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13 Curious And Unsettling Questions Raised By Disney's The Little Mermaid

Disney's The Little Mermaid is a cherished animated classic filled with music, magic, and romance! ...And questions. Loooots of questions.

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Author's note: For the sake of argument -- and because I'm trying my best to be funny, c'mon -- the questions raised by this article are in reference to the original 1989 animated film ONLY, not the subsequent direct-to-video sequel, prequel, the television show, or any of the Kingdom Hearts games, all of which are considered to be canon.

#1. Exactly how many mermaids has King Triton impregnated?

King Triton has six daughters of indeterminate age, and a seventh -- the youngest, Ariel -- who is sixteen. Yet, save for the fact that everyone has the same color eyes, none of these girls resemble each other very much.We're dealing with cartoon mermaids here, so there's really no way to gauge general age by facial features. If we work under the assumption that all of these girls had the same mermom -- and that mermaid physiology is similar to humans, gestational periods and whatnot -- you could just throw down a blanket guess of somewhere close to 22, 21, 20, 19, 18, 17, and 16. At which point, naturally, mermom up and died. Because yikes. But while that's certainly one option, the other could be even simpler -- that the rules of the ocean are kinky and strange, and that King Triton has lots of merwives/merbabes. Either that or mermaids are hatched from eggs like little fish fry, in which case, AAA-DORABLE.
Via Disney Screencaps

King Triton has six daughters of indeterminate age, and a seventh -- the youngest, Ariel -- who is sixteen. Yet, save for the fact that everyone has the same color eyes, none of these girls resemble each other very much.

We're dealing with cartoon mermaids here, so there's really no way to gauge general age by facial features. If we work under the assumption that all of these girls had the same mermom -- and that mermaid physiology is similar to humans, gestational periods and whatnot -- you could just throw down a blanket guess of somewhere close to 22, 21, 20, 19, 18, 17, and 16. At which point, naturally, mermom up and died. Because yikes. But while that's certainly one option, the other could be even simpler -- that the rules of the ocean are kinky and strange, and that King Triton has lots of merwives/merbabes. Either that or mermaids are hatched from eggs like little fish fry, in which case, AAA-DORABLE.

#2. Is King Triton inadvertently murdering sailors with his bad attitude?

Ariel spies a shipwreck she's been looking to investigate. Accompanied by Flounder, she explores the wreckage.An extraordinary amount of battered ship carcasses litter the sea floor in a rather small area. We don't see any especially dangerous looking rock formations that could be the culprit, so we're left to wonder why exactly so many ships sank to their watery graves. The simplest theory would be that this is the scene of an epic sea battle. Flounder DOES run right into a skeleton aboard the one ship with a sword thrust through it's ribcage, so this might be a foregone conclusion. Although, a more colorful theory is this -- in the opening scene aboard Prince Eric's ship, a sailor comments on the fair weather by saying that "King Triton must be in a friendly-type mood." If we follow the sailor's line of reasoning, would it then mean that whenever King Triton felt particularly bitchy the seas would become deadly? That's bad news for the humans because King Triton is constantly in a bitchy mood.
Via Disney Screencaps

Ariel spies a shipwreck she's been looking to investigate. Accompanied by Flounder, she explores the wreckage.

An extraordinary amount of battered ship carcasses litter the sea floor in a rather small area. We don't see any especially dangerous looking rock formations that could be the culprit, so we're left to wonder why exactly so many ships sank to their watery graves. The simplest theory would be that this is the scene of an epic sea battle. Flounder DOES run right into a skeleton aboard the one ship with a sword thrust through it's ribcage, so this might be a foregone conclusion. Although, a more colorful theory is this -- in the opening scene aboard Prince Eric's ship, a sailor comments on the fair weather by saying that "King Triton must be in a friendly-type mood." If we follow the sailor's line of reasoning, would it then mean that whenever King Triton felt particularly bitchy the seas would become deadly? That's bad news for the humans because King Triton is constantly in a bitchy mood.

#3. How long did it take for the shark to asphyxiate?

Ariel and Flounder are chased through the ship graveyard by a hungry shark! As he makes a speedy dive to eat Flounder, he becomes entangled in an anchor and they manage to escape.Great white sharks may have the reputation for being Serial Killers of the Sea -- and our friend here isn't really doing much to advance any other agenda, being a scary shit and all -- it's pretty well known that if sharks cease to move water over their gills, they will die. So while we may not harbor any sympathy for this shark, it's kind of depressing to think that he probably died a slow and agonizing death over the course of many hours (if he was lucky) or many days (if he was not), but to add insult to injury, he died hungry.
Via Disney Screencaps

Ariel and Flounder are chased through the ship graveyard by a hungry shark! As he makes a speedy dive to eat Flounder, he becomes entangled in an anchor and they manage to escape.

Great white sharks may have the reputation for being Serial Killers of the Sea -- and our friend here isn't really doing much to advance any other agenda, being a scary shit and all -- it's pretty well known that if sharks cease to move water over their gills, they will die. So while we may not harbor any sympathy for this shark, it's kind of depressing to think that he probably died a slow and agonizing death over the course of many hours (if he was lucky) or many days (if he was not), but to add insult to injury, he died hungry.

#4. Did we just get an eyeful of Ursula's fishbits?

In her introductory scene, Ursula the Sea Witch languishes in her lofty bed, eating, and complaining loudly about King Triton and his court. She drops to the floor to continue her monologue.The camera gets a rather up-close-and-personal shot of Ursula's tentacles as she descends on the screen, blacking it out. But with what, exactly? Again, we enter the headache-inducing realm of speculating on cartoon merfolk anatomy. If you take her character design for what it is, she's not technically even wearing clothes. Now, I'm not trying to imply that betwixt her many squiggly legs Ursula has a proper vagina, but -- if she did -- that's exactly where it would be.
Via Disney Screencaps

In her introductory scene, Ursula the Sea Witch languishes in her lofty bed, eating, and complaining loudly about King Triton and his court. She drops to the floor to continue her monologue.

The camera gets a rather up-close-and-personal shot of Ursula's tentacles as she descends on the screen, blacking it out. But with what, exactly? Again, we enter the headache-inducing realm of speculating on cartoon merfolk anatomy. If you take her character design for what it is, she's not technically even wearing clothes. Now, I'm not trying to imply that betwixt her many squiggly legs Ursula has a proper vagina, but -- if she did -- that's exactly where it would be.

#5. Is Ariel a war profiteer?

Ariel has a fight with her father and swims off to her secret trove, filled with cherished items from the human world. Where did all of those gadgets and gizmos come from, exactly? Why, from the field of shipwrecks, of course! Regardless of whether or not the ships were downed by King Triton (like I suggested) or the more likely sea battle, the fact remains that hundreds of people probably died and this is their stuff. These items were aboard ships, on their way to new destinations -- along with their owners, or at the very least, deliverymen -- and now everything has sunk to the bottom of the sea. Considering the sheer amount of thingamabobs in her collection, the likelihood that Ariel had to sift through at least a few corpses to gain some of them is a very real one. However, since Ariel isn't benefiting monetarily from the resale of these items, it's probably not fair to call her a profiteer. Perhaps "grave robber" is a tad more appropriate.
Via Disney Screencaps

Ariel has a fight with her father and swims off to her secret trove, filled with cherished items from the human world. Where did all of those gadgets and gizmos come from, exactly? Why, from the field of shipwrecks, of course!

Regardless of whether or not the ships were downed by King Triton (like I suggested) or the more likely sea battle, the fact remains that hundreds of people probably died and this is their stuff. These items were aboard ships, on their way to new destinations -- along with their owners, or at the very least, deliverymen -- and now everything has sunk to the bottom of the sea. Considering the sheer amount of thingamabobs in her collection, the likelihood that Ariel had to sift through at least a few corpses to gain some of them is a very real one. However, since Ariel isn't benefiting monetarily from the resale of these items, it's probably not fair to call her a profiteer. Perhaps "grave robber" is a tad more appropriate.

#6. How did no sailors on Eric's crew recognized an imminent hurricane?

Eric and crew are celebrating his birthday when a huge storm appears out of nowhere.For all of the grizzled, experienced seamen aboard his ship, not a one of them noticed a goddamn hurricane approaching until it was literally hitting the boat. Sure they were distracted, what with the fireworks and the music and all, but it seems rather inexcusable when all is said and done. They had one job, and that job was to NOT kill their liege lord with gross incompetence. While Prince Eric definitely seems like a reasonable and caring ruler, you can bet that he doesn't hire the same crew twice. Although, considering he never does ask after the crew to find out who survived, maybe he's totally fine with the idea of them all rotting away in the ocean as payment for their own stupidity.
Via Disney Screencaps

Eric and crew are celebrating his birthday when a huge storm appears out of nowhere.

For all of the grizzled, experienced seamen aboard his ship, not a one of them noticed a goddamn hurricane approaching until it was literally hitting the boat. Sure they were distracted, what with the fireworks and the music and all, but it seems rather inexcusable when all is said and done. They had one job, and that job was to NOT kill their liege lord with gross incompetence. While Prince Eric definitely seems like a reasonable and caring ruler, you can bet that he doesn't hire the same crew twice. Although, considering he never does ask after the crew to find out who survived, maybe he's totally fine with the idea of them all rotting away in the ocean as payment for their own stupidity.

#7. Does Ariel's appearance foreshadow her actions?

Ariel has six older sisters, each with their own unique look.Out of all seven sisters, Ariel is only one who doesn't color-coordinate her seashells to match her fin color. She is, again, the only one out of all seven sisters who has free-flowing, wild hair. I would argue that this was intentional on Disney's part -- a cute, subtle cue. Even if we're not consciously aware of it while watching the movie, on some level we know ahead of time -- because of the innocuous seashells and hairstyle -- that Ariel doesn't fit in with the other mermaids and that she is also more daring and adventurous.
Via Disney Screencaps

Ariel has six older sisters, each with their own unique look.

Out of all seven sisters, Ariel is only one who doesn't color-coordinate her seashells to match her fin color. She is, again, the only one out of all seven sisters who has free-flowing, wild hair. I would argue that this was intentional on Disney's part -- a cute, subtle cue. Even if we're not consciously aware of it while watching the movie, on some level we know ahead of time -- because of the innocuous seashells and hairstyle -- that Ariel doesn't fit in with the other mermaids and that she is also more daring and adventurous.

#8. How the hell did Flounder move Eric's stone statue?

Flounder spirits Ariel away from Sebastian's big musical number and surprises her with the statue of Prince Eric. Ariel is overjoyed to have such a hunky new addition to her collection.While he's definitely a dear and devoted friend, Flounder is also a chubby little fish with no upper body strength. In his introductory scene, we see him get wedged in a porthole, flailing his little fins to no effect. He is uncorked by Ariel, who almost rips his goddamn fins off. Later in the film, we see him bravely attempt to pull Ariel along to catch the wedding barge, which is a shocking success considering how uselessly he splashes and struggles. The only real option here is that Flounder coerced other fish into helping him, and while the statue is indeed a very nice (sexy) surprise, the grotto is also supposed to be a secret . It stands to reason that had Sebastian not blabbed to King Triton, he would have certainly found out about Ariel's collection eventually.

Flounder spirits Ariel away from Sebastian's big musical number and surprises her with the statue of Prince Eric. Ariel is overjoyed to have such a hunky new addition to her collection.

While he's definitely a dear and devoted friend, Flounder is also a chubby little fish with no upper body strength. In his introductory scene, we see him get wedged in a porthole, flailing his little fins to no effect. He is uncorked by Ariel, who almost rips his goddamn fins off. Later in the film, we see him bravely attempt to pull Ariel along to catch the wedding barge, which is a shocking success considering how uselessly he splashes and struggles. The only real option here is that Flounder coerced other fish into helping him, and while the statue is indeed a very nice (sexy) surprise, the grotto is also supposed to be a secret . It stands to reason that had Sebastian not blabbed to King Triton, he would have certainly found out about Ariel's collection eventually.

#9. Is King Triton aware that the last words he speaks to his daughter come during his epic hissy fit?

King Triton discovers Ariel's collection of human things in her secret grotto and catches her play-flirting with the statue of Prince Eric. He is PISSED. Burning with righteous indignation, he tells Ariel, "So help me, Ariel, I am going to get through to you; and if this is the only way, so be it!" Then he goes bananas.It's clear that he immediately regrets what he's done, evidenced by his Oh Shit face. During the remainder of the film King Triton: talks about his regrets, worriedly sends searchers to locate his missing daughter, confronts Ursula, sacrifices himself in Ariel's stead, concedes that his daughter would be better off following her heart, magics-her-up some fancy new legs, and attends her wedding. However, once he's found Ariel again, King Triton doesn't actually say a single word to her. She hugs him emotionally, whispering, "I love you, Daddy," and... nothing. Rainbow. Credits. While that's certainly weird, I found it even weirder that I've been watching this movie for twenty years and this only just occurred to me.
Via Disney Screencaps

King Triton discovers Ariel's collection of human things in her secret grotto and catches her play-flirting with the statue of Prince Eric. He is PISSED. Burning with righteous indignation, he tells Ariel, "So help me, Ariel, I am going to get through to you; and if this is the only way, so be it!" Then he goes bananas.

It's clear that he immediately regrets what he's done, evidenced by his Oh Shit face. During the remainder of the film King Triton: talks about his regrets, worriedly sends searchers to locate his missing daughter, confronts Ursula, sacrifices himself in Ariel's stead, concedes that his daughter would be better off following her heart, magics-her-up some fancy new legs, and attends her wedding. However, once he's found Ariel again, King Triton doesn't actually say a single word to her. She hugs him emotionally, whispering, "I love you, Daddy," and... nothing. Rainbow. Credits. While that's certainly weird, I found it even weirder that I've been watching this movie for twenty years and this only just occurred to me.

#10. What other mischief did Ursula get up to?

Ursula transforms herself into the beautiful human "Vanessa." She hypnotizes the Prince and sets about to marry him in an effort to thwart Ariel's romantic progress and queer the deal.Not that certain spells don't take a bigger toll than others, but if it's that easy to simply transform herself and control others, who's to say what Ursula's done with her free time? We're under the impression that she's spent her days wasting away in exile, but it's clear she's not above breaking the rules to serve her own agenda. Why should she honor King Triton's decree? If she has the ability to alter herself physically to that degree, why not go to the palace? Why not take in the odd concert? In fact, it seems a bit wimpy on King Triton's behalf to simply exile her in the first place, knowing the breadth of her powers and her gleefully loose morals.

Ursula transforms herself into the beautiful human "Vanessa." She hypnotizes the Prince and sets about to marry him in an effort to thwart Ariel's romantic progress and queer the deal.

Not that certain spells don't take a bigger toll than others, but if it's that easy to simply transform herself and control others, who's to say what Ursula's done with her free time? We're under the impression that she's spent her days wasting away in exile, but it's clear she's not above breaking the rules to serve her own agenda. Why should she honor King Triton's decree? If she has the ability to alter herself physically to that degree, why not go to the palace? Why not take in the odd concert? In fact, it seems a bit wimpy on King Triton's behalf to simply exile her in the first place, knowing the breadth of her powers and her gleefully loose morals.

#11. Who's on giant dead Sea Witch clean up duty?

Prince Eric valiantly impales Ursula with the prow of a sunken ship. She is also simultaneously struck by lightning -- one of the most yikes villain deaths in the Disney film franchise.That is a lot of dead Sea Witch. Sure, the sea -- and all the little ocean critters -- will inexorably strip the flesh from her gigantic bones. However, it's not unrealistic to assume that great chunks of Ursula would start washing up on the beach after a few days. This is no ordinary rotting carcass! At the time of her rather gruesome demise she was magically enormous. It's a little grotesque, but not entirely wrong to think that Ariel and Eric's wedding barge sailed off through an oily ocean of Ursula-slurry.
Via Disney Screencaps

Prince Eric valiantly impales Ursula with the prow of a sunken ship. She is also simultaneously struck by lightning -- one of the most yikes villain deaths in the Disney film franchise.

That is a lot of dead Sea Witch. Sure, the sea -- and all the little ocean critters -- will inexorably strip the flesh from her gigantic bones. However, it's not unrealistic to assume that great chunks of Ursula would start washing up on the beach after a few days. This is no ordinary rotting carcass! At the time of her rather gruesome demise she was magically enormous. It's a little grotesque, but not entirely wrong to think that Ariel and Eric's wedding barge sailed off through an oily ocean of Ursula-slurry.

#12. Has nobody noted dozens of missing merfolk?

As Ursula dies, her web of magic spells is undone. All of the cursed merfolk are suddenly released from their twisted, shriveled little forms in a cascade of joyful sparkles.The ocean is a dangerous place, and Triton's kingdom is no exception. Scores of individuals have gone missing, secretly doomed to be little twitching penis gremlins in Ursula's cave. Someone was bound to notice that many people disappearing. It's unclear whether or not the cursed exist outside of time -- or if they age, stuck there to the sea floor. So who's to say if all of these merpeople were cursed within a few years of each other, or over a much longer period of time? We can only hazard a guess that perhaps Ursula started cursing people after she was exiled from the kingdom. Although, that might have been why she was exiled in the first place -- in which case, Triton. Dude. If you were aware of it, you shouldn't have just left your citizens to languish in shivering winkle hell. Or perhaps life is cheap in the sea, and for every mermaid that went missing, there was a family who just assumed she was eaten by a shark.
Via Disney Screencaps

As Ursula dies, her web of magic spells is undone. All of the cursed merfolk are suddenly released from their twisted, shriveled little forms in a cascade of joyful sparkles.

The ocean is a dangerous place, and Triton's kingdom is no exception. Scores of individuals have gone missing, secretly doomed to be little twitching penis gremlins in Ursula's cave. Someone was bound to notice that many people disappearing. It's unclear whether or not the cursed exist outside of time -- or if they age, stuck there to the sea floor. So who's to say if all of these merpeople were cursed within a few years of each other, or over a much longer period of time? We can only hazard a guess that perhaps Ursula started cursing people after she was exiled from the kingdom. Although, that might have been why she was exiled in the first place -- in which case, Triton. Dude. If you were aware of it, you shouldn't have just left your citizens to languish in shivering winkle hell. Or perhaps life is cheap in the sea, and for every mermaid that went missing, there was a family who just assumed she was eaten by a shark.

#13. How will Chef Louis continue his career now that he can't eat solids?

For the crime of trying to catch one pesky crab, Chef Louis has all of his teeth hilariously shattered.He may have been violently overzealous in his pursuit of Sebastian, but it's questionable whether or not he deserved this horrible fate. While Louis certainly could find a way to continue on his career path despite the physical setback, is it wrong to assume that cooking food one can no longer eat might be woefully depressing? For Louis, Head Chef of the Palace, this is certain to be relentlessly humiliating, not to mention largely painful.
Via Disney Screencaps

For the crime of trying to catch one pesky crab, Chef Louis has all of his teeth hilariously shattered.

He may have been violently overzealous in his pursuit of Sebastian, but it's questionable whether or not he deserved this horrible fate. While Louis certainly could find a way to continue on his career path despite the physical setback, is it wrong to assume that cooking food one can no longer eat might be woefully depressing? For Louis, Head Chef of the Palace, this is certain to be relentlessly humiliating, not to mention largely painful.

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