Next gallery »2014 Independent Spirit Awards Nominations
« Previous gallery10 Stories You Might Have Missed: What will the 'Batman vs. Superman' film be called?
8. 'The Little Mermaid' (1989)
Best character: Ursula the Sea Witch -- Mae West meets Liza Minnelli meets Satan in this many-tentacled, oddly glamorous diva voiced by Pat Carroll.
Best movie moment: Well, for sheer infectious joy, the colorful crustacean calypso of "Under the Sea" is hard to beat -- it did win an Oscar, after all. But the film's heart is contained in Ariel's slow-burning soliloquy-as-ballad "Part of Your World," a cleverly dramatized number that encapsulates an adolescent yearning for escape and transformation that hardly seems unique to merfolk. And that closing surge as waves crash against the rocks? A+ for drama.
Why it's one of Disney's best: "Beauty and the Beast" may have nabbed that history-making Best Picture nomination two years later, but it was "The Little Mermaid" that ushered in a new, revitalized era of Disney animation. After two decidedly uneven decades dominated by obscure, if sometimes endearing, narrative concepts, the company returned to the comforting classicism of fairytale storytelling, but their masterstroke was hiring the inimitable Alan Menken and Howard Ashman to fashion the material as a rich, witty, Broadway-style musical. It set the model for the next decade, and while later features boasted more visual dazzle, I'm not sure they match the emotional resonance of Hans Christian Andersen's story of morphosis and mortality.
- Guy Lodge