Of all the nerve! I’m going to be absolutely brutal on this one. Wish Upon a Starfish begins with Sebastien looking for Ariel and telling her she’d better be studying for her “Crab Philosophy” test…okay, I already have a million and one questions here.
Ariel is receiving some kind of education? Sebastien is her tutor now (why am I not surprised)? But most importantly, which crab philosophers are on the curriculum? Crabistotle? Socrabstes? Crab Camus?
Anyway, Sebastien tells Ariel that there’s a storm going on overhead so she swims to the surface to see if she can get some of that sweet, sweet human swag. She finds a music box with a ballerina figurine (I would really have liked if this was the same music box we see in Part of Your World but alas) but Sebastien and Flounder yell at her to come back because the storm is dangerous. Somehow.
Well yes, actually. They get hit by a wave and we next see Ariel unconscious, washed up on a beach with Flounder beside her. And Flounder’s first words are “Ariel, are you okay?!”
Like, sweet and all that he cares about her so much but sometimes it’s okay to prioritise your own needs, y’know?
Our trio look around and see a house on the beach with music coming from the window. Ariel asks Sebastien to take a little peeky-poo into the home of the massive monstrous apes who eat crabs on the reg and he outrageously refuses if you can believe it. Ariel sighs and says “I guess I’ll just have to find another crab who will…”
Can I just say that one of my least favourite parts of this series is how they completely removed Sebastien’s (metaphorical) spine? In the movie Sebastien was cool. He had style. He was an accomplished musician. He went toe to toe with human beings and won. He had the best lines. When he’s giving Eric and Ariel advice on romance you’re thinking “yes, listen to the crab. Clearly the crab is getting it.”
In this series he’s just a perpetual butt monkey, it’s really frustrating. Anyway, after Disney have successfully modelled emotional manipulation to our impressionable daughters Sebastien ventures into the house where he almost dies many, many times. First he’s almost eaten by a cat and then he gets trapped in a piano and is forced to re-enact either Rabbit Rhapsody or Cat Concerto depending on which you believe came first (I will do a post some day, it is a wild story).
Then, a little girl comes outside and dances ballet while Ariel watches, enthralled. But she sadly realises that she’ll never be able to dance like that because….duh. She goes back to her trove and mopes. And Sebastien, get this, tells her that the human world is a mess and that life under the sea is better than anything they’ve got up there. And then Ariel sings a song about how she wants to be where the people are, wants to see, wants to see them dancing and I’m sorry is this sounding slightly familiar to anyone? This episode is already halfway over and it’s all been so pointless. What hasn’t been Sebastien getting degraded like a gimp for our entertainment is just repeating beats from the original film. And here’s another problem, this is the song she sings:
I mean, you can compare it to Part of Your World, but only in the same sense that you can compare an ignited fart at a dorm room party to the sun. I mean, mocking this episode just feels so pointless, if only it would try something new so it could really fall flat on its face. Why, who’s this?
So this new mermaid appears with her octopus buddy. What a transparent, cynical attempt to sell a few more dolls. Let me just learn a little more about this character so I can properly take her to task…
Okay so, this is Gabriella. She is a deaf Latina Mermaid who speaks in American sign language as a way to introduce American children to ASL and was based on a little girl who loved The Little Mermaid but passed away from leukaemia before the episode was aired.
Okay, so because I’m not an absolute sociopath I’m going to stop here.
How was it?
According to the accounts I’ve read this episode meant a great deal to the parents of Gabriella Angelina Bommino who never got to see their little girl grow up. So, yeah, I don’t feel comfortable reviewing this. Is it a good episode of television? No, it’s a beautiful act of kindness and solidarity for a family going through the worst grief imaginable. Questions of artistic merit are pretty much moot.
The moral of the story is: Disney has a heart after all?
Does this violate continuity?: A little, yeah. It turns out that Ariel has been where the people are, and she has seen, seen ’em dancing.
Yeah…When I saw that Mermaid and realized it was…THIS episode, I was like “Yeah, that one was rad”, but, I didn’t know the backstory and…Holy shit.
Oh yeah, I heard of this one. Seems to be the one people have the most nostalgia for.
And I always preferred the works of the great mollusk philosophers, such as Jean-Paul Oystre and Immanuel Klamt.
Where were you in my hour of need?
Staring at a list of philosophers, trying and failing to make a mollusk pun out of Descartes’ name so I could write “I think therefore I clam”.
The struggle is real.
Descargot. It should have been Descargot. Damn it.
I still remember the story of Pixar shipping an early release of “Up” to a little girl so she could see it before she died.
Every once in awhile, we get reminders that companies might be soulless, but it’s staffed with people who certainly aren’t. And we get little elements here and there about the real-life touches that influence shows or movies.
I think there’s an episode of Teen Titans Go with a Make-a-Wish child that would give almost anyone this same kind of vibes, although as far as I know thankfully that boy is still alive.
And Teen Titans Go, save maybe a small bunch of episodes and the movie, may be overall a rancid pile of vile matter that could be used as proof against humanity in a cosmic tribunal, yet one cannot help respecting the crew regardless when they do something like that.
No worries on not wanting to discuss the plot in this one given the subject matter, Mouse.
Gabriella’s importance in terms of representation is something that’s been noted more and more in recent years both in terms of race and characters with disabilities. The kerfuffle over a woman of color being cast as Ariel for the live action film has definitely added to her increased recognition as well.
The plot of this ep is serviceable but I think the writers did a surprisingly good job with Gabriella’s character. There’s a lot of unfortunate tropes around disabled characters and for the most part they avoid them and she doesn’t feel stereotypical or only in the story to be pitied. Gabriella directly wanting to have her disability magically healed probably merits some conversation given real-life discussion in the deaf community over cochlear implants, but I’m not equipped to have it, not being deaf or hard of hearing myself.
If the series was airing now I think Disney probably would have hired a deaf sensitivity reader to go over the script (and to a lesser extent the other episode Gabriella shows up in).
But Gabriella’s a lively and fun character and I enjoy her fast friendship with Ariel. And I think giving her a translator was a great creative way to make the story accessible for kids too small to read subtitles and make communication between her and Ariel easier. TBH I do find something about the starfish not actually being able to grant wishes and feeling guilty about it kind of poignant. IDK I’m probably just a sap.