With her fiery, aquatic teen spirit, Ariel and her underwater friends almost single-handedly revived the modern-day animated feature in 1989's The Little Mermaid, putting Disney back on top of the the cartoon heap for years to come.
The Saturday morning series Disney's The Little Mermaid cashed in on the phenomenal success of the feature animated musical, which was based on Hans Christian Anderson's 19th century fairy tale. Although the TV series came three years after the movie's premiere, it served as a prequel to the film, taking place two years before Ariel would meet landlubber Prince Eric.
The series found a 14-year-old Ariel exploring her undersea world, usually against the wishes of her stern father, King Triton. Like most teens, the rebellious Ariel got herself into a variety of predicaments, relying on her kindness and sea-smarts to work her way out of the mess. In the end, daughter and father were always reconciled, and one or both would learn a valuable lesson.
Many other characters from the film returned for the Saturday morning series, including Ariel's best friends—the calypso-singing crab Sebastian, the vigilant Flounder, and the loony albatross Scuttle. There were also new characters along for the ride, including a young mer-tyke named Urchin, fellow mer-teens Shelly, Coral, Gabriella, and Pearl, handsome mer-boy Gil, and a baby whale named Spot.
Similar to the theatrical version, the series included its fair share of no-holds-barred musical numbers, with many of the film's original talent back on board to lend their voices. One notable difference was the exclusion of the wicked sea queen, Ursula. Instead, the sea dwellers were harassed by other baddies, including the Lobster Mobster & Da' Shrimp, Evil Manta, and Crab Louie.
Disney's The Little Mermaid was the first Saturday morning series adapted from a Disney animated feature, and its success prompted a flood of successors—Disney's Aladdin, The Lion King's Timon & Pumbaa, and several more. Young mer-fans made the show a hit in its three-season run, and Seabstian the Crab proved so popular he was given his own series of short segments on Disney's Marsupilami. As for the little mermaid herself, she became the most recognizable Disney heroine since Tinkerbell.
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