Alissa Wilkinson in Vox:
In 1989, a redheaded mermaid made her big-screen debut. She wanted to be part of the above-surface world, where people walk around on (what do you call ‘em?) feet, to wander free on the sand in the sunshine. She fell in love with a handsome, kind prince. After some terrifying obstacles and a near-miss, they married. Ariel got her feet. For Disney, The Little Mermaid was a big hit, the start of a new era for the studio’s animated entertainment. She launched a hot streak that would continue through the 1990s: Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992), The Lion King (1994), Pocahontas (1995), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996), Hercules (1997), Mulan (1998), and Tarzan (1999). They were hits then, the early films in particular, and form a foundational plank in billions of lives. A tremendous percentage of people walking around on the planet can sing snatches of “Part of Your World” or “A Whole New World” or “Circle of Life” at the drop of a hat.
Yet 30 years after these films defined an era, Disney seems determined to make sure its most beloved movies — including The Little Mermaid — feel like the emblem of a world that’s run out of ideas.