This is going to be an extremely brief post today because I am in the middle of moving to Orlando. So I thought I’d use this as an opportunity to share one of my favorite fun facts about Ariel from the The Little Mermaid. Though I don’t know for sure, I would guess that this particular piece of character concept art was done by Glen Keane, who was Ariel’s supervising animator for the film. Of course, the first thing you’ll notice about these drawings of Ariel is her blonde hair. It seems hard to imagine Ariel without out her shocking red locks. Yet one of the biggest arguments the crew creating The Little Mermaid had while designing Ariel was over colour, especially hair colour.
The initial plan was to have Ariel be a blonde, because blonde was considered the stereotypical hair colour that everyone most closely associates with mermaids. This lasted for a short time, until Disney executives pointed out that the Touchstone Pictures branch of the company had just released a live action film featuring a blonde mermaid, Splash staring Daryl Hannah and Tom Hanks. Executives worried that the two blonde mermaids would seem too similar, and that they might even confuse people. So Disney artists started experimenting with other hair colours, occasionally black, but more often red. Yet, still some artists stuck stubbornly to the idea that blonde was the best hair colour for their mermaid. Because of this much of the concept art for the character you may find depicts her as a blonde, despite executives concerns. The argument among the film’s crew over Ariel’s hair colour got to be so bad that some concept art from the film actual shows Ariel drawn twice on the same sheet of paper, once with red hair and once with blonde hair, in order to help compare the two colours. Finally the directors chose red hair for their mermaids, because it appeared more striking against the blues and greens of the ocean backgrounds than blonde hair did. Of course, once her hair colour was chosen, a tail colour had to be chosen to compliment that striking red. All sorts of different colours were tried out in different animators and character designers’ drawings. Some of the most heavily considered colours included yellow, orange, blue, and of course the final choice of green. You see, although animation allows filmmakers to create impossibly fantastic creatures like mermaids, without a guide from nature, it can take a lot of debating to for everyone to decide what colour these creatures should be.
Hope you enjoyed this little look at the history of Ariel’s hair colour. If you don’t see a post next Monday, I’m really sorry, but moving and starting a new job is very stressful.