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  • Writer's pictureShannon Heibler

The Little Mermaid (1989)

Picture it: Waukesha, Wisconsin. 1990. Five year old Shannon has seen The Little Mermaid several times in theaters. She falls asleep to the soundtrack every night. It's almost her sixth birthday and she wants her party to be Little Mermaid themed but this was before marketing the living crap out of just released movies happened so there were no banners and goody bags and cake plates emblazoned with Ariel and friends, yet. But Shannon wanted it so she asked her mom for a pad of paper and started to draw out the characters (teeny tiny - like 2" high max) and tape the papers all over the basement. I wish I had copies of those drawings. I know my mom has a bunch of them somewhere. I remember I drew Sebastian (my favorite) with a heart shaped head.

Over 30 years later and I feel so far from that little girl but in some ways closer than ever. She didn't let herself stay down for very long and even then she knew the answer was creativity. Always.

Watching this movie now is a trip. It's delightful. The animation is simple by today's standards but it's such good, vibrant storytelling. I wish I knew why Disney was like, "yeah, make her sixteen and let her get married at the end" but maybe I'm better off not knowing. I have so many questions about that statue of Eric. Why present it on a boat (necessitating it being loaded onto and then eventually off of said boat)? How the heck did Flounder get it into the grotto? He's tiny and the entrances are teeny.

(How fabulous is the framing/motion of this shot??)

If you haven't checked out Zenimation on Disney+, I highly recommend it. The first episode is all water themed and as such, features lots of this film. It removes all music and dialogue so it's just sound design and visuals and it's breathtaking. Watching the movie now, I had much greater appreciation for the sound work.

The score is just sublime. Like Charade, I grew up listening to this and the music, more than anything, brings me right back to that small girl. The opening strains of "Fathoms Below", the hornpipe, the orchestrations for "Under the Sea" and "Kiss the Girl." I know that this film was the start of a new era for Disney and I think that has everything to do with Menken and Ashman.

I had a lovely meeting with my circle (Circle Six, wooo!) for The Midwives today and I had so many ideas about what I could do for this film. I've been thinking a lot about vulnerability lately and it feels so appropriate that this week I'm watching the first movie I really remember. And the memory is not just in watching the movie but in expressing myself creatively through the movie. (There's also an embarrassing/adorable cassette out there of five year old me singing along to every song. Oh yes. Every. Song.)

So when I started thinking about what I would do this week, I had several ideas. Then, when I was trying to winnow, I kept thinking "which of these projects will honor that little girl who was so bursting with creativity?" And then the answer came: all of them.

A little bit of everything.

Individual images of each piece below.


-Hooooo boy this had me feeling some things. If a genie granted me one wish, it would be to give my younger self a hug and reassurance and this piece/these pieces feel like I'm getting to do that. Because if I hadn't started then, I wouldn't be doing what I am now. (And that is absolutely true for all of us and whatever it is that we delight in doing.) -My original 1990 drawings are archived in my parents home and I do not have access to them. This was my best guess/remembering of my Sebastian. I recreated my writing by consulting an instructional chart for good ol' D'Nealian, which was taught in my grade school. I'm surprised at how effective this recreation was.

-This lino print was a learning experience. But I'm really excited to try more things with it. (I mixed/ombred the paint and then did two stamps. Learning!)

-I wanted to do a mini, an art practice I do weekly but haven't done for this project yet. But once I sat down with it I couldn't think what to do with it. I'm glad I included it, because it's very much representative of some of my art, but now I want to make it a focal point for a movie and maybe do a diorama or something? It deserved a little more love and fleshing out than it received. But I had so many Sebastians to do.

Embroidery on cotton. 3" hoop.

Block print.

Cut paper.

Acrylic paint on plastic mini. (Dire Crab from Reaper Miniatures)

Watercolor. (I 100% did this one just because I relate to this expression so hard.)

Marker on office paper.

Love you, Little Shannon. Keep on making and celebrating the things that delight you.

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