Even these tapes cost something

  Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid
1979 | G.G. Communications, Inc.
The Little Mermaid UK Braveworld Legend

The Disney version maybe more famous but this one has everything that one has...

Talking cartoon animals, musical numbers, frontal nudity, mass animal slayings and a crippling tragic ending.

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Den Lille Havfrue, the story of The Little Mermaid, was written 1836 and first published 1837 in a collection of Fairy Tales. It was the work of celebrated Danish children's writer and poet Hans Christian Andersen whose other famous tales include The Little Match Girl, Thumbelina, The Emperor's New Clothes and The Princess and the Pea.

The youngest of six daughters of the Sea King longs to witness the surface world but only when she is fifteen will she be allowed to make the journey. Curiosity gets the better of her and one night, while sneaking away from the undersea palace, she rescues a young Prince from a sinking ship. She becomes so besotted with him that she makes a terrible deal with the Sea Witch to be transformed into a human girl, at the cost of her voice and, if the Prince is to marry another women, the Little Mermaid will turn to sea foam on the night after their wedding.

The Mermaid is reunited with the Prince who falls for her but still holds feelings for the girl he mistakenly believes saved him on that stormy night. His royal parents arrange for him to marry and to his surprise it is the very girl he has been dreaming of. The two are married and the Mermaid, rejecting the chance at redemption if she were to kill the object of her affection, turns to foam on the seas waves.

This tragic story proved so popular that it was reprinted a number of times in the intervening years before being translated into English in 1872. From 1914 onwards the fairy tale inspired many productions, from theatre to TV across the globe. In 1975, to mark the centenary of the author's death, Toei animated a 68 minute theatrical feature.

Anderusen Dowa Ningyo Hime (Andersen's Fairy Tales: Princess Mermaid) debuted on March 21st. The plot stayed close to the original adding various talking creatures to expand the cast and broaden the story's appeal. Live action footage of Denmark, shot by Danish BAFTA nominated Cinematographer Henning Kristiansen, bookends the animated feature. Included in this travelogue are the statues of Hans Christian Andersen next to the capital's City Hall and of The Little Mermaid herself at the Copenhagen Harbor.

The soundtrack to Princess Mermaid was made available on LP and a record of the movie's theme song was also released. The film received a VHS release in the early 1980's and was later reissued on LaserDisc in 1996 with an additional ten minutes added to the film's conclusion.

The version shown in the Western world was retitled Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid from TV producer Nick Russo through his company G.G. Communications.

The company had been formed in the late sixties after Russo met with keen angler Roscoe Vernon Gaddis and decided build a show to promote him. Gadabout Gaddis Productions, as it was originally known- called after one of the host's nick names, produced the show The Flying Fisherman for several years before spreading out into film distribution as well. They specialised in re dubbing foreign language thrillers including early works by Mario Bava and Lucio Fulci. By the start of the seventies the newly renamed G.G. Communications changed market to the Children's Matinee, translating a series of four Swedish movies based on the Pippi Longstockings books and the Italian/West German animated feature Maria D'oro.

The Little Mermaid was one of Russo's last releases reaching cinemas in the U.S. in 1979. The new English dub, recorded in Canada, featured Kirsten Bishop (under the pseudonym Kiersten Bishopric) in the title role who would later play Zoicite in Saban's dub of Sailor Moon, Thor Bishopric as Dolphin buddy Fritz who also voiced Pinnocchio in the TV edit of Kashi no ki Mokku. Neil Shee voice of the Lion in The Marvelous Land of Oz dub, and Jane Woods whose Anime work includes The Littl' Bits, Maya the Bee and Adventures of the Little Koala. Director Tim Reid worked on many of the same shows as well as behind the scenes credits for Samurai Pizza Cats.

After a short cinema run, it was brought to home video, with a cropped full screen picture, by Video Gems. The film first appeared in the UK in 1981 on VHS and Betamax from Intervision. After being deleted for nearly a decade, the VHS release of Disney's big hit musical prompted a cash-in re-release in 1990 from Braveworld under their Legend label. A similar reissue took place in America a year earlier, from Starmaker, to exploit Ariel's cinema debut.

The original widescreen Japanese language print of the movie is available remastered on DVD in Italy but there is no English language option.


Andersuen Dowa Ningyo Hime Poster Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid   Sukashii Action Figure
The Japanese movie poster
The 1996 LaserDisc special edition
The record single


Cheese! Coaches! Mullets! A place where toddlers eat wieners and women eat ice cream! A city where you may see children sitting on a bench with pigeons, or running around a fountain. They may also stare with silent, reverential awe at statues. Statues of Hans Christian Andersen!

Little Mermaid anime Ningyo Hime Hans Christian Andersens The Little Mermaid

I'm not sure you really needed a fully qualified cinematographer to film this.

The narrator concludes; "The tale of The Little Mermaid originated here. In Denmark." and the cartoon begins. Its good to give five year olds a little cultural background for the cartoon they're watching. It helps them appreciate the nuance of what they are seeing. Gives them a fully textured experience.

Funktastic music follows Ariel sorry Marina as she swims amongst the crazy creatures of the deep with her blue Dolphin friend Fritz. While trying to enter the royal sea monkey castle, which makes those strange b-movie "bloopy, bloopy" noises for some reason, the pair are swept aside in a storm cooked up by the mean sea witch. On the surface of the ocean it is even worse. A passing ship is taken down by a lightning bolt (which is surely God's area of influence - my theory possibly supported by the earliest flames forming a clear crucifix pattern before fading) and huge waves.

Little Mermaid anime Ningyo Hime Hans Christian Andersens The Little Mermaid

Marina makes it indoors and begs her sisters not to tell Grandma about her late return. It's at this point we get our first flash of boob! I bet any boys watching this with their sister couldn't believe their luck. It's like you hope for it, maybe even will it to happen, but you never expect it would. And it's not the last either! They don't even make a big deal out of it. "Oh yeah, we're just casually throwing out boob." Disney weren't this cool. By 1989 the concept of 'shame' had penetrated through to the bottom of the sea and Mermaid's had learned how to fashioned themselves shell bikinis.

Little Mermaid anime Ningyo Hime Hans Christian Andersens The Little Mermaid

Any way, lets be sensible about this.

The next day Marina's sisters swim off to the surface leaving her to console herself with raiding the recently sunken ship. The sight of the statue of a beautiful human man cements the Little Mermaid's determination to see the surface world for herself. Fritz tells her that they should both slip out tonight. The blue dolphin blackmails his uncle, the Duke of the Sea, to aid them with sneaking through the fishy guards. Upon reaching the top he quickly leaves them behind explaining that if he hangs around Whaling Ships might catch him. If it's the sea of Japan they will!

Little Mermaid anime Ningyo Hime Hans Christian Andersens The Little Mermaid

Breaking the surface for the first time in their lives, Marina and Fritz look around and catch sight of fireworks being launched from a nearby ship. It is such a wonderful sight that Fritz intentionally beaches himself to get a better view. That's got to be some spectacle if it's worth endangering your life for.

It looks like a raging Galleon Party, drifting out in International Waters where there are no laws and anything goes! Where else would you be allowed to hold a firework display on a highly combustible wooden ship with canvas sails? The display doesn't get them but the Sea Witch's lightening does and soon the vessel is yet another ornament in the world's biggest fish bowl.

Little Mermaid anime Hans Christian Andersens The Little Mermaid

Onboard the stricken vessel are the Prince, the living version of the statue Marina found, and with him a man whose looks are proof that Denmark is conducting human experimentation. The Little Mermaid risks her own life to save the Prince, but not the other guy. She drags him to shore and tends his wound with one of her tail scales but, fearing she will become beached herself, slips away once she is sure that the Prince is alive. It's quitting time at the local convent and a passing herd of girls, including Disney's Snow White, chance upon the washed up royal.

Little Mermaid anime Ningyo Hime Hans Christian Andersens The Little Mermaid

Having returned to the Royal Clam Shell the Little Mermaid receives a severe scolding from her father who warns she could've died in an accident like her mother (who was possibly tangled in a fishing net, or caught in an oil slick or maybe it was raw sewage that got her or mercury poisoning - my god, we humans are terrible to sea life! Even mythical ones). Even though she disobeyed them, the royal family decide to bring her coming of age forward, which will allow her to wander off whenever she likes and wherever she wants. To celebrate this mixed message Marina sings the assembled masses an inaudible song. It kills a chunk of time and gives the Japanese release a tie-in single.

Marina chooses to use her new freedom to ask the evil Sea Witch to grant her wish to become a human so she can search for her Prince. You need someone evil if what you wish practically amounts to self mutilation. The path to the Witch's Palace is extremely dangerous and a whole sequence of tentacles, spines and hungry aquatic monsters follows. Maybe Toshio Maeda was in the audience...

Little Mermaid anime Ningyo Hime Hans Christian Andersens The Little Mermaid

Eventually, after much padding, Marina reaches the Witch who agrees to perform the operation, but "at a terrible price!" That's not a great pitch to open with. The operation is irreversible but, when this news doesn't seem to phase the Princess too much, she adds on the additional terms 'If the Prince marries another you will die' and 'You must give me your voice". Now suitably traumatic enough and with Vegas style odds of success against The Little Mermaid, the deal can go ahead.

Little Mermaid anime Ningyo Hime Hans Christian Andersens The Little Mermaid

With little hesitation, Marina washes herself up on the beach and takes the Witch's medicine. The foul potion causes her to flail around, clutching her throat. Oddly these scenes are partially censored in this version - a number of frames are held for a few seconds while the soundtrack continues as normal. Either the tape got caught in the duplicator or they were intentionally cutting a brief glimpse of nudity, not that this had bothered them previously. Perhaps the distributors thought that the throat clutching and flailing was too distressing for kiddies, but still thought the ending was ok.

Little Mermaid anime Ningyo Hime Hans Christian Andersens The Little Mermaid

Morning arrives and the Prince can't believe his luck, there's a naked girl on the beach! He hurries down to save her and calls out for help. First on the scene is the evil cat Jemmy followed by a never again seen tutor (who shares the same interest in naked ladies as the boys in the audience) and a giant maid who spoils everyone's fun by wrapping Marina in her apron. No more nudity now, fellas. Back to your Gobots and your He-man.

A month later Marina is living happily with the Prince - she sure is adapting well to breathing air and the perpetual dryness of life on land. She meets with Fritz who tells her to hold up her pearl to the sun if she ever needs him. The following day, the Prince and Marina go for a horse ride which Jemmy the Evil Cat sabotages leaving Marina at the clutches of a pack of hungry wild wolves. The brave Prince rushes to her aid and massacres a whole forest village of wolves with his mighty fencing foil. A lot of Wolf daddies won't be coming home tonight.

Little Mermaid anime Ningyo Hime Hans Christian Andersens The Little Mermaid

Back at the castle the Prince learns that a marriage has been arranged for him with a Princess from a neighbouring kingdom. Princess Mermaid overhears the news outside in the garden but hallucinates that a talking sparrow tells her it's ok and there is nothing to worry about. Looks like all this oxygen and dry land is turning her crazy, let's hope nothing stressful happens or she could be turned to murder.

Night comes, and Little Mermaid is casting stones into the water, doing some serious reflecting when the Prince wanders over to express his feelings. He tells her that there is one woman is truly loves - the Snow White looking girl who saved him that night, but since he'll likely never see her again (never, ever) Marina will do. Seriously, he says this.

"I don't know her name or where she is now. I'll probably never see her again. Anyway, since I can't find her I... I want to marry you."

Cheer up toots, you're my silver medal. The Second choice, the best option available (at this current time). What a romantic guy. I'm not saying that Marina is a doormat, but she laps up this possible sign of affection. Jemmy the Evil Cat sees it all and rushes off to tell the King and Queen who are in no way shocked that their Racoon-looking cat can talk.

Little Mermaid anime Ningyo Hime Hans Christian Andersens The Little Mermaid

The Prince is called away to visit his mother who is claimed to be sick. He is told to sail alone but he brings his Make-do-Mermaid with him. Onboard he discovers it is all a trap to force him to sail to the Kingdom of his arranged bride and meet with them. Marina is locked away below decks where she selectively remembers her Prince saying "If I were able to choose my own bride, Princess Mermaid, it would be you, my sweet silent one." Yeah, that's pretty much what he said...

The following morning,the Prince is brought to meet his proposed wife and it is a surprise to no one, except the characters themselves, that it is none other than the Baywatch Snow White of his dreams. I'm sure Marina will take news of this effective death sentence well.

Little Mermaid anime Ningyo Hime Hans Christian Andersens The Little Mermaid

"Princess, you won't believe my good fortune! The Sumio Princess is the same girl that saved my life!" (So I won't have to be marrying you anymore. Good, huh?) Marina hasn't got long left! The two are announcing their marriage immediately. While the whole Kingdom celebrates, Marina sends out a distress call to Fritz. He handles her looming foamy-ness badly and swims away in denial.

The drunken party boat drifts towards home, the marriage of Prince ?? and Princess ?? being held at sea. If this boat's a-rocking - it's probably just the motion of the waves - but you should still not come a-knocking anyway. Just in case.

With the quickee wedding taken care of The Little Mermaid's life is nearly up. "The wedding ceremony is over. It will soon be dawn. The first ray of sunshine will bring my death", she ponders. I'm sure all this stuff is in the Disney version, I don't know because I've never checked, but I'm sure it's included in some lavish musical number.

Little Mermaid anime Ningyo Hime Hans Christian Andersens The Little Mermaid

Marina is called to the side of the ship by voices from the sea. It's her sisters. They've given their hair to the sea witch in exchange for a magical dagger. What does the Sea Witch want with several trash bags of hair? Does she have connections with aquatic wig makers? Is male pattern baldness a big problem amongst talking crustaceans? Anyhow, the magical dagger will allow her to become a Mermaid once more and get the hell out of this Jerry Springer nightmare that she's found herself in.

All that's needed is to stab the Prince in his heart and then make sure his ventricle spray gets on her feet and they will once more return to a beautiful scaly tail. One dead Prince and it's no longer her problem. Head back to the sea floor and forget about it. It's the perfect crime - kill a human and then flee into the ocean. Political immunity. They'll never check 'Under the Sea', it must be outside state lines and not their jurisdiction anyway. That's pretty much what Jaws did.

Little Mermaid anime Ningyo Hime Hans Christian Andersens The Little Mermaid

But, don't you just know it, Marina just can't get stabby. She can't even do a Loretta Bobbit on him. And so The Little Mermaid resides herself to a destiny as her own personal foam party. The bright flash from the discarded dagger wakes the Prince in time to watch his jilted runners-up prize throw herself from the ship. Nice one, Romeo.

Little Mermaid anime Ningyo Hime Hans Christian Andersens The Little Mermaid

The sun comes up and its rays penetrate the water's surface. If she'd swum deeper than 150m (490 ft) she might have gotten away with it, but I guess they don't know these things to teach them at Mer-person school. Most likely just a bunch of stuff about making things with shells and combing your long hair. Slowly Marina fades into a cloud of coloured bubbles that rise out of the water and up into the air. Stupid Prince realizes too late that it was Marina who saved him that day and not Snow White.

Little Mermaid anime Ningyo Hime Hans Christian Andersens The Little Mermaid

"And so, The Little Mermaid's soul ascended to heaven."

That's an interesting fact, since we all know that animals don't have souls so, therefore, can't go to Heaven. In the case of a Mermaid, the human half must override the animal half when it comes to entry into God's Eternal Paradise Resort. This was once a sticky quandary but it's good to finally have it solved.

But doesn't she still need to have been baptized? Or is that ok for mammal/fish hybrids? I'll check my family bible for answers once I've finished writing this...

1970's Copenhagen, once more. After a quick pan across the roof tops we move to the harbor and The Little Mermaid's statue.

"... Through her story, the story of her love and her courage, she has guided the wayward hearts of men. And so she shall... forever!"

Little Mermaid anime Ningyo Hime Hans Christian Andersens The Little Mermaid

The end. Go wash your faces now kids. You don't want those tears to stain.

Missing videos Missing videos

... they lived happily ever after!
An ending which kills off any chance of direct to DVD sequels.

Marina's indistinct song
Nice tune, can't hear the words.
But nice tune, though

Close to the original story
Not heavily altered from the Japanese version
  Good dubbing
Bland character designs
  Slow moving
  Cropped picture

I sure hope no one takes the rating for this one seriously, since I didn't realise how well loved and remembered this video is with 80's kids. I figured it was just some throwaway cash-in tape like all those 'Legend of Mu-Lan' and 'Pocahontas - Indian Princess' videos you used to see the second Disney announced their latest big budget feature.

So, imagine my surprise, when I find websites dedicated to this short film. Personally I found it slow, dull and the character designs bland. However I'm not really the target audience, as I've said before I'd much rather see Giant Robots fighting monsters, so what do you expect?

To sum up - an unexpected nudity ranking of Medium, with an animal bodycount of 11 not counting any of the sea monsters since they deserved it. Not sure if Marina herself counts, so I've left her out of the total. Add her in as you see fit.