Ariel Makes a Splash on Disney Jr.!

The newest incarnation of Ariel made her way to Disney Jr. (formerly spelled Disney Junior) today with more episodes anticipated for Disney+ tomorrow. There were two 23-minute episodes split into four 11-minute long segments today. These continue the worldbuilding of this new version of Atlantic that was first introduced in the "Mermaid Tales" shorts from earlier this month. There was a lot of anticipation for this show, but it also gave pause to fans of the original series from 1991 due to its rewriting of Ariel's past. Although there were many changes made to the appearances, world, and backstories of the characters, many things still remain the same, including Ariel's obsession with human objects and the appearances and personalities of Flounder and Sebastian. Overall, it is a mixed bag that blends the original lore with new changes that are indicative of a different story that may have worked better as a spinoff.

Disney Junior's Ariel | On Disney+

Ariel follows the adventures of a young version of the famous redheaded mermaid in a re-imagined version of Atlantica that resides in the Caribbean. In line with this new incarnation, Ariel and her family have been race-bent and given new personalities. Although Ariel retains her loyalty to her friends and love of life, she is more emotionally stable within her community and no longer comes off as an outcast who would eventually leave everything behind to explore life on land. King Triton is a gentle and loving father who is laid-back and accepting of most decisions his daughters make and would never break their things to prove a point. "Tantie" Ursula is Ariel's beloved aunt who has a close relationship with her and her friends. She is prominently featured teaching them how to use magic in the episode "Ursula's Magic Camp." Her teacher/student dynamic with Ariel is very similar to that of Sofia and Cedric from the beloved series, Sofia the First. Like Sofia's show, each 11-minute segment of Ariel includes an original song inspired by Caribbean beats.

While I think this show would have worked better as a spinoff of Ariel's series from the '90s rather than a replacement, it includes tons of Easter eggs for fans of the original. In the first episode, "Atlantica Day," Ariel finds a fork and decides to name it a "dinglehopper" in reference to the original movie. The rest of the episode focuses on Ariel planning a song for Sebastian about what makes Atlantica special, but no one she asks about it can agree on just one thing. In the end, she realizes that their differences are what make Atlantica so unique and decides to sing about how colorful and diverse it is. This song can be interpreted as a modern throwback to "In Harmony," the famous anti-prejudice song from the original series. Her sisters, Ayanna and Alanna, were not heavily featured in either of these episodes, but were portrayed in the shorts as having similar personalities to the original six sisters, one of whom they are named after and give Ariel a makeover at one point with a pink dress that resembles the one she wore in the original movie.

Ariel has some impressively dynamic writing for a Pre-K. Based on its original description, I was expecting it to be more formulaic like "Doc McStuffins" and follow a routine of Ariel finding a new human object and learning about it in each segment. Instead, the episodes are driven by simple problems that would be relatable to its Pre-K target audience, and the solutions reveal a little something about each character and allows them to learn and grow. Fernie and Lucia are great original additions to the show that represent different personality types. The episode "Fernie's Notebook" focuses on how Fernie is so attached to his notebook that he isn't aware of how much knowledge he can recall without it, which is a great lesson for young kids with security blankets or plushies. "Ursula's Magic Camp" gives Lucia a chance to to try to control her magic and not let it all out before she's ready, which is good for kids who have trouble using art supplies and other things in moderation.

The new Disney Jr. series, Ariel, offers a fresh take on the beloved mermaid's adventures while maintaining some of the charm of the original "sea-ries." With its vibrant animation, catchy Caribbean-inspired songs, and relatable storylines, this show is sure to delight its young audience. While it may not be a direct continuation of the 1991 series, it honors its spirit with Easter eggs and themes that will resonate with fans of all ages. With its dynamic writing, lovable characters, and valuable lessons, Ariel is a great addition to the Disney Junior lineup and her stories from both the past and present are a great watch for any young fan of the little mermaid.

Comments

Yeah this show is pretty good. The way to describe the show is like if the best elements Santiago Of The Seas (the cultural influence), Princess Power (the wholesome vibe and fun princess adventures), and Eureka (young black girl who just wants to make others happy) were put together.

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