This review originally appeared on the now-defunct site FamilyWonder.com, which showcased children's entertainment for parents and caregivers.
Network: Toon Disney
Best For Ages: 2-5, 6-8
Set before the events of Disney's theatrical feature THE LITTLE MERMAID, this animated series focuses on Ariel's life under the sea with her sisters and aquatic friends. Catchy music and attractive animation make ARIEL'S UNDERSEA ADVENTURES popular with girls in particular, but the series offers little in the way of stimulating children's intellects.
Educational Value: Ariel is very open-minded about other cultures, and resists prejudice and xenophobia. Some environmental themes are explored.
Entertainment Value: Upbeat melodies and colorful undersea scenes enliven these stories, which are less often adventures than tales of friendship.
Frightening Situations: Sharks chase mer-people and sentient animals. Sea witch Ursula and her minion eels threaten Ariel's friends with curses.
Emotional Intensity: Sebastian and Flounder fear disappointing the king. Ariel fears letting down her friends.
Gender/Racial Issues: Atlantica is very much a patriarchy. Some people might be bothered by ethnic crab Sebastian as the servant to the king.
Questionable Behavior: Ariel often breaks her father's rigid rules. Sebastian sometimes lies to the king to cover for her.
Sex/Nudity: Some parents have objected to the skimpy seashell bikinis on the mermaids.
Violence: Ursula hurls fireballs at her enemies. Sea creatures attempt to eat others.
Set before the events of THE LITTLE MERMAID theatrical film, ARIEL'S UNDERSEA ADVENTURES expands on the lives of most of the characters in the undersea kingdom of Atlantica, including Flounder the fish, Scuttle the sea-bird, and Sebastian the crab. The series features several new characters such as Stormy the Seahorse who is tamed by Ariel, a James Cagney-type "Lobster Mobster" and an orphan named Urchin, plus the villainous Evil Manta.
Because of her fascination with the world above the waves, Ariel is less closed-minded than most of the mer-people. She befriends a deaf mermaid, a killer whale, and a "Bad Luck Creature" feared even by Ursula. In all cases she proves to the undersea world that harmony and respect are stronger than prejudice - particularly when the Manta uses racism to try to break the kingdom apart.
This series has almost nothing to do with the Hans Christian Andersen tale which inspired it, though Andersen himself makes a cameo in one episode (voiced by STAR WARS' Luke Skywalker, Mark Hamill). Yet it does concern itself with ocean pollution and the science of exploration, and Ariel's goals in many of the episodes may seem more laudable to parents than her desire in the movie to marry a handsome prince. The cheery songs are trite but hummable.
Six- and eight-year-old girls liked the music and the stories, but were disappointed that Prince Eric from the movie didn't appear in the vast majority of episodes. A six-year-old boy was more interested in Sebastian's comic antics and in the sharks. The series returns to familiar themes from the movie such as the little mermaid's obsession with the Human world and the sibling rivalry between Ariel and Arista. Add colorful characters and fluid, bright background animation, and the series will appeal particularly to girls who admire Ariel's independence in her pre-Prince days.
Children's Television Reviews