"I've never seen a human this close before."
–Ariel, seeing Eric for the first time.

Princess (later Queen) Ariel is the main protagonist of Disney's 1989 animated feature film The Little Mermaid.[1] Ariel subsequently appears in The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea (2000) and The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning (2008).[2][3][4] From 1992 to 1994, Ariel starred in an animated television prequel series based on the first movie.[5]

Ariel, a beautiful mermaid princess who dreams of becoming part of the human world, makes a blind-sighted deal with a sea witch named Ursula, trading her beautiful voice for a pair of human legs. In order to remain human, Ariel must, in three days, get the handsome Prince Eric to kiss her. If not, she will turn back into a mermaid and belong to Ursula for the rest of her days.

In all film appearances, Ariel's speaking and singing voices are provided by Jodi Benson.[6] In the Broadway adaptation of The Little Mermaid, the "live" role of Ariel was originated by Sierra Boggess in 2007.[7]

Appearance and personalityEdit

Physical appearanceEdit

In the first film, Ariel is introduced as a regally and unbearably beautiful and very attractive sixteen-year-old mermaid with long, bright red hair, large aqua-blue eyes, crimson-red lips, a long green tail, and a slim yet curvy physique. Ariel's belly-button shows, as she wears a purple seashell bra. As a human, Ariel's beautiful green tail is replaced by a pair of long and lovely human legs.

The youngest daughter of King Triton and Queen Athena. Ariel has six older sisters, and is the most beautiful of them all.[8] She is also the only one of Triton's daughters to be seen wearing her hair down, and bares the closest resemblance to her mother. She is considered by many fans to be Disney's most beautiful princess due to her colorful and exotic features.


Introduction Dress: When she is first introduced to Prince Eric and his dog, Max, Ariel wears a white sail for a dress with sienna rope for its lining and she goes around barefoot.

Pink and White Gown: For her dinner with Prince Eric and his manservant, Grismby, Ariel wears a beautiful pink and white gown that is off the shoulder, with a gray brim on her neckline, shoulder sleeves that each has long diamond-shaped designs on both sides attached to long sleeves, and peplum with a white underskirt. Underneath the dress, she wears several white petticoats, a corset and frilly white pantalettes. In her hair, she has several silver barrettes and white pearl earrings are shown on her ears. On her feet, she wears pink high heels, although they are not seen.

Nightgown: When Ariel gets ready for bed, she wears a frilly pink floor-length nightgown and goes around barefoot, though sometimes, she wears pantalettes underneath.

Date Dress: When Ariel goes on her date with Prince Eric, she wears a blue dress with aqua sleeves and an indigo bodice. In her hair, Ariel wears a blue bow and she wears indigo pumps on her feet. She would wear this outfit from her date with Prince Eric and when she is captured by Ursula after she turns back into a mermaid.

Reunion Dress: After she is permanently transformed back into a human by her father, Ariel wears a light violet glittering tank dress and goes around barefoot.

Wedding Gown: Ariel's final outfit in the first movie is a white wedding dress with puffy shoulders and slim sleeves, silver lining on her neckline and on the center and sides of the dress. Underneath the dress, she wears several white petticoats, a corset and frilly white pantalettes. On her head, Ariel wears a gold tiara with a long transparent white wedding veil and white pearl earrings dangle from her ears.  On her feet, she wears a pair of white high heels, although they are not seen.

Christening Dress: In the second film, Ariel's hair is in a low ponytail, and she wears a gold and white dress as well as gold high heels and a white bow in her ponytailed hair on her daughter, Melody's, christening.

Party Dress: On her daughter's 12th birthday party, Ariel's hair is in an up-do and she wears a periwinkle gown, a golden tiara, necklace, and earrings decorated with green and white gems.  Underneath her gown, she wears a white petticoat, a corset and frilly white pantalettes.  On her feet, she wears a pair of periwinkle high heels with gold sea shells.

Peasant Dress: Ariel still wears the same up-do, but she now wears a green peasant dress when she's on her husband's ship before she turns back into a mermaid.

Finale Dress: By the end of the second movie, Ariel wears a blue and white dress with light blue earrings.


"I should be writing symphonies, not tagging along after some headstrong teenager!"
–Sebastian, on Ariel's rebellious personality.

In the first and third films, teenage Ariel is adventurous, outspoken, stubborn, headstrong, and a little naive despite her attractiveness and beauty. Ariel hates being forced to abide by the strict rules of her father, King Triton, and prefers to live an independent life and make her own decisions, especially when it comes to her fascination with the human world, which is strictly prohibited by her father. Ariel is also fun-loving and energetic, and finds it nearly impossible to sit still for long periods at a time.

Ariel falls head over heels for the handsome Prince Eric the very first time she sees him. After saving him from drowning during a devastating hurricane, Ariel can't stop thinking about him, and her longing determination leads her to seek the help of Ursula, a sea witch with whom she trades her beautiful voice for a pair of human legs.

Although Ariel may often seem to make irrational, poorly thought, and sometimes unrealistic decisions, she is in no way foolish, and knows the difference between right and wrong.

Background and DevelopmentEdit


Ariel is loosely based upon the main protagonist from Hans Christian Andersen's classic fairy tale, The Little Mermaid. However, Disney's version of The Little Mermaid differs significantly from the original fairy tale, specifically the ending.

In the original fairy tale, the unnamed Little Mermaid is the youngest daughter of a mighty sea king. She lives with her father, her grandmother, and her five older sisters in a palace under the sea. Each year, one sister (each one year older than the next), at the age of fifteen, is given permission to swim to the surface and see the human world. The Little Mermaid, being the youngest of them all, is forced to wait six long years before her turn comes, and the more she hears about "the world above" from her sisters, the more she longs to see it.

When the Little Mermaid's turn finally arrives, she swims to the surface and sees the human world for the first time. On a nearby ship, she catches glimpse a handsome prince and instantly falls in love with him. However, when a violent storm hits, the prince is thrown overboard and nearly drowns. Fortunately, he is rescued by the Little Mermaid, who places him on the shore near a temple. Moments later, a young girl from the temple arrives just as the prince is coming to, but the Little Mermaid swims away before she is seen be either of them.

After learning about the eternal souls humans receive after their deaths, Ariel's longing for the prince and an eternal soul drives her to see the Sea Witch, who sells her a magic potion that will turn her human in return for her tounge. The Sea Witch warns her that drinking the potion will cause the Little Mermaid severe pain and have negative side-effects, such as making it feel as though she is walking on sharp swords. Furthermore, the prince would have to fall in love with her in order for her to get a soul. If the prince falls in love with another woman, the Little Mermaid would die of a broken heart and turn into sea foam. The Little Mermaid agrees despite her warnings, and after she drinks the potion, turns into a beautiful young human.

The Little Mermaid swims ashore and meets the prince, who is attracted to her despite her inability to speak. The Little Mermaid spends many months with the prince. However, the prince's father, the King, orders his son to marry a princess from a neighboring kingdom. The prince refuses, stating that he will only marry the girl who rescued him at the temple, not knowing that it was a mermaid who actually saved him. It is later revealed that the princess is the girl from the temple, so the prince falls in love with her, and a wedding is announced.

The prince and the princess marry, and the Little Mermaid's heart is broken. Before sunrise the next morning, Ariel's sisters come to her and give her a knife, saying that if she kills the prince she will turn back into a mermaid and live out the rest of her life without suffering. However, the Little Mermaid cannot bring herself to do this, and at dawn the next morning, she throws herself into the ocean. However, instead of turning into sea foam, she becomes a daughter of air.


Design and characteristicsEdit

Ariel's supervising animator was Glen Keane.
Ariel Concept

Early concept art for Ariel.

One of the many challenges for animating Ariel was the color required to show her in the changing environments, both under the sea and on land, for which the animators required 32-color models. The blue-green color of Ariel's tail was a hue specially mixed by the Disney paint lab. The color was eventually named "Ariel" after the character.

Ariel and Alice

Ariel and Alice comparison.

Ariel's physical appearance has been compared to those of several past Disney heroines/princesses, but is seemingly most similar to that of Alice's from Disney's Alice in Wonderland, as they both have large blue eyes, a broad forehead, volumized bangs, and a small mouth and chin. Coincidentally, in some of Ariel's earlier concept sketches, she appears younger than she turned out to be in the final film (see above sketch).

Like Alice, Ariel was originally intended to be blonde After some dispute over this, however, it was decided that Ariel would have red hair because red is easier to darken (in underwater sequences) than yellow.

For the most part, model and actress, Sherri Stoner, provided the live-action reference for Ariel's design. Several physical traits were "borrowed" from Stoner's appearance and expressions. For example, Stoner had a habit of biting her lower lip whenever she was thinking of, examining or evaluating something. Throughout The Little Mermaid, Ariel is seen biting her lip whenever she is nervous, excited, or occasionally, frustrated.

However, there were several other women involved in the creation of Ariel.

  • Although the film is set roughly in the 17th century (1800's), the directors wanted Ariel to be as relatable as possible to what would have been a modern-day teenage girl. So, they based most of her personality and body language upon actress, Alyssa Milano (then 16 years old).
  • Footage of astronaut, Sally Ride, in space was used when animating Ariel's hair underwater.
  • Keane also stated in an animation lecture that Ariel's design was based upon that of his own wife.


Voice ActressEdit

Role in FilmEdit

The Little MermaidEdit

"I'm sixteen-years-old! I'm not a child anymore!"
–Ariel, to Triton

Ariel is shown as a young mermaid, with a vast fascination with the world of humans, despite contact being forbidden by her father, King Triton, who hates humans. The beginning of the film shows Ariel salvaging human items, and taking them to her friend, Scuttle, a seagull, for identification. Ariel keeps them in a secret grotto as part of her collection, from books to other regular objects (such as globes, mugs and the like), but realized that collecting human objects wasn't enough and desires to actually live among the humans.

One night, when Ariel goes up to see the human world, she looks into a boat, and becomes notices a specific human, named Prince Eric, who she finds to be very handsome. Suddenly, a storm breaks out, and the boat sinks. All the humans on the boat manage to escape, except for Eric, who starts to drown, until Ariel rescues him and takes him to shore. She sings to him on the shore, but is forced to leave when others approach. Ariel falls in love with him, and became determined to accomplish her dream of living alongside humanity.

King Triton manages to find Ariel's secret grotto, and becomes upset about her love for the human world. Ariel and Triton argue about her love for the human world, and Triton destroys all of her human objects, including a statue of Prince Eric Flounder had given to her as a gift just before. Ariel, who is very depressed about what her father just did, goes to Ursula, an evil sea witch. Ursula, who understands Ariel's love for the human world, makes a deal with Ariel, that says in exchange for Ariel's voice, Ursula will make Ariel human. However, if she cannot get Eric to kiss her within three days, Ariels would go back to become a mermaid, and become Ursula's prisoner. (Unknown to Ariel, this is simply a part of Ursula's plot to take Triton's throne.) Ariel agrees to this, and becomes a mute human.

When Ariel arrives on the shore, as a human, she sees Eric, who is searching for the girl who saved him and sung to him. Since she is unable to speak, and thus unable to identify herself, Eric does not realize that Ariel is the girl he is looking for, but Eric still takes Ariel into his castle. Ariel and Eric begin to fall in love, but Ursula intervenes, by turning herself human and hypnotizing Eric with Ariel's voice. The hypnotized Eric plans to marry "Vanessa", actually Ursula in disguise. Ariel is able to stop the wedding, and regain her voice. When Eric realizes that Ariel is the girl he was really searching for the whole time, he falls in love with her. But before Eric and Ariel can kiss, the third day ends and Ariel becomes Ursula's prisoner. Triton offers himself in Ariel's replacement, just as Ursula planned, which allows Ursula to gain control over the sea. Ariel and Eric have a final showdown, during which Ariel is trapped and left helpless at the bottom of a whirlpool. Ursula aims her newly aquired trident at the princess and fires bolts of pure destruction at her. Ariel fearfully manages to avoid her painful demise each time and is saved by Eric, who steers a boat into Ursula, killing her. At the end of the film, Ariel is made human by Triton, who has realized how much Ariel loves Eric. Ariel stays on land with Eric, and marries him. Ariel and Eric live happily ever after.

The Little Mermaid II: Return to the SeaEdit

"I should have known I couldn't keep Melody away from the sea. It's a part of her...and a part of me."
–Ariel, to Triton and Eric

This 2000 direct-to-video sequel takes place a few years after the first film. The film opens with Ariel playing with her adorable and beautiful newborn tomboy daughter Melody, many toys of Flounder, Sebastian and other fish can be seen in the room, showing that she misses her old friends and family. When Melody's safety is threatened by a sea witch named Morgana (sister of Ursula), Ariel and her husband Eric decide they must keep Melody away from the sea, and to this effect, build a large wall separating the castle from it. Melody's love of the sea proves too strong, however, and when Melody falls into Morgana's clutches, Ariel is forced to temporarily resume her mermaid form in order to rescue her and save Melody from Morgana's scheme. In this time, Ariel breifly returns to her grotto as seen in the first film, and studies the objects, (which we are left to presume survived King Tritons anger in the first film) and keeps looking for Melody. In the end, Ariel is shown happily playing with her family, when they destroy the wall, and the sea animals and humans live in peace.

The Little Mermaid: Ariel's BeginningEdit

"Just because you're the oldest, Attina, doesn't mean you get to boss us around."
–Ariel, to Attina


On January 10, 2008, The Little Mermaid officially opened on Broadway at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, repl
Sierra Boggess as Ariel

Sierra Boggess as Ariel

acing the recently closed Beauty and the Beast. American actress and singer, Sierra Boggess, originated the "live" role of Ariel. On August 30, 2009, after only one year of stage run, the show closed, with Ariel's Broadway role finalized by Michelle Lookadoo.


  • Sierra Boggess - Broadway's original Ariel.
  • Chelsea Morgan Stock Broadway's original Ariel.
  • Michelle Lookadoo Broadway's orininal Ariel.


"Watch and you'll see, someday I'll be, part of your world!"
–Ariel, singing "Part of Your World (Reprise)"

The Little MermaidEdit

The Little Mermaid II: Return to the SeaEdit

The Little Mermaid: Ariel's BeginningEdit




  • Ariel is the first and only Disney Princess to be a mother.
  • She is the first Disney Princess to have red hair, Merida is the second.
  • Ariel is the first Disney Princess to be physically transformed, the second being Tiana.
  • Ariel is the second Disney Princess to be tempted by the villain's offer to make her wishes come true, the first being Snow White and the third being Tiana, and yet she is the last to give in to the temptation.