Disney's The Little Mermaid released to theaters in the fall of '89. I was six. I remember my parents taking me to see it in the theater. I remember being frightened at the climax by Ursula (Giant evil octopus woman on the big screen? Who wouldn't be?), but it didn't change my feelings about the movie. I was hooked.
I collected all things Mermaid. Pencils, beach towel, at least one, if not two swimsuits. My best friend and I watched the video over and over, singing the songs. I dressed as Ariel the following Halloween, wearing an old sea green dress of my mother's, with curling ribbon around my feet to make it look like a tail. I think I had orange curling ribbon in my hair, too, to make it appear more "red" like Ariel's.
While I loved Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin, for some reason The Little Mermaid was the seminal film of my youth.
I know I'm not alone. I know several women my age who can sing "Part of Your World" word for word, without much provocation.
For the last couple years, we've attended Christmas concerts at the Hult with my family. It started with the Eugene Symphony Yuletide Celebration, last year it was the Mason Williams show, and this year back to the Symphony. We missed the tap dancing Santas, let me tell you. The other lure to this year's Symphony extravaganza: Jodi Benson. Who is none other than the voice of Ariel. Daughter of King Triton. Wife of Prince Erik. Inspiration to all.
The moment she stepped out onto stage and spoke, I waited for her to tell Flounder he was such a guppy. I loved every moment, especially when she sang "Part of Your World," and believe, me, I didn't know until moments beforehand if anything from Mermaid would be sung at all.
After the show my mom and aunt were on a particular mission. First, they wanted an autograph, but they both knew that was child's play. What they really wanted was a photo. With me and Jodi.
You should have seen my aunt. She positioned herself at the autograph table, and when the moment was right, she said "Jodi!", expecting Jodi to turn when she heard her name.
Which she did. And smiled beautifully.