The Little Mermaid is a fairytale written by Hans Christian Andersen and first published in 1837. The
classic tale has the Little Mermaid discover a handsome prince above the seas
whom she falls madly in love with. She rescued the prince from drowning, but
left before he discovered who his rescuer was. She traded her voice and tongue
to a Sea Witch for a potion to give her legs so that she may win over the
prince, but if he married someone else she would die the following day. As a
human, she meets and befriends the prince, but the prince could only love the
one who rescued him, and he believed it was a princess from the neighboring
kingdom. They end up married, but the Mermaid’s sisters trade their long hair
to the Witch for a dagger that if the Mermaid used it to kill the prince and
drip his blood on her legs, could allow her to return to the sea and live.
Unable to, the Mermaid falls into ocean and becomes foam, allowing her to
transcend into an earthbound ethereal spirit.
|The Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen.
In the years since its publication, The Little Mermaid has been adapted to
stage, screen and animation numerous times. Each iteration added its own spin
on the story; from miniscule details (such as the Mermaid’s hair color and
name) to sweeping changes (like making the ending a bit happier for the
heroine). Of course, one of the biggest and most recognizable adaptations of
the story was Disney’s
1989 film, The Little Mermaid. Not only was it a
box office success, but it became one of the most successful home video
releases of 1990.
|Marina and Prince Justin.
1991, the Little Mermaid made her debut on television; however, it wasn’t the
Disney version. The Adventures of Mermaid
Princess Marina (or Ningyo Hime
Marina no Bouken) was a French/Japanese co-production conceived by DiC Entertainment founder
The series began much like the Andersen tale: mermaid princess Marina (Jun Takanomaki
& Sonja Ball) rescued human prince Justin (Takehito Koyasu & Thor
Bishopric) from drowning. Marina made a deal with Hedwig the Sea Witch (Chie
Kitagawa & Ball) to become human in order to win Justin’s love, but he believed
that the spoiled princess Cecily was his rescuer and the one he loved.
|Marina and Hedwig the Sea Witch.
Where the story begins to differ,
however, is that Justin remembered Marina was his heroine and wanted to be with
her. The wizard Anslem (Aron Tager), who kept his magical nature a secret and
served as Justin’s tutor, restored Marina to her original form and gave Justin
a potion that would allow him to breathe underwater for an hour a day.
Similarly, Marina manages to steal a potion from Hedwig that allowed her to be
human for an hour a day. Episodes would focus around Hedwig’s attempts to use
Marina and Justin as leverage to acquire the Amulet of Power from Anslem, her
ex-lover, in order to rule the world. Marina and Justin would also try to
acquire a Golden Tablet in Hedwig’s possession that had a spell that could make
Marina permanently human.
|Marina with Winnie and Bobo.
would often enlist the aid of Cecily, who wanted Justin for herself, and
Justin’s rival, Prince Lothar (Shingo Hiromori & Richard Dumont), but
mostly relied on her dim-witted shark lacky, Dudley (Tessho Genda & Ian
Finlay), her giant octopus, Hugo, and her manta ray transport/spy, Ray. Aiding
Marina and Justin were her friends Winnie (Yumi Hiroki & Anik Matern), a
seahorse who could fly when out of water and emit a loud sonic scream; Bobo
(Carlyle Miller), a tropical fish who spied on Hedwig; Ridley (Sakiko Tamagawa
& Arthur Holden), a sea otter who could breathe underwater indefinitely and
served as Anslem’s companion; as well as Justin’s goofy, but loyal, page,
Chauncey (Ryuzou Ishino & Gordon Masten).
|Singing: "I got a Golden Tablet..."
Adventures of Mermaid Princess Marina debuted on February 2, 1991 on
TV Network. It was made in cooperation with Fuji’s Fuji Eight
Co., Ltd. with animation duties handled by Telescreen Japan
and direction by Takehiro
Miyano. Initially, Marina greater resembled Disney’s Ariel
red hair and a purple bikini top, and Justin’s design was
closer to their Prince Eric’s. Those were changed during the show’s production
to prevent any copyright issues with Disney, who owned all aspects of their
interpretation (ironically, Disney would come to own this series and the rest
of Saban’s library through their 2001 purchase of Fox
Family Worldwide, which Saban partly owned and was folded
into). The anime ran for 26 episodes and featured a different opening and
closing theme written by Azusa and performed by Hiroki.
|Ridley explains the art of imitation in marketing.
to capitalize on the success of Disney’s film, Saban
Entertainment licensed the rights to produce an English
dub to the series. The series underwent some minor editing and was given an
all-new musical score and theme by Shuki Levy.
The series was retitled Saban’s
Adventures of the Little Mermaid and was aired in syndication on Saturday
and weekday mornings. The show failed to reach the acclaim Disney’s version
did, and no further episodes were commissioned on either side of the pond.
Music from the English dub was reused in Saban’s next anime venture, Digimon: Digital Monsters.
Despite the show’s short run and
relative fade into obscurity over the years, Saban licensed out a wide range of
merchandising for it. Noteworthy made a set of Marina
figurine stamps in three different poses, a coloring
pad/stamp pad set, a vinyl
and a pencil
made a Marina
doll with removable fabric clothing, as well as bendable
drinking straws shaped like Marina. Toy Group produced
four figurines: Hedwig,
Justin and two different Marinas. Paradise released a 13-piece
tea set decorated with images of Marina, and a Dough
Maker that allowed characters to be made in molds. Unique made a line of
party supplies including a tablecloth,
Brookfield made a skate
Time Mee Toy a combination
gumball machine and bank, and MagikeWerks Publishing of
America, Inc. published a storybook
as late as 1993. There was also building
blocks, a sliding
sheets and a tabletop
|The first episode on VHS.
The series had gone on to be
translated in multiple languages and aired in various markets. In 1992, Saban
VHS tapes with an episode each in the United States. In 2004,
Boulevard, in association with Fox Kids
released the first
five episodes of the series onto DVD overseas. The next
were released by Maximum
Entertainment, in association with Disney brand Jetix.
In 2007, Jetix Films released the next
in a set with original DVD art that didn’t match the series it contained. The
three volumes were eventually collected
and sold together.