The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea is a 2000 Disney animated feature film and direct-to-video sequel to the 1989 animated film The Little Mermaid.
Directed by Jim Kammerud and Brian Smith, the story takes place over a decade after the original film, and focuses on Ariel and Eric’s daughter Melody, a human princess who longs to swim in the ocean despite her parents’ law that the sea is forbidden to her. This sequel stars the voices of Jodi Benson as Ariel, Tara Charendoff as Melody and Pat Carroll as Morgana, the film’s new villain. It is the last film in the chronology of Walt Disney’s version of The Little Mermaid.
It’s followed by a prequel, The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning, a 2008 direct-to-video animated feature.
The premise is kind of interesting, doing a role reversal of the original movie where Ariel’s daughter dreams of life in the sea while Ariel’s dreams in the original movie were to live on the land, there’s potential to make this an interesting conflict.
But unfortunately, the movie just can’t make it work, it just feels like the only real goal behind this was simply, “let’s bring back all these beloved characters people fell in love with the first time around, have an interesting premise but do nothing with it, and just do typical bad kids movie clichés and…fuck it, let’s throw in Timon & Pumbaa-like characters because you know, we didn’t already have more than worthy comic relief in this already in Sebastian, Scuttle, and Flounder.”
Oh by the way, why not have Ursula back in this? Okay, she died in the first movie but it’s not like nobody has ever brought back villains who we previously believed were dead, but if you’re gonna go to all the trouble of bringing Pat Carroll back as this new character, why not just have the return of the old character. But then again, the next Little Mermaid movie they did ruins the continuity of that villain more…sort of, wait until we get to Ariel’s Beginning for more on that.
As far as this movie goes, it just doesn’t come together, it’s nice that they got some of the voice actors back from the original movie and there’s good casting in having Tara Strong as the voice of Ariel’s daughter but then again, these characters are not given motivations that relate to everything they dealt with in the last movie. Hell, Eric barely has anything to do in this, Rob Paulsen’s kind of wasted on this role replacing Christopher Daniel Barnes from the first film.
The biggest problem with the movie is that the animation just seems so watered down like the effort wasn’t there. Go back and look at the original Little Mermaid and you can see the passion and the creativity with the animation, a role so important that Glen Keane, one of the top Disney animators at the time, begged the animation studio to let him do the animation for Ariel saying that he had to do it and that “he could feel it in his heart” to do it:
Anybody with that much passion into drawing that character knows he’s gonna give it all and when you see the final product, you see why Glen Keane is one of Disney’s best animators:
In this movie, that passion is not there, the animation seems watered down, looks way too much like something out of a Disney Afternoon show than a Disney direct-to-video feature and the expressions are more robotic here than animated.
The Little Mermaid II: Return To The Sea is a lackluster sequel to one of the definitive animated movies of its’ generation and they took something that should’ve been interesting and just nothing is there, this is nothing but a badly put together cashgrab with only a third of the effort that went to the original film being put into this. When people think of bad Disney direct-to-video sequels, this is exactly what they are thinking of.
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