel. He began his career at the studio fifteen years prior as an animator on The Rescuers. Though leaving Disney on a full-time basis in the early-80s, he contributed to various projects as a freelance artist, and by the time production began on The Little Mermaid, his list of credits included such films as Pete’s Dragon, The Fox and the Hound, Mickey’s Christmas Carol, The Black Cauldron, The Great Mouse Detective, and Oliver and Co. Keane then became one of the key catalysts in the late-80s/early-90s animation revival at Disney, animating the lead characters in four of the first six hit films of the period: The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and Pocahontas. His career continued through the 90s and into the next decade, during which time he breathed life into Disney characters like Tarzan, Long John Silver in Treasure Planet, and Rapunzel in Tangled. He left the studio in 2012 to continue to pursue the art form independently and was named a Disney Legend a year later.
In the photo labeled LMBB-14, Keane can be seen sitting at an animator’s desk, looking over concept sketches of one of his most famous animated creations, The Little Mermaid herself.
The following photo, M23-161, shows the lovable Sebastian the Crab (voiced by Samuel E. Wright) mid-song in the film’s memorable Kiss the Girl sequence.
The final two photos, M23-184 and M23-191, show the film’s protagonist (voiced by Jodi Benson) alongside both Prince Eric (Christopher Daniel Barnes) and Ursula the Sea Witch (Pat Carroll), respectively.
This four-photo collection from the release of one of Walt Disney Animation’s most popular films of all time, and the start of the Disney Renaissance, represents a unique memento of not only The Little Mermaid and the talented individuals who brought the story to life, but a piece of animation and studio history, as well.