Based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, The Little Mermaid created a whole new generation of Disney animated film enthusiasts. The songs were composed by Alan Menken with lyrics by Howard Ashman.  Ashman contributed several changes to the original concept by changing Clarence, the English-butler crab character, to a Jamaican Rastafarian crab, Sebastian. The musical score was also revised to reflect this character change. The Little Mermaid won the 1990 Academy Award for Best Original Music Score. One of the original inspirations for the distinctive design was a series of pastels created by Kay Nielson for the “Night On Bald Mountain” animation sequence in Fantasia, found in the Disney archives.

Movie Poster for The Little Mermaid

Movie Poster for The Little Mermaid, 1989. Burbank, CA: The Walt Disney Company, 1989. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (034.00.00) © Disney Enterprises Inc., All rights reserved.

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Note from Disney’s president Peter Schneider to Howard Ashman regarding The Little Mermaid

Note from Disney’s president Peter Schneider to Howard Ashman regarding The Little Mermaid, November 21, 1990. Manuscript. Howard Ashman Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (027.00.01) © Disney Enterprises Inc., All rights reserved.

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Rough Draft of The Little Mermaid

Rough Draft of The Little Mermaid, August 21, 1986. Manuscript. Howard Ashman Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (026.00.00) © Disney Enterprises Inc., All rights reserved.

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Draft script of The Little Mermaid

Draft script of The Little Mermaid, March 12, 1987. Manuscript. Howard Ashman Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (027.00.00) © Disney Enterprises Inc., All rights reserved.

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Size comparison chart for Triton, Sebastian, and others characters from Disney’s The Little Mermaid

Size comparison chart for Triton, Sebastian, and others characters from Disney’s The Little Mermaid, ca. 1997. Deluxe publicity notebook. Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress (030.00.00) © Disney Enterprises Inc., All rights reserved.

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Description and color chart for Sebastian and Flounder from Disney’s The Little Mermaid

Description and color chart for Sebastian and Flounder from Disney’s The Little Mermaid, ca. 1997. Deluxe publicity notebook. Motion Picture Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress (030.00.01) © Disney Enterprises Inc., All rights reserved.

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Storyboard character sheet from Disney’s The Little Mermaid

Storyboard character sheet from Disney’s The Little Mermaid, n.d. Storyboard. Howard Ashman Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (31.00.01)

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