The second vidpic follow-up to Disney’s classic 1989 animated tuner is an unremarkable but inoffensive prequel that should delight easily amused moppets without unduly annoying their parents. Despite relatively bland, TV-style animation by the Mouse Factory’s DisneyToon unit, “The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning” is appreciably more spirited than its immediate made-for-vid predecessor (2000’s “The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea”), and likely will net big bucks in sales and rentals.
Directed by Peggy Holmes from a serviceable scenario by Robert Reece and Evan Spiliotopoulos, the vidpic calls for Ariel (voiced by franchise mainstay Jodi Benson) and her six sisters to rebel against the no-fun-allowed severity of their father, King Triton (Jim Cummings), who has banned all music and most frivolity in his undersea realm after his beloved wife’s accidental (and of course, offscreen) death. Samuel E. Wright again amuses as calypso-crooning crab Sebastian, and Sally Field goes just far enough over the top as the shrieking, shrewish Marina Del Rey, a discontented royal governess whose garish wardrobe and overweening ambition trigger more than a few chuckles. Original tunes are mildly pleasant and instantly forgettable.