Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea - Special Edition (The)
R1 - America - Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Jeremiah Chin (11th January 2009).
The Film

With the initial theatrical release of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” in 1938, Disney set the standard for animated feature films that wouldn’t really be equaled for years to come. Now over 70 years later, Disney seems to spend more time pumping out the sequels and prequels to its previous animated successes which are mere shadows of the animation level that it’s earlier work put out. While Disney hasn’t gone back far enough to touch the original films like “Snow White,” it has no problem grafting more onto stories like “The Little Mermaid” (1989) with the lower quality sequel “The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea” (2000) and then re-releasing a special edition of this sequel 8 years later.

Picking up a short time after the original, “Little Mermaid II” starts just after the birth of Ariel’s (Jodi Benson) daughter Melanie (Tara Strong), who has a grand “Lion King” (1994) esque ceremony at sea where Ariel and her husband join Triton (Kenneth Mars) and all the sea creatures in celebrating the birth of Triton’s granddaughter. However the joy doesn’t last as Morgana (Pat Carroll), Ursula’s sister, comes to take vengeance for the death of her sister in the previous film and promises to take vengeance on Melanie if she ever comes into the ocean again. 12 years later Melanie is obsessed with the sea and dreams of being out there, secretly watched by Sebastian (Samuel E. Wright) for all the years that she has been confined to land to avoid Morgana’s evil. But of course Melanie’s curiosity can’t be contained and she’s drawn to the sea, eventually getting caught unawarres in a deal with Morgana to become a mermaid so she can live out her dream of being at sea.

The story isn’t particularly engaging and neither is the film. Like most of the Disney sequels, prequels and mid-quels, the film in no way even comes close to comparing to the original and feels more like an elongated episode of a television series based off of “The Little Mermaid” rather than an attempted sequel. (Though with a below feature length 69 minute runtime it’s not hard to imagine it as a made for Disney Channel feature). All of the songs are incredibly lackluster and forgettable, which is fairly representative of the film as a whole. Too much of the plot is based off of bad swimming or fish puns that the film doesn’t take itself seriously enough as a product to really earn much of my respect, though for younger audiences this may be just fine or easily overlooked.

In terms of voice acting, “The Little Mermaid II” does a fairly good job as Benson, Mars, Carroll and Wright all reprise their characters from the original film (with only Carroll reprising a different character), it’s just a shame that they weren’t really given much to work with. The rest of the cast is incredibly grating on the nerves as they disconnect entirely from the original film, not to say that they aren’t good voice actors in their own right, but they just don’t match up well with the original actors in the least. The new talent is fairly standard, though I seem to find the under-rated Clancy Brown showing up in everything I watch lately, a fairly “Lost” (2004-Present) connection.

Overall, “The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea” is about what you would expect from a Disney direct-to-DVD sequel: the animation feels cheap and uninspired compared to the original (though thankfully no random CG elements that tend to be thrown in), as do the songs and story. The voice actors are fine for what’s there, but what’s there just isn’t very good to begin with. It would be nice to see Disney make a greater effort at a sequel in a bigger budget or theatrical setting, like what they did with “The Rescuers” series, it’s not like they don’t have the money to try.

Video

The film is presented in an odd 1.66:1 anamorphic aspect ratio that has a fairly clean transfer that doesn’t seem to have any major problems other than the original product. The color depth just isn’t there and if you watch this on any kind of upconverting DVD player the cheapness of the animation just becomes all the more tangible.

Audio

Presented with either English, French or Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, the sound transfer is okay, there are no huge flaws with the work at hand, but there just isn’t much beyond the actual product. The sound doesn’t seem to move well, either due to the plain-ness of the original soundtrack or the transfer, though I’m inclined to think it was the former.
Optional subtitles are in English, French and Spanish.

Extras

The single disc comes equipped with a collection of special features available on the original disc with a few new extras. There’s a deleted song, a bonus short film, along with a DVD storybook, a trio of interactive games as well as bonus trailers. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

The deleted song “Gonna Get My Wish” runs for 1 minute and 54 seconds, is a missing duet between Morgana and Undertow (Clancy Brown), continuing with the mother/sister issues that Morgana displayed in the movie. Interesting that they decided to cut something out considering the short length of the film, but it doesn’t really seem crucial to the film’s plot other than continuing some of Morgana’s issues and showing a young Ursula.

“Underwater Mer-Venture: Travel Game” is the first interactive game on the disc and asks the viewer to engage in a mermaid adventure by guiding Melanie through obstacles to get to Atlantica. A fairly generic and disinteresting DVD game.

Next is the second interactive game, “‘The Little Mermaid II’ Trivia Game” which asks multiple choice questions about the film you just watched that are fairly straightforward and simple, going through the film in almost chronological order.

“What Am I?” is the final interactive game where a certain animal or thing ids described to the listener who then has a multiple choice option to guess at the different animal. On guessing the correct answer, the viewer is treated to “Little Mermaid” clips of the animal and some real life footage of the creature in it’s real environment.

“The Little Mermaid II” DVD storybook runs for 10 minutes and 7 seconds. This feature presents a series of still frames from the film in the form of a picture book read aloud by Benson with text on the screen allowing viewers to read along.

Finally is “Merbabies” an animated short film which runs 8 minutes and 34 seconds from Disney’s early years. Undoubtedly the best thing on the disc, showing off some of Disney’s early animation styling in this short presentation about baby mermaids who grow up on a rock, splash in the ocean, all set to a great orchestral soundtrack.

The bonus trailers are:

- "Disney DVD/Blu-ray" spot runs for 52 seconds.
- “Pinocchio” runs for 1 minute and 27 seconds.
- “The Princess and the Frog” runs for 1 minute and 9 seconds.
- “Space Buddies” runs for 1 minute and 29 seconds.
- “Oliver and Company” runs for 1 minute and 2 seconds.
- “Cheeta Girls: One World” runs for 32 seconds.
- “Disney Movie Rewards” runs for 20 seconds.
- “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” runs for 55 seconds.
- “Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure” runs for 1 minute and 1 second.
- “Wizards of Waverly Place” runs for 32 seconds.
- “Tigger & Pooh and a Musical Too” runs for 57 seconds.
- “School House Rock! Earth” runs for 32 seconds.
- “Think Fast” runs for 32 seconds.
- “The Secret of the Magic Gourd” runs for 2 minutes and 12 seconds.

Overall

The Film: F Video: B- Audio: C+ Extras: D+ Overall: D+

 


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