Friday, March 22, 2013

Part of Whose World?

Okay, this is an essay about a film on a blog about theme parks. Cut me some slack.

Like, seventeen of my degrees are in Film, Disney runs theme parks, the Little Mermaid has been adapted into oodles of attractions in Disney's theme parks, I completed an essay about the Little Mermaid today, and I haven't completed an essay about theme parks in ages. Plus, I'm giddy about this insight, and I wanna tell someone other than my family and girlfriend.

Care to hear?

Traditionally, in a musical, the overture acts like a trailer for the rest of the show. It condenses memorable bits of the songs into three harmonic, appetite-whetting minutes.

The Little Mermaid’s main titles don’t fit that description.

"Main Titles," composed by Alan Menken

Instead, they're a wordless, choral variation of a single song: “Part of Your World.”

"Part of Your World, composed by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman

Except the main titles come before Ariel performs “Part of Your World.” That makes me wonder if “Part of Your World” is a reprise--the repetition of a theme, whose changes reflect the development of the story.

Which, in turn, makes me consider the differences between the main titles and “Part of Your World.”

Narratively, the main titles score a simple scene: we follow a fish, traveling deeper underwater, until at last we discover merfolk on their way to Atlantica. It distances us from the surface--which we’re familiar with--and shows us the grandeur of the ocean.

The very same ocean that Ariel wishes she could leave in “Part of Your World!” We sympathize with Ariel’s curiosity about our world, because our curiosity about her world was set to the very same music!

I also can’t help wondering if the choir performing the main titles are meant to be the merfolk we’re watching. If so, why do they know this theme, and why does Ariel then reprise it?

I like to believe it’s a cultural tune about the ocean. Somewhere between a prayer for the house and a national anthem.

If so, how poignant to hear Ariel use it when she sings about a foreign land! She’s been so indoctrinated into Triton’s merfolkways that she expresses her wanderlust through the national anthem!

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