The Little Mermaid is an animated Walt Disney Television Animation television series based on the 1989 Disney film of the same name. It features the adventures of Ariel as a mermaid prior to the events of the film. This series is the first Disney television series to be spun off from a major animated film. Some of the voice actors of the film reprise their roles in the series, among them Jodi Benson as Ariel, Samuel E. Wright as Sebastian, Kenneth Mars as King Triton, and Pat Carroll as Ursula.
The Little Mermaid premiered in the fall of 1992 with the animated prime time special called "A Whale of a Tale," then moved to Saturday mornings. This series originally appeared on CBS, with an original run from 1992 to 1994. It was later shown in reruns on The Disney Channel and Toon Disney.
Some of the episodes contain musical segments, featuring original songs written for the series. The opening theme to the show is a combination of the songs "Part of Your World", "Under the Sea", and "Kiss the Girl". The overture for the stage musical of The Little Mermaid is similar to this.
The Little Mermaid television series is a prequel to the movie of the same name. The story is set before the events in the 1989 film, and follows Ariel's adventures as a mermaid still living under the sea with her father, Sebastian and Flounder. Various episodes highlight her relationship with her friends, father and sisters, and usually involves Ariel foiling the attempts of various enemies that intend ill harm to her or to her kingdom.
With the release of the prequel film The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning in 2008, some events in this television series have been contradicted (such as Ariel's first encounter with Flounder). This indicates that the TV series and the prequel film are set in different continuities.
A notable episode is "Metal Fish", in which Ariel saves a character named Hans Christian Andersen who is based on the real life author of the original The Little Mermaid, and the encounter inspired the character to "write" the story of The Little Mermaid. In this same episode, Ariel confronts her father with the fact that, despite his hatred of humans, he, as well as all merpeople, are half-human in an attempt to appeal to his compassion and better nature in order to save Hans' life when his ship is stranded at the bottom of the ocean. The ploy, unsurprisingly, works, as Triton has always been depicted as a compassionate (albeit sometimes bullheaded and set in his ways) monarch. A voice-over at the end of the episode talks about the real Hans Christian Andersen, while the image on the screen shows Ariel sitting on a rock in the style of the Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen harbor. If this is to be chronologically accurate, this places the time frame in which this series takes place at around 1836 when the story was first written or shortly before 1837 when the story was actually published.
This situation is repeated in The Legend of Tarzan episode "Tarzan and the Mysterious Visitor" where Tarzan meets his author Edgar Rice Burroughs who travels to Africa in search of inspiration for a new novel.
From the 1989 film
- Ariel (voiced by Jodi Benson) - She is the seventh daughter of the sea king who loves to sing and go on adventures. She also has developed magic in season 2 (episode 9) to save her world.
- Sebastian (voiced by Samuel E. Wright) - A caribbean crab who acts as the king's adviser, court musician, and a baby-sitter-like figure for Ariel.
- Flounder (voiced by Bradley Pierce and Edan Gross) - Ariel's best friend is a tropical fish who follows along on her adventures, and can be easily scared.
- King Triton (voiced by Kenneth Mars) - He is Ariel's father and ruler of Atlantica who protects his kingdom with his magic trident.
- Scuttle (voiced by Maurice LaMarche) - He is a seagull who is friends with Ariel.
- Aquata (voiced by Mona Marshall), Andrina (voiced by Catherine Cavadini), Arista (voiced by Mary Kay Bergman), Attina (voiced by Kath Soucie), Adella (voiced by Sherry Lynn) and Alana (voiced by Kimmy Robertson) are Ariel's six older sisters.
- Ursula (voiced by Pat Carroll) is a cecaelia and powerful sea witch who occasionally antagonizes Ariel.
- Flotsam and Jetsam (voiced by Paddi Edwards) - They are Ursula's moray eel henchmen who do her evil bidding for her.
- Prince Eric (voiced by Jeff Bennett) - Ariel's future husband. He appears occasionally but is never seen by Ariel or her friends, preserving the continuity that he is the first human she has contact with. However this is later contradicted by an episode in which Ariel comes into contact with a man who is meant to be a representation of Hans Christian Andersen, the man who wrote The Little Mermaid, the tale upon which the movies and series were based on (see Episodes, below, for further information).
- Urchin (voiced by Danny Cooksey) - He is an orphan young merman and Ariel's friend. He shares her love for adventure and is unofficially her adopted brother.
- The Lobster Mobster (voiced by Joe Alaskey) - A lobster gangster following the style of the 1920s gangster stereotype.
- De Shrimp (voiced by David Lander) - A prawn who is the Lobster Mobster's sidekick.
- The Evil Manta (voiced by Tim Curry) - An evil man/manta ray hybrid who repeatedly tries to take over Atlantica.
- Pearl (voiced by Cree Summer) - A spoiled, thrill-seeking mermaid whose actions often lead to Ariel, as well as herself, getting in trouble.
- Spot - A killer whale cub whom Ariel adopted and secretly raised in the palace.
- Gabriella - A deaf-mute Latina mermaid who dreams of becoming a singer. Gabriella's sign language is translated by her octopus friend Ollie (who is voiced by Gabriel Damon). This character is based on a real person who was a fan of the show and died during its first season.
- Moray Eel (voiced by Dave Coulier) - A moray eel salesman and con-artist who occasionally sells items to Ariel that alternately help her or get her into trouble.
- The Crabscouts (occasionally voiced by J.D. Daniels, Anndi McAfee, Bradley Pierce, Malachi Pearson, and Whitby Hertford) - They are crab children, consisting of two boys and one girl, who are under the mentorship of Sebastian in a scout-like troop.
- Flo and Ebb (voiced by Kath Soucie and Jim Cummings) - Alligator criminals who first appear in the episode "Beached".
- The Magical Wishing Starfish (voiced by Tony Jay) - A giant starfish with a beard and crown who only appears in the episode "Wish Upon A Starfish".