The Little Mermaid 4K Blu-ray Review
By Chris Heinonen on
The Little Mermaid Summary
Venture under the sea where Ariel, a free-spirited mermaid princess, longs to be part of the human world. After bravely striking a bargain with Ursula, a sneaky sea witch, Ariel embarks on the adventure of a lifetime. With Flounder and Sebastian at her side, Ariel will need all of her courage and determination to make things right in both her worlds.
The Little Mermaid Movie Review
The Little Mermaid helped launch a renaissance in Disney animation when it was released in 1989. I remember seeing it in the theater, and seeing it countless times at home as my younger sisters loved the film growing up. Watching it again now with modern sensibilities, it feels a bit odd. A father is content to marry off his 16-year-old daughter after she’s known a human for only 72 hours, accepting that he’ll possibly never see her again. Eric is fine to marry someone he’s just met that can’t even talk for the first three days of their relationship. Why doesn’t Ariel just write things down, as she was obviously able to read and sign the contract that Ursula presented her with earlier?
Obviously, I’m thinking too much about the logical issues here, and anyone reading this review already knows all about the film and is more interested in the technical aspects. So it’s still the Little Mermaid, but if you haven’t seen it in 20+ years and have only watched through your eyes as a child, watching it again as a parent can be a very different experience.
The Little Mermaid Technical Review
Being 30 years old now, The Little Mermaid was obviously hand-drawn animation throughout, and Disney makes no mention in their provided notes if it was scanned at 4K for this or if it’s still a 2K scan. The image here offers both strengths and weaknesses over the included Blu-ray. The overall impression of the 4K disc is that it is much darker than the Blu-ray version. For a noticeable example, look at the scene near the end where they battle Ursula. As the boat raises up from the ocean floor, it is brown with decent detail on the Blu-ray disc but much darker, nearly black, on the 4K disc and lacking the detail there. This makes the very mild use of HDR on the 4K disc more apparent because of the darkness, but overall you’re likely to find this distracting. The 4K disc looks cleaner, and some colors are richer, but overall the darker image and sometimes missing shadow details are more bothersome to me. The animation doesn’t look much different between the two in terms of fine detail either, as there was only so much detail to begin with.
The 4K disc has an updated Atmos soundtrack but this is also hit-and-miss when compared to the Blu-ray. The Atmos channels are used some but not extensively. It is very clear, as during an early song with Ariel singing you can hear what sounds to be a limitation of the original elements in terms of clarity and some background noise. Like many recent Disney films, the bass impact here is lacking compared to other versions of the soundtrack. Watching the same scene with Ursula, when the waves crash you get more low-end rumble and impact on the Blu-ray soundtrack than you do on the 4K Atmos soundtrack when running at the same volume.
Overall the image and audio here don’t offer much reason to upgrade from the Blu-ray version that is also included, and I don’t have older Blu-ray versions to compare it to. But if you can buy the Blu-ray version for a lot less than the 4K version, I’d likely do that since that’s the version I’d be most likely to watch going forward.
The Little Mermaid Special Features
BLU-RAY & DIGITAL
- Sing-Along Mode – Sing along to the movie in this sing-along version of the film.
- Alan Menken & the Leading Ladies Song – From the voice of a mermaid to the tunes of a muse, the music of Alan Menken has scored the soundtrack for some of Disney’s most iconic leading ladies. Join Alan, Jodi Benson (Ariel), Paige O’Hara (Belle), Judy Kuhn (Pocahontas Singing Voice), Lillias White (Calliope) and Donna Murphy (Mother Gothel) as we celebrate the music of their films in honor of the one that started it all … “The Little Mermaid.” In this discussion, the ladies will share their memories of musically creating their characters with Alan, discuss what it means to be part of the Disney Princess/leading lady legacy and create new memories as they sing with Alan around a baby grand piano.
- “What I Want From You…Is YOUR VOICE” – Enter the recording studio and get an inside look at the cast of “The Little Mermaid” in their original recording sessions.
- Stories From Walt’s Office – Gadgets & Gizmos – Like Ariel, Walt Disney was a collector of many different things from miniatures to early mechanical characters that inspired the invention of audio-animatronics. We take a look at some the collections that Walt kept in his office in the third episode of this series.
- #TreasuresUntold – Join Ruby Rose Turner and Olivia Sanabia from the Disney Channel Original Series “Coop and Cami Ask the World” as they take a deep dive to explore some hidden treasures and fun facts about Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.”
- DCapella “Part of Your World” Music Video
- Classic Bonus Features – Revisit four exciting bonus features from previous releases including:
- Deleted Character: Harold The Merman
- Under The Scene: The Art Of Live Action Reference
- Howard’s Lecture
- Audio Commentary With Ron Clements, John Musker and Alan Menken
- “Part of Your World” – A 30-Year Retrospective – Songwriter Alan Menken and Jodi Benson, the acting and singing voice of Ariel, sing the epitome of Disney “I Want” songs “Part of Your World” and discuss its impact since it was first heard 30 years ago.
- Classic Bonus Features – Over 3 additional hours of previously released classic bonus features including Deleted Scenes, Easter Eggs, Music Videos and more!
The Little Mermaid Review System
Sony A1E OLED, Panasonic UB820 UltraHD Blu-ray Player, KEF Ci5160RL-THX Fronts, Ci3160RL-THX Center, 2x Ci200RR-THX Surrounds, 4x CI200RR-THX Atmos Speakers, Anthem MRX 1120 Receiver, SVS PB-3000 Subwoofer.
The image is as sharp as you'll get for this animated film, mix for songs is great.
I prefer the Blu-ray image as it's not as dark and shows some extra detail, soundtrack lacking bass impact compared to Blu-ray version.
Even if you're a fan of the movie, paying a premium for the 4K version of The Little Mermaid likely isn't worth it. The Blu-ray version looks great and has better sound IMO, though if the price is the same you can get the 4K as it includes digital and Blu-ray copies.