The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Overall, the film looked quite good, with only a few minor distractions.
Sharpness usually seemed crisp and well-detailed. Some light edge enhancement made wide shots a tad iffy, but those instances remained minor. Moiré effects and jagged edges caused no concerns, and the print was devoid of flaws; I saw no signs of grain, scratches, speckles, grit or other defects.
Colors looked vibrant and rich. Throughout the film, the hues were lovely, as they presented lush tones. Black levels were terrifically deep and dense, and shadow detail seemed appropriately opaque without any excessive heaviness. Only the mild softness/edge enhancement made this a “B+” presentation.
I thought Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Little Mermaid II worked fine. The soundfield favored the forward speakers but it seemed well-balanced nonetheless. The front channels displayed a nicely broad mix that featured an appropriate level of activity between those speakers. The surrounds also contributed some useful ambiance to the presentation, as they tossed in nice usage of music and some effects. The soundtrack enveloped me in a satisfying manner and it created a dimensional feel.
Audio quality also seemed solid. Dialogue was clear and distinct, with positive intelligibility and no signs of dullness or edginess. Effects were accurate and clean. The music seemed bright and lively, and it often offered decent bass. The mix sounded good, and the overall presentation was perfectly fine.
How did the picture and sound of this 2008 “Special Edition” compare to those of the original 2000 DVD? Unfortunately, I was unable to directly compare the two. I no longer own the original disc, and I couldn’t find a copy to rent.
I’d guess that the new disc provides similar audio and superior visuals. The old one lacked anamorphic enhancement, so it seems likely the 2008 edition looked notably better, especially on 16X9 TVs. I can’t change my old review without direct observation, but I’d be absolutely shocked if the 2000 disc provided visuals better or as good as this new release.
The Sea DVD incorporated a mix of old and new supplements. For the first exclusive component, we find a deleted song. “Gonna Get My Wish” lasts one minute, 54 seconds and shows Morgana as she gloats about her apparent upcoming victory. Like the rest of Sea, it’s bland and forgettable.
Next we find a classic short called Merbabies. This is an eight-minute and 35-second short from the "Silly Symphony" line. The cartoon is a bit of a dud, as it’s obscenely cutesy, but it's still a cool addition and a nice historical artifact.
Everything else appears under “Games and Activities”. A new addition shows up here: The Little Mermaid II Underwater Mer-Venture Challenge Game. This requires you to “master challenges” in three areas. All three are exceptionally easy. Don’t expect much of a reward for successful completion.
The rest of the components repeat from the original DVD. We also find some other Disney DVD staples. There's the traditional
16-question trivia game that should be easy for anyone who's seen the film, and we get a third contest as well: Who Am I? offers a few details about various sea critters and requires you to choose one of three options as to the beast's identity. If correct, you're rewarded with some brief but interesting educational material about the species.
Finally, the disc presents the standard DVD Storybook. This retells the tale of Sea and it allows you to either read the story on your own or have it read to you by a female narrator. In a nice touch, Jodi Benson provides the narration.
As the DVD starts, we encounter a mix of ads. We find trailers for Pinocchio, The Princess and the Frog, SpaceBuddies, Oliver And Company, The Cheetah Girls: One World and Disney Movie Rewards. These also appear in the DVD’s Sneak Peeks area along with clips for Beverly Hills Chihuahua, The Secret of the Magic Gourd, TinkerBell and the Lost Treasure, Tigger and Pooh and a Musical Too, Think Fast, Wizards of Waverly Place, and Schoolhouse Rock: Earth.
The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea offers another mildly entertaining but fairly limp direct-to-video movie from Disney. The story provides a virtual remake of the original but lacks the 1989 film's charm or quality; it's watchable but not anything special. The DVD presents good picture and sound plus a few minor extras. Like most of the Disney "DTV" programs, this one is best left to the die-hard fans.