Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea (2000) - The Little Mermaid Ariel Returns

The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea - The Tale of Ariel the Little Mermaid Continues With Ariel's Daughter Melody

Ariel and Flounder The Little Mermaid 2 2000
"The Little Mermaid 2: Return to the Sea" (2000).
The success of "The Little Mermaid" ignited the entire Disney Renaissance of the 1990s, so it was only a matter of time before the little mermaid Ariel returned for an encore. Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment (later DisneyToon Studios) released "The Little Mermaid 2: Return to the Sea" on September 19, 2000, direct to video. Directed by Jim Kammerud and Brian Smith, it completes the story that the 2008 prequel "The Little Mermaid III: Ariel's Beginning" commences. The Ariel the little mermaid storyline runs through all three films, so it forms a continuous and cohesive trilogy despite the fact that the first chapter was produced last. There also is an animated television series that is a prequel to the entire "The Little Mermaid" film trilogy. "The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea" is eminently enjoyable and completes an epic journey for the "Ariel the little mermaid" franchise.

Ariel and Flounder The Little Mermaid 2 2000
Ariel returns to her undersea ways in "Little Mermaid II."
Ariel (Jodi Benson) and Prince Eric (Rob Paulsen), together since the demise of Ursula at the end of "The Little Mermaid," have a daughter, Melody (Tara Strong) on a ship. Ariel's father, King Triton (Kenneth Mars), presents Melody with a special locket. Ariel, though, decides not to tell Melody of her sea heritage, and tosses the locket in the sea and builds a wall between the castle and the water.

Ariel holding Melody The Little Mermaid 2 2000
Prince Eric, Ariel, and Melody.
Morgana (Pat Carroll), Ursula's sister, wants Triton's trident, which gives power over the creatures of the sea, so she almost manages to kidnap young Melody. Ariel and Eric work against her to foil her plot. When Melody is twelve, she goes swimming against her mother's orders and finds the locket, which has her name on it. When Ariel refuses to talk about it, Melody runs away from home by boat. Ariel, frantic, has Triton turn her back into a mermaid in order to search for her.

King Triton and Eric's family The Little Mermaid 2 2000
King Triton gives his blessings.
News of Melody's departure soon reaches Morgana, who lures Melody to her lair with the help of Undertow (Clancy Brown) and her manta minions Cloak and Dagger. She transforms Melody into a mermaid, who is happy to become one. Melody steals Triton's trident, which Morgana says will enable her to remain a mermaid forever. With the trident, Morgana becomes power-mad just as her sister did while in possession of the trident.

Cloak and Dagger The Little Mermaid 2 2000
Cloak and Dagger, Morgana's minions.
After capturing Ariel and holding her hostage, Morgana rises to the surface to proclaim her power. Eric and his allies Triton, Sebastian the crab (Samuel E. Wright) and Scuttle the seagull (Buddy Hackett) arrive to rescue Ariel. Melody, wishing to save her mother, helps to overpower Morgana, and Triton recovers his trident. Triton then offers Melody the opportunity to become a mermaid permanently if she wishes, but Melody has a better idea.

Ariel and Melody talking The Little Mermaid 2 2000
Ariel talking to Melody about the trident.
"Return to the Sea" has a wonderful advantage, unlike most direct-to-video sequels, featuring almost all the same voice actors (with the notable exception of Prince Eric) despite the passage of over a decade. It also is very funny, with good music and the same characters with the same personalities. Watching Sebastian and Louie interact is a high point, while Scuttle still provides comic relief.

Melody and Sebastian The Little Mermaid 2 2000
Sebastian is a welcome return character from the original.
"The Little Mermaid II" uses a different animation process, the CAPS computer process, than the original xerography system. It has a slightly different look, a bit more cartoony than the original. There is terrific detail in the facial expressions and body language. The songs by Michael Silversher and Patty Silversher, with background music by Danny Troob, reference the classic Howard Ashman tunes of the original, though these are not of the same high caliber.

Morgana and Melody The Little Mermaid 2 2000
Morgana changing Melody.
Morgana is not very original as a villain, though, and Ariel is not the same energetic ball of fire as in the original. The narrative is almost the opposite of the original, with a human (Melody) wishing to become a mermaid. Melody is not nearly the enchanting character that her mother was, immediately placing this on a lower quality level than the original. Overall, the characters seem to be going through the motions. Fans of the original, which was a breakthrough classic, are bound to be disappointed by the lack of originality here.

Morgana with the trident The Little Mermaid 2 2000
Melody suddenly realizes Morgana isn't who she thought.
This film also is similar to the later "Brave" in some ways because it features a headstrong daughter who tries to find her own place in the world versus her mother without reference to any prince. In that sense, it has a feminist slant, along with Morgana's own female point of reference. Nothing much comes of it in the end, since Melody and Morgana both wind up causing grief for everyone else, but it is a step in a different direction for the Disney juggernaut which some might find refreshing and other mystifying.

Morgan in The Little Mermaid 2 2000
Morgana just has that way with folks.
For those desiring another dose of Ariel the little mermaid and her adventures, this is better than nothing. If you are a fan of the first film and want to be entertained, enough is provided here for you to do that. Just don't expect to be shocked and awed by this film as with "The Little Mermaid," because you will be in for a let-down.

Ariel and Flounder The Little Mermaid 2 2000


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