The Little Mermaid appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. This was an appealing presentation.
Sharpness showed few concerns. The occasional wide shot appeared just a bit soft, but not to a distracting degree. Instead, the movie almost always appeared concise and well-defined.
I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and edge haloes also seemed to be absent. Don’t look for any print flaws, as they didn’t appear.
As usual for Disney animated fare, we found no grain. I admit “degrained” animated movies generally bother me less than their live-action counterparts, but I’d still prefer to see a more natural film-like vibe.
Colors looked solid. This meant the mix of primary tones seemed lively and distinctive. HDR added range and distinctiveness to the hues.
Blacks were deep and firm, while low-light shots demonstrated good clarity and delineation. HDR brought depth to contrast and whites. Only the smidgen of softness knocked this one below “A”-level, as it usually presented a top-notch image.
Downconverted to Dolby TrueHD 7.1, the Dolby Atmos soundfield offered a varied and active experience. The forward channels showed fine spread, as music demonstrated good stereo separation and presence.
Effects blended neatly and moved clearly across the speakers. Localization of these elements seemed strong, and they meshed together nicely.
The surrounds added a positive layer of reinforcement to both effects and music, especially during some of the film’s showier scenes. For example, fireworks and thunder echoed convincingly from the rear.
The rear speakers remained naturally integrated with the rest of the action. Overall, the soundfield created a vivid and involving piece.
Audio quality also seemed very good. Dialogue remained distinct and natural throughout the movie, as the speech integrated well with the animated action.
I heard no problems related to edginess or intelligibility. Effects demonstrated good presence and depth, and they showed accurate and vibrant tones.
Music appeared warm and dynamic as well. Both the score and songs showed fine clarity, and low-end response was fairly deep and tight. Ultimately, The Little Mermaid provided a solid auditory experience.
How did the 4K UHD compare to the Anniversary Blu-ray? Though the Atmos track might become a bit more engaging, it seemed pretty similar to the DTS-HD MA track from the Blu-ray.
The 4K’s visuals brought improvements, mainly in terms of colors and blacks. The image felt a smidgen sharper and more stable but not to a tremendous degree,
The 4K came across as a bit darker than the Blu-ray, and its colors seemed a little more subdued and natural. Again, these didn’t become major changes, but they made the 4K the superior option,
No extras appear on the 4K disc, but we get some on the included Blu-ray copy, where we open with an audio commentary from writer/director Ron Clement, writer/director John Musker, and composer Alan Menken. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific track. The commentary also throws in a few remarks from late composer Howard Ashman via a 1989 interview.
We find notes about visual choices and animation challenges, actors and performances, score and songs, altered/cut scenes and characters, inspirations and influences, and general trivia related to the flick. The latter element offers some fun notes like where we can find cameos from legendary Disney animated characters.
Although commentaries for animated flicks can be dry, this one never suffers from that problem. The men interact well and offer a lively little look at the movie.
Music receives a lot of attention as we learn many good notes about the score and tunes. All the other elements get their due as well in this tight and enjoyable chat.
We can watch the movie in Sing-Along Mode. As expected, this simply adds song lyrics at relevant moments. Fun?
We learn of a Deleted Character called “Harold the Merman” in a two-minute, five-second clip. Musker and Clements discuss this abandoned role and we see what he would’ve done in the final film via a short story reel. It’s actually a pretty decent segment, as it foreshadows Ursula’s “bargains” with the merpeople.
Under the Scene: The Art of Live-Action Reference goes for 13 minutes, 13 seconds and provides notes from Musker, Clements, Henn, Aquino, and actors Kathryn Beaumont, Sherri Lynn Stoner, and Joshua Finkel.
As expected, “Scene” tells us about the use of live-action reference at Disney. It covers the origins of this back in the 1930s and shows us the material featured in Mermaid. I enjoy this kind of footage, and the movie/reference shots are especially fun.
With Howard’s Lecture, we find a 16-minute, 27-second with Benson, Musker and Clement. They introduce the meat of the segment: a late 1980s “lunchtime lecture” from composer Howard Ashman as he talks about the music with animation staff. We don’t learn much here, but this becomes a cool glimpse behind the scenes.
The final five extras are new to the 2019 Blu-ray, and we start with Alan Menken and the Leading Ladies. It spans 15 minutes, 45 seconds and offers notes from Menken, and actors Jodi Benson, Paige O’Hara, Judy Kuhn, Lillias White and Donna Murphy.
We get notes about music and performances. This becomes a fun panel, especially because all of the participants sit together for the chat.
”What I Want From You Is… Your Voice goes for five minutes, 47 seconds and shows footage from the Mermaid recording studio. It comes an enjoyable view of these sessions.
With Stories from Walt’s Office, we find a six-minute, one-second reel that provides info from Walt Disney Archives director Rebecca Cline and Walt Disney Archives archivist Edward Ovalle.
This piece gives us a glimpse of Walt’s extensive collection of miniatures. We find a good look at this aspect of Disney’s life.
#TreasuresUntold spans five minutes, 40 seconds. Hosted by Ruby Rose Turner and Olivia Sanabia of Coop and Cami Ask the World, they lead us through some Mermaid trivia. It becomes a cutesy, kid-oriented piece but some nuggets emerge.
Finally, we locate a music video for “Part of Your World” from Dcapella. As implied by their name, this offers a vocal group, though their rendition of “World” includes some instrumentation so it doesn’t become purely a capella. Still, it’s a twist on the tune’s usual presentation.
The disc opens with an ad for Dumbo (2019). No trailer for Mermaid appears here.
Does the “Anniversary” Blu-ray lose anything from the 2013 release? Yup – and lots, though technically these can be accessed online. If it ain’t on the disc, it doesn’t exist from my POV.
The Little Mermaid isn’t as good as some later Disney works, but it seems generally entertaining and compelling. It also deserves a warm spot in the hearts of Disney fans because it helped return the studio’s animated department to prominence. The 4K UHD offers strong picture and audio along with an fairly informative collection of supplements – albeit one that loses a lot from earlier releases. Despite the omitted bonus materials, the 4K delivers the best rendition of the movie to date.
To rate this film, visit the original review of THE LITTLE MERMAID