On November 17, 1989, The Little Mermaid debuted in theaters and catapulted Disney back into cultural relevancy. It’s difficult to believe it now, but 25 years ago, Disney was an old-fashioned joke. The Little Mermaid reinvigorated the corporation’s animation studios and paved the way for such modern classics as Beauty and The Beast, The Lion King, and last year’s monumental hit, Frozen.
The film didn’t just make a big financial boom; itwas a pop culture phenomenon. The way kids obsess over Frozen today is the way an entire generation buzzed about Ariel, Sebastian, and Ursula. We spent so much time thinking about The Little Mermaid‘s characters as kids that we wanted to imagine where those characters would be today.
Now, we’re aware that Disney released a direct-to-video sequel called, The Little Mermaid II: Return To The Sea, in 2000. It tells the heartwarming story of Ariel’s daughter, Melody. She is briefly transformed into a mermaid by Ursula’s sister, Morgana, and then everyone teams up to save the day, and she uses King Triton’s trident to remove the barrier separating mermaids and people, yadda yadda yadda… But as a great philosopher once said, “That’s bullshit.” We are going to elect to ignore Disney’s cash grab. Instead, we’re going to guess where we think those characters would be now based on where we left them in theaters 25 years ago…
Where We Left Her: After the trauma of gaining legs, losing her voice, and defeating Ursula, King Triton used magic to turn her into a human. She then married Prince Eric.
Where We Think She’d Be Now: After the wedding, Prince Eric and Ariel sailed away on abeautiful ocean honeymoon cruise. When they returned to the kingdom, there were parades, and parties, and Prince Eric and Ariel had a lot of passionate sex. Everything was perfect for a while.
However, it turned out that even though King Triton had the magical ability to give Ariel legs, he knew nothing of the female uterus. No matter how hard they tried, Ariel couldn’t get pregnant. Stuff started to get weird between the couple. It used to be that Ariel would ask Eric questions about the human world, and he would explain things, and she would misunderstand them, and then they would laugh, and laugh, and Ariel would brush her hair with a fork. Now, he started to roll his eyes at her questions. She didn’t understand. It was like her curiosity annoyed him. One night, when she asked him what democracy was, he snapped. He stormed out of the dining room and went out onto the balcony. There he played a song on his man flute, but it wasn’t their song. It was something she hadn’t heard before.
Grimsby taught Ariel how to read and she passed her time in the library. After a while she found an atlas. When she discovered how big the human world is, she couldn’t contain herself. She asked Eric if they could leave the kingdom behind and explore the world. He said he couldn’t go. He had a kingdom to rule, after all. However, he quietly suggested that she go off alone. After a bit of deliberation, Ariel took to the road. She traveled over hill, dale, over mountains, and through valleys. She rode a camel over a vast desert. She met people of different colors, who spoke in different languages. She was an adventurer and it was fantastic. Occasionally she meant to turn back and return to Eric, but somehow it never happened. The feeling that he once inspired in her was now how she felt about the wider world. She also finally figured out that she was only sixteen when they got married, and you know, people change. She is currently 41 years old, and leading a caravan in Asia, with her lover, a handsome Indian explorer named Sayid.
Where We Left Him: Marrying a 16-year-old who used to be half fish.
Where We Think He’d Be Now: Like we said, the honeymoon was over for Prince Eric once it was discovered thatshecouldn’t get pregnant.Thiswas a problem for Prince Eric because the whole reason the kingdom was pressuring him into marriage was to produce an heir in the first place. What made it even worse was that he hadn’t married someone to maintain a peace treaty. And he hadn’t married someone who could bring in money. He had married a teenager who used to be half-fish. Why? Because he loved her, of course. He loved the sound of her voice. He loved the color of her hair. He loved how she had saved him from drowning that one time. But her whole “I used to be a mermaid” schtick stopped being cute after a while. How many times was she going to brush her hair with a fork? Could she stop ruining Punch & Judy shows in the village? Why, oh God, why did she have so many fucking questions about fires and how they…what’s the word? Burned?!?!
When Ariel finally announced that she was bored at the palace and wanted to have adventures, Eric feigned sadness, but he was actually relieved. Almost as soon as she left, he took up with a nice girl that one of the palace laundresses recommended. Her name was Carrie and she was totally fine with being a royal mistress. It was a step up for her from working in the town haberdashery. However, when she got pregnant, Eric had to figure out a way to divorce the absent Ariel, so he could marry the mother of his heir. And so, Eric converted the kingdom to Protestantism and that was his contribution to world history. His son now rules the kingdom and is interested in banning pamphlets on social contract theory.
Where We Left Him: Being kissed goodbye by now Princess Ariel.
Where We Think He’d Be Now:Flounder literally floundered without Ariel. It soon became obvious that he had little-to-no social skills. None of the other fish wanted to hang out with him—not even Sebastian. The crab kept railing on about an opera he had to finish. One night, Flounder got lost from the school of fish he was swimming with and wound up in a strange atoll. He met a daffy pufferfish named Pouffy. She though Flounder was kind and brave. They became best friends. One day he asked her to marry him, but Pouffy said she didn’t believe in fish marriage. Flounder sighed and accepted it.He eventually died in that atoll of old age. Pouffy cried.
Where We Left Him: Taking a bow for narrowly avoiding being murdered by Chef Louis.
Where We Think He’d Be Now:After the adventure with Ariel, Sebastian felt a fresh new wave of musical inspiration. He set out to write the first underwater opera. It would be called, Ariel, but it would of course be about him. It told the story of a heroic crab who is plucked from his world by a selfish mermaid princess who wants to live as a human. He follows her to land to try to protect her from the evils of man. She becomes ensnared by a greedy prince, and the crab gets captured by a vile human named, “Chef.” “Chef” represents the Devil in this opera. He is a monster with blades for limbs and forces handsome, heroic crabs to eat their own families before being boiled alive in the fires of Hell and served to humans as snacks. The opera’s hero defeats Chef, returns to the sea, and is named heir to the mermaid kingdom. The princess is dropped from the second act. It took Sebastian 8 years to finish the magnum opus.When it was finally performed for King Triton, it was declared a superlative work of art. Sebastian died the genius of his age.
Where We Left Him: Celebrating Ariel’s wedding.
Where We Think He’d Be Now:After the wedding, Scuttle flew in the wrong direction. He got a tiny bit lost. Eventually, he wound up on the coast of Sicily. He befriended a morose poet named Antonio. As it turned out Scuttle was the first thing to ever make Antonio laugh. He put away his quill, opened a tavern, and married a nice lady named Francesca. Scuttle died of old age a few years ago, but the bar is still named “Il Gabbiano.”
Where We Left Him: Waving goodbye to his 16-year-old daughter as she sails away with her new husband.
Where We Think He’d Be Now: After losing his favorite daughter to the human world, King Triton fell into a deep depression. His baby was gone. He was old. His gigantic abs weren’t as tight as they used to be. Triton just felt useless. After a few years, his oldest daughter, Attina, staged a subtle coup de etat with the help of her other sisters and some stingrays. Triton didn’t care. He passed away three years ago, blissfully unaware that Ariel’s marriage had fallen apart.
Where We Left Him: Fussing over Prince Eric and holding back seasick vomit during Eric and Ariel’s wedding on a boat.
Where We Think He’d Be Now:At first Grimsby didn’t care too much for Ariel. He felt like the whole, “I’m a mermaid, I’m a mute girl, I’m a mermaid, I’m a human, I’m your princess!” thing was a bit rude. However, as the years pressed on, he became fond of her. She was kind, fun-loving, and curious. He taught her how to read and felt that for the first time ever someone in the castle honestly appreciated his intelligence. When she left to travel the world, he asked Eric if he could go with her. He, too, wanted to travel to far off places. He suggested that maybe he could keep an eye on Ariel and make sure that she came home within a year. Eric protested and said he needed Grimsby’s guidance. Now, Grimsby is very, very old and is trying to help Eric’s son assume rulership of the kingdom. Everyday he wishes he had gone with Ariel.
Max the Royal Sheepdog
Where We Left Him: Slobbering and barking and stuff.
Where We Think He’d Be Now:Max died of old age shortly before Eric’s son was born. In honor of the dog, Eric named his only son and heir, Max. A bronze statue of the dog now stands in the castle harbor.
Where We Left Him: Chasing down Sebastian with a meat cleaver.
Where We Think He’d Be Now:Sebastian didn’t know it, but he was Chef Louis’ Moby Dick. He was the scrappy crab who scuttled away. Louis spent all day thinking about that crab. Louis spent all night having dreams about that crab. After a while, it interfered with his work. The food suffered. One night, Ariel found a hair in her soup. She thought it was some kind of human seasoning, but Grimsby was furious. Louis was fired. Now, if you go into the village late at night, and if you go into a certain pub, you will find an old drunk French man sobbing about one little crab who ruined his life.
Where We Left Them: They were bridesmaids in their 16-year-old sister’s wedding to some prince with legs.
Where We Think They’d Be Now:After Attina gracefully took over the kingdom from her depressed father, things flourished. She invoked mass education initiatives and employed the underprivileged to build a state of the art coral reef city. Alana married a merman named Atticus and designs fashion made out of kelp. Aquata invented a new musical instrument that Sebastian used to great effect in his epic opera. Arista and her girlfriend, Lucretia, live in a hip converted shipwreck close to Spain. Adella and Adrina like to team up with manatees to punk sailors. Adella and Adrina swim close to the surface, and when the sailors try to get a closer look, they duck down and a manatee flops up. It’s very funny. They have a successful comedy routine and host an awards show under the sea every year.
[Watch The Little Mermaid]
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[Photos: Everett Collection & Disney]