The Little Mermaid, The Series: Save the Whale

Wha’ Happen’?

If my kids ever ask me about the nineties I’ll tell them of a wondrous time when the Soviet Union had collapsed, the Cold War was over and we were all free to focus on what was really important: dinosaurs and whales. Seriously, if it wasn’t big, extinct or going extinct it could get fucked. The mania of interest in dinosaurs obviously followed in the wake of Jurassic Park, whereas the world’s global bout of cetaphilia was a result of the movie Free Willy, a film about boys and whales and whales jumping over boys.

Not a great movie. Sorry.
“Between this and talking shit about Darkwing Duck, you are just asking to be killed by nineties kids at this point.”

This episode deals with Spot, a baby killer whale that Ariel adopted in the pilot for this series which I haven’t reviewed because Disney, in their infinite wisdom, decided to not put it on Disney plus. And this episode is a sequel to that one where Spot returns because Disney was decided in 1993 that having an episode about a killer whale trying to escape from a water park might be an easy sell.

Ahem.

Actually I can’t be sure of that. This episode aired in October 1993, a mere three months after Free Willy premiered which seems like an awfully quick turnaround. I mean, that would mean that this episode was just slapped together in ninety days and ohhhhhhhh I see…

And all the pieces fell into place.

So Ariel, Sebastien and Flounder are just chilling on the surface when Spot shows up out of the blue. Ariel is delighted to see him again and they take him back to Atlantica. Triton is a little leery of having Spot crashing at the palace because some of his subjects are unreasonably prejudiced against killer whales.

Ariel suggests putting on a show for the other fish so that they can see that Spot is just a big cuddly snugglesmoosh of an apex predator and Triton agrees. The show goes swimmingly…

That was unintentional, I swear to God.

The show goes well, until a ship appears overhead and captures Spot. Well, I saw “captured”, the way its animated it kinda looks like Spot just happily jumped into a cage that was hanging from the side of the boat.

Triton is all like “Nothing to see here, humans are scum, move along”, but Ariel naturally isn’t going to stand still for this and follows the boat. Spot’s been taken by a guy called Pettigrew who owns a Penguin Park where people peek and peer at his penguins. So, quick question:

I mean, I’m not expecting exact historical accuracy here but I think it’s fair to say that The Little Mermaid takes place in the Age of Sail, right? What with sailing ships being a pretty important feature of the setting. So where the hell did these penguins come from? Humans didn’t even set foot in Antarctica until 1895!

Then again, this cartoon apparently thinks penguins breathe underwater so maybe I’m failing to see the forest for the trees.

Now that I think about it, Little Mermaid 2 had a penguin character as well. Okay, that’s it. I’m calling it. No one involved in the wider Little Mermaid franchise knows jack shit about penguins. There. I said it.

Okay, so there are two characters in this perfidious, penitential penguin pokey, Pettigrew pere and his son, Junior. I’m going to explain the entirety of their characters with one exchange of dialogue.

“Dad, don’t you care about anything other than making money?”
“Nya ha haaa! Money money money!”

Got that? Good. Moving on.

Ariel and Flounder pass through an underwater gate roughly the size of the Black Gate of Mordor and find themselves in the water park. A show is being put on and Ariel and Flounder than Sebastien was also captured along with Spot and that Pettigrew has…trained…the crab…to….dance…?

What?

“Hello ma baby! Hello ma honey!”

I know I’ve been saying this a lot this month but, I feel like this would be a bigger deal in universe. Like, oh, you trained a killer whale to roll over that’s nice but HOLY SHIT THAT CRAB IS DANCING LIKE FRED FRICKIN’ ASTAIRE AM I HIGH?!

Anyway, Ariel and Flounder put together a plan to free Spot and Sebastien by opening his cage and waiting until the Black Gate is open to allow the audience to leave by boat. But when the moment arrives, Spot refuses to leave his penguin homies behind in the Big House. But then, suddenly they’re set free by some mysterious person (it’s one of the two humans, try to guess who it was). They reach the massive gate but they’re too late! Pettigrew has closed it.

“Nya ha ha ha money money money etc….”

But fortunately, if Free Willy taught us anything it was that orcas view the entire concept of gravity with sneering contempt and Spot just decides to fly. You might think he jumps but, no. He clears a twenty foot tall door from a stationary position while carrying a mermaid and an entire flock of penguins. That’s not jumping. That is levitation.

And the episode ends with Spot hearing the sounds of other killer whales and leaving Ariel to join his people. This, incidentally, was exactly how the first episode he was in ended. Ah well, it’s all about the journey, right?

I regret all my life choices.

How was it?

No Tim Curry. No batshit insane plot revolving around Footwear of Mass Destruction. Just the bland, badly animated warmed over plot of a movie that was never that good to begin with.

The moral of the story is: Little girl likes her whale.

Does this violate continuity?: Of human history as we know it? Yes. Of the original film? Nah.

19 comments

  1. Perhaps The Little Mermaid is actually set in the sub antarctic islands of New Zealand, and not near Europe as we initially expected? The penguins *clearly* locate it somewhere in the southern hemisphere, at any rate. 😏

  2. Europeans were well aware of penguins in the age of sail – the name “Penguin” was actually coined in the 1500s; Francis Drake’s crew spotted them during his circumnavigation in the 1570s. (The name was actually originally applied to the now-extinct Great Auk of Newfoundland; for a long time, it was thought they were related to penguins due to their visual resemblance.) They’re not restricted to Antarctica, wandering into the coastal areas of South Africa, southern Australia, New Zealand, and pretty much the entire West coast of South America up to the Galapagos.

    I mean, that doesn’t resolve where the show is supposed to be set (South Africa would explain the penguins but there would presumably be *some* other evidence of being in South Africa), and I’m not sure when they would have started showing up in zoos or other exhibitions, but humans knowing what penguins are doesn’t cause any inherent historical problems.

    1. My dear Gauthier, please accept my gratitude – not only have you invoked the late, lamented Great Auk exactly as I meant to, you’ve also left me just enough room to mention that ‘penguin’ was in fact a term coined FOR the Great Auk and applied to what we now know as penguins only at a later date.

      Gauthier, I salute you!

  3. I’m surprised you didn’t point out some reused character designs: Pettigrew looks like Jasper from 101 Dalmatians and the penguins are right out of Mary Poppins.

  4. Hold up, I’m like 99% sure those penguins are the same ones from Mary Poppins (they have the little bow ties!) and Pettigrew looks like he could be the ancestor of Jasper from 101 Dalmatians. Cue the recycling joke!

  5. Nice review! Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only one who still remembers this show (as well as various other series based on popular Disney movies which were made in the nineties), thought I can’t recall a single thing that happened there. Would love to see about other series, especially Aladdin and Hercules (and Tarzan, if it’s possible), for I’m more familiar with them.

  6. OK, I was angry at the talking shit about Darkwing Duck, but Free Willy…Yeah, no, I get that one. I blame Michael Jackson. For this and many other things.

  7. Wait, are we children of the nineties supposed to actually LIKE Free Willy? I thought it was like Space Jam, one of those things we look back and laugh fondly at. “Ah ha ha ha, we sure consumed some crap back then, didn’t we? Good times!”

    But I don’t think we’re supposed to believe it ever was actually good. Or is it only me?

    1. The big emotional climax of Free Willy works, so even if it’s otherwise forgettably mediocre, it sticks in your head as better than it actually is.

  8. Yeah this is a silly one. It also hinges on emotional attachment to Spot, and if you haven’t seen the “Whale of a Tale” pilot episode there’s not much there, there. Spot is best boy though and I will not hear otherwise. 😛

    I do like the son too. He gets a decent amount of depth for the kind of show this is in his limited screen time. That’s Jeff Bennet doing the voice again and I enjoy his design even if it’s kind of “What if Eric but more cartoony and also blonde. With a hat.”

    (BTW I just re-sent an email with a google drive link to my VHS rip for “Whale of a Tale”. But no worries if you want to wait til it’s on Disney+ anyway.)

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