When The Little Mermaid debut in 1989, the film set off a tidal wave of musical theatre storytelling through animation—the studio’s saving grace and a form that would become synonymous with the Disney name. Songwriting team Alan Menken and Howard Ashman masterminded that original musical, which now celebrates its 30th anniversary and 30 years since its two Academy Award wins for Best Original Score and Best Original Song “Under the Sea” in 1989. Sebastian’s boisterous showstopper may have won the hearts of the Academy, but Jodi Benson as the voice of Ariel personifies the Disney philosophy.
To hear Benson sing “Part of Your World” is to be transported back to the beginning, to the moment where she and the Mermaid team set the precedent for stories led by strong princesses and unbeatable leading women—as well as the demand for the best in vocal talent.
Benson was the first Broadway talent tapped to lend her voice, having made her Main Stem debut in Smile. From 1989 to 2010, composer Menken continued casting theatre talent to sing his Disney scores, including Paige O’Hara for Beauty and the Beast’s Belle, Judy Kuhn for Pocahontas’ titular savior, Lillias White for Hercules’ lead muse Calliope, and Donna Murphy for Tangled’s Mother Gothel.
In celebration of The Little Mermaid’s 30th, Disney gathered Menken and these five leading ladies to talk about their characters, singing Menken music, and more for a bonus feature available only on the upcoming re-release of The Little Mermaid as part of the Walt Disney Signature Collection.
Available on digital, 4k Ultra HD, and Movies Anywhere February 12 and on 4k Ultra HD and Blu-ray February 26, The Little Mermaid also includes new bonus features inside the original recording sessions; a new installment of Stories From Walt’s Office, featuring “Gadgets & Gizmos” Disney kept in his office; a “#TreasuresUntold” special, revealing secrets about the original movie; DCappella’s fresh music video of “Part of Your World”; sing-along mode; and classic bonus features like deleted scenes, audio commentary from directors Ron Clements, John Musker, and Menken. Plus, only available on digital, three additional hours of bonus features and “Part of Your World” – A 30-Year Retrospective where Menken and Benson talk about finding Ariel’s voice, the peak of Disney “I Want” songs, and more.
Playbill got the exclusive peek inside “Alan Menken and His Leading Ladies,” filmed in New York City. Take a look at these two clips (above and below) as Menken, Benson, O’Hara, Kuhn, White, and Murphy gather around the piano to discuss the creation of their movies and sing from the songs they put their stamp on.
Watch Murphy re-create her performance as Mother Gothel below!