Thursday, February 2, 2012
Ariel was based on the protagonist of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid" but co-director and writer Ron Clements felt that the mermaid in the original story was too tragic and rewrote the character, resulting in Ariel.
Jodi Benson, who was predominantly a stage actress, was chosen to voice Ariel because the directors felt "it was really important to have the same person doing the singing and speaking voice". Clements stated that Benson's voice had a unique "sweetness" and "youthfulness". When recording the vocals for "Part of Your World", Benson asked that the lights in the studio be dimmed, to create the feeling of being deep under the sea. "Part of Your World", which was referred to by songwriter Howard Ashman as the "I Want" song, was originally going to be cut from the final film, owing to Jeffrey Katzenberg's belief that it slowed the story down, but Ashman and Keane fought to keep it in.
Ariel's original design was developed by animator Glen Keane, who stated in an animation lecture that her appearance was based on that of his wife. It was also based on actress Alyssa Milano, who was 16 at the time, and model Sherri Stoner, who provided live-action references for the animators during the development of the film. The movement of Ariel's hair underwater was based on footage of astronaut Sally Ride while she was in space.
A challenge in animating Ariel for the 1989 film was the color required to show Ariel in the changing environments, both under the sea and on land, for which the animators required thirty-two color models, not including costume changes. The blue-green color of Ariel's fin was a hue specially mixed by the Disney paint lab; the color was named "Ariel" after the character. The choice of red as Ariel's hair color was the subject of dispute between the filmmakers and studio executives who wanted the character to have blonde hair. It was noted that red hair contrasted better with Ariel's green tail and that red was easier to darken than yellow so it was ultimately kept.
In an interview, Jodi Benson stated that for Ariel's Beginning, the writers revised the script multiple times to make sure Ariel retained her relevance in a more modern context. Benson complained to them that they wrote Ariel out of character and suggested they bring her back to her roots.
Ariel is the youngest daughter of King Triton and Queen Athena, rulers of Atlantica, and has six older sisters. She is often seen in the company of Flounder, her best friend, and Sebastian, her father's advisor who is often assigned to watch over her. In the television series and first film, Ariel has a fascination with the human world and often goes off to find human artifacts that she displays in a secret grotto. Ariel is often rebellious, wandering off on her own to explore her surroundings, and frequently disobeys the orders of her father or Sebastian, causing conflict between the characters. In The Little Mermaid she is depicted as being willing to do anything to be with Prince Eric, even giving up her voice to become human. Clements described her as a typical teenager, prone to errors of judgment. She also is incredibly curious, and her curiosity often leads her into dangerous situations.
Ariel is kind to others no matter what their circumstances, as depicted in the television series. In an early episode, Ariel helps an orphaned merboy who had fallen in with a bad crowd. In another episode, Ariel befriends a supposed bad-luck creature and protects it from Ursula and other merfolk who wish it harm. Ariel appears as an adult in Return to the Sea, and gives birth to a daughter named Melody. Ariel is protective of her daughter, as Triton was of Ariel in the first film. After Morgana threatens Melody, Ariel refuses to let Melody in the ocean. Ariel's Beginning depicts her personality as it was in the original film, after Jodi Benson had advocated returning the character to her roots. Ariel regains her rebellious personality, and after her father decrees music to be banned in Atlantica she runs away with Sebastian and his band.