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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

"Little Mermaid" (1989)-Ariel Cel on Production Background

This cel of Ariel has been one of my favorites. It wasn't too expensive, but I liked the overall statement. While it's on the screen for a very short time, it has an interesting effect when it is hanging on the wall.

This is one of those great "teachable" pieces that let you talk about the animation process, the function of "safe" lines (at least from a TV perspective) and the fact that you don't need to spend time painting an area that won't be seen on the screen. [Much like a head-and-shoulders shot of the field reporter wearing a sports jacket, shirt & tie, but little else!]

[Note: when you enlarge this image, it looks like there are problems with the lines and coloring around the lines. These are not paint problems, but are artifacts from using a low .jpg quality.]

In my commentary Buy For The "Decisive Moment," I suggest looking for images that capture the essence of a character, a defining moment in the story, etc. This is a good example. Her surprise that her wish (or "deal") really came true and the quiet realization that her life is about to change speaks to all of us. While we may not have known that it was important at the time, all of us can look back and identify those "fork in the road' points in time when our lives changed forever. When I talk to folks after they have been looking at this image for a while, the responses are very similar - they say that they were thinking of a time when they made choices that turned out to be very significant. To answer some of you readers, no one has turned to me after looking at the art and told me they were just enjoying the "soft porn" moment!

----- DATABASE NOTES -----

From “Little Mermaid” (1989). Cel of Ariel mounted on a Disney Studio prepared background. NOTE: Disney stamp in lower right corner. [Image: 11-5/16"W x 7-5/16"H] Acquired 1992. SeqID-0066


  1. It is interesting however that in many of the shots from this sequence (and in the previous sequence when she is first transformed into a human with legs ) the animators and clean-up artists drew her out way past the "paint-to" cut off line , so there are actually drawings of Ariel completely nude below the waist , although they are always modestly drawn and of course in the final film are discreetly framed.

    I've also seen similar drawings from Mulan during the bathing sequence, where she is escaping concealed behind Khan the horse . In the final film Khan conceals her nudity , so only Mulan's head and shoulders and her lower legs are seen behind Khan, but the actual animation drawings of her walking behind Khan are full figure nudes of Mulan.

    Again, the drawings are perfectly innocent (not at all "soft porn") and would never be seen on screen in the final movie.

  2. As an animation major in school, it is taught that to best ground a character realistically, you need to draw as much of the character as possible.

    If you are animating a chest shot you need to know what the waist is doing. If it's a waist high shot, you need to know where the feet are.

    This is to keep things anatomically correct, and keeps sizes out of whack, as well as "floating" body parts.

    This explains why they would animate a full nude run of mulan, or in this case, the lower half of ariel.

  3. Do you have anymore animation cels or sketches of the sequence when Ariel becomes human? I'd like to use them as reference for my art class. Thanks.

  4. Sorry... This is the only one I have from the sequence.

  5. how much would you be selling for?

  6. Natalie --

    I'm glad you like the piece, but it isn't for sael at the present time...

    Have a happy holiday

  7. Hi Bob,

    Are you able to tell us what a 5 x 7 ariel animation cell would be worth??
    We have had a flood and our insurance company wants to know a value but we don't know how much and where we would get a quote. Can you help?

    My email is

  8. I'm surprise nobody has put in that famous quote from Animaniacs yet. :p

  9. How much have you paid for that one?