Ultra HD: Worth a Look
3.5 Stars out of 5
List Price 29.99
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Release Date: February 12th, 2019
Movie Release Year: 1989
MPAA Rating:
Release Country: United States
COLLAPSE INFO -

The Little Mermaid - 4K Digital with Dolby Vision & Dolby Atmos

Review Date February 20th, 2019 by
Overview -

As the first animated feature to kick off the late 80s, early 90s Disney Renaissance, The Little Mermaid returns to home video for its 30th anniversary on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, as well as 4K Digital, which we're covering in this review because it features a Dolby Vision HDR grade not found on the Ultra HD Blu-ray. Overall, The Little Mermaid boasts a good-but-dark Dolby Vision HDR transfer and a decent-but-quiet Dolby Atmos mix. Worth a Look for Disney fans who have stopped buying discs. For those waiting on our 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray review, we'll have that up very soon.

OVERALL
Worth a Look
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  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs:
    4K UHD/Blu-ray/Digital
    Video Resolution/Codec:
    2160p/HEVC H.265
    Length:83
    Release Country:United States
    Aspect Ratio(s):
    1.78:1
    Audio Formats:
    English Dolby Atmos, Latin Spanish, & French-Canadian 5.1 Dolby Digital
    Subtitles/Captions:
    English SDH, Spanish & French
    Special Features:

    NEW Sing Along Mode – Sing along to the movie in this sing-along version of the film.

    NEW Alan Menken & the Leading Ladies Song – From the voice of a mermaid to the tunes of a muse, the music of Alan Menken has scored the soundtrack for some of Disney’s most iconic leading ladies. Join Alan, Jodi Benson (Ariel), Paige O’Hara (Belle), Judy Kuhn (Pocahontas Singing Voice), Lillias White (Calliope) and Donna Murphy (Mother Gothel) as we celebrate the music of their films in honor of the one that started it all … “The Little Mermaid.” In this discussion, the ladies will share their memories of musically creating their characters with Alan, discuss what it means to be part of the Disney Princess/leading lady legacy and create new memories as they sing with Alan around a baby grand piano.

    NEW “What I Want From You…Is YOUR VOICE” – Enter the recording studio and get an inside look at the cast of “The Little Mermaid” in their original recording sessions.

    NEW Stories From Walt’s Office – Gadgets & Gizmos – Like Ariel, Walt Disney was a collector of many different things from miniatures to early mechanical characters that inspired the invention of audio-animatronics. We take a look at some the collections that Walt kept in his office in the third episode of this series.

    NEW #TreasuresUntold – Join Ruby Rose Turner and Olivia Sanabia from the Disney Channel Original Series “Coop and Cami Ask the World” as they take a deep dive to explore some hidden treasures and fun facts about Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.”

    NEW DCapella “Part of Your World” Music Video

    Deleted Character: Harold The Merman

    Under The Scene: The Art Of Live Action Reference

    Howard’s Lecture

    Audio Commentary With Ron Clements, John Musker and Alan Menken

    "Part of Your World” - A 30-Year Retrospective – Songwriter Alan Menken and Jodi Benson, the acting and singing voice of Ariel, sing the epitome of Disney “I Want” songs “Part of Your World” and discuss its impact since it was first heard 30 years ago. (Digital Exclusive)

    Classic Bonus Features – Over 3 additional hours of previously released classic bonus features including Deleted Scenes, Easter Eggs, Music Videos and more! (Digital Exclusive)
    Movie Studio: Disney
    Release Date: February 12th, 2019

Story Review Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

4 Stars out of 5

Thirty years after its theatrical debut, The Little Mermaid remains an iconic Walt Disney animated musical filled with catchy songs and gorgeous hand-drawn visuals. Though this particular reviewer wishes Ariel had more to do during the film's second half, the story and its characters remain a joy to revisit for children, families, and Disney fans of all ages.

For a full review of the movie itself, please check out our Diamond Edition Blu-ray 3D Review from 2013.

Vital Stats: The 4K Digital Copy

While Disney usually includes a 4K digital copy with the purchase of its 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays, we purchased this 4K digital copy from VUDU.com, which includes support for Dolby Vision, HDR10, and Dolby Atmos audio as well as 12 bonus features (see below).

  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs:
    4K UHD/Blu-ray/Digital
    Video Resolution/Codec:
    2160p/HEVC H.265
    Length:83
    Release Country:United States
    Aspect Ratio(s):
    1.78:1
    Audio Formats:
    English Dolby Atmos, Latin Spanish, & French-Canadian 5.1 Dolby Digital
    Subtitles/Captions:
    English SDH, Spanish & French
    Special Features:

    NEW Sing Along Mode – Sing along to the movie in this sing-along version of the film.

    NEW Alan Menken & the Leading Ladies Song – From the voice of a mermaid to the tunes of a muse, the music of Alan Menken has scored the soundtrack for some of Disney’s most iconic leading ladies. Join Alan, Jodi Benson (Ariel), Paige O’Hara (Belle), Judy Kuhn (Pocahontas Singing Voice), Lillias White (Calliope) and Donna Murphy (Mother Gothel) as we celebrate the music of their films in honor of the one that started it all … “The Little Mermaid.” In this discussion, the ladies will share their memories of musically creating their characters with Alan, discuss what it means to be part of the Disney Princess/leading lady legacy and create new memories as they sing with Alan around a baby grand piano.

    NEW “What I Want From You…Is YOUR VOICE” – Enter the recording studio and get an inside look at the cast of “The Little Mermaid” in their original recording sessions.

    NEW Stories From Walt’s Office – Gadgets & Gizmos – Like Ariel, Walt Disney was a collector of many different things from miniatures to early mechanical characters that inspired the invention of audio-animatronics. We take a look at some the collections that Walt kept in his office in the third episode of this series.

    NEW #TreasuresUntold – Join Ruby Rose Turner and Olivia Sanabia from the Disney Channel Original Series “Coop and Cami Ask the World” as they take a deep dive to explore some hidden treasures and fun facts about Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.”

    NEW DCapella “Part of Your World” Music Video

    Deleted Character: Harold The Merman

    Under The Scene: The Art Of Live Action Reference

    Howard’s Lecture

    Audio Commentary With Ron Clements, John Musker and Alan Menken

    "Part of Your World” - A 30-Year Retrospective – Songwriter Alan Menken and Jodi Benson, the acting and singing voice of Ariel, sing the epitome of Disney “I Want” songs “Part of Your World” and discuss its impact since it was first heard 30 years ago. (Digital Exclusive)

    Classic Bonus Features – Over 3 additional hours of previously released classic bonus features including Deleted Scenes, Easter Eggs, Music Videos and more! (Digital Exclusive)
    Movie Studio: Disney
    Release Date: February 12th, 2019

Video Review

3.5 Stars out of 5

We thought it would be worth diving into The Little Mermaid 4K Digital transfer because it includes Dolby Vision HDR on certain streaming services (the Ultra HD Blu-ray is HDR10 only). For this review, we used VUDU via an Apple TV 4K.

After recently reviewing The Lion King, I was expecting similar results with The Little Mermaid 4K digital release. Namely, it should have bolder colors and more fine background details than the HD version. That's true here, and in toggling back and forth between 4K Dolby Vision and HD, there is, indeed, a noticeable upgrade in sharpness and colors and contrast. In truth, the HD streaming version is pretty flat and washed out at times (especially during rainy sequences). In 4K, you'll also see more of the artists' individual character brushstrokes as well as more detail in all of the location backgrounds. To be fair, these details are subtle if you're not looking closely, but they are there and add to an overall sense of sharpness. Although the HD Blu-ray doesn't have the aforementioned washed-out contrast, the 4K Dolby Vision digital transfer is sharper and features better colors. 

However, there's one big issue. Where this HDR grading improves contrast and black levels and highlight details, these improvements come at a cost of lost shadow detail. Take a look at any of the darker scenes -- both of the ship sequences or Ursula's cave -- and you'll see greys and browns pushed all the way to black, which robs the viewer of certain props and locations. (While this is pretty common with HDR10, I'm actually surprised to see this with Dolby Vision.)

As such, the 4K transfer certainly pops and there's more information onscreen for much of the time, but there are other times where you're losing out on some of the craft and artistry that's been visible for the last thirty years. Is this a dealbreaker? That depends. Are you a purist? How bright is your specific TV or projector? It's not horrible, but what a shame.

If you currently only have access to a digital HD version, this 4K Dolby Vision might be worth the compromise, but, for Blu-ray and 3D Blu-ray owners, I'm less sure this version is worth the upgrade.

Audio Review

3.5 Stars out of 5

As I noted back in 2013 for our Diamond Edition 3D Blu-ray review, The Little Mermaid sounds quite good for its age, but doesn't stand up next to other Disney Renaissance era animated films (or modern blockbusters). In short, even with lossless audio, the soundtrack doesn't have the same about of LFE grunt, surround articulation, or sound-effect fidelity that you'll hear in The Lion King or Beauty and the Beast.

Listening to The Little Mermaid in lossy Dolby Atmos (this streaming version uses Dolby Digital Plus as its base where Blu-ray and 4K discs use TrueHD) reveals more of the same strengths and weakness with a just a touch more tallness. The dialog and the songs sound great and fill the room, which is most important. LFE isn't bombastic, but there are a few heavier moments during key action sequences. But, some of the sound effects still sound thin (as they do in the lossless mix), and I'd argue the re-recording mixers who created this Atmos mix don't use the audio format's full capabilities, missing opportunities to place more objects overhead, be it environmental sounds, voices, or effects. It's just not a very articulate mix, in terms of panning front to back or up and down. Still, the movie's songs and score do make nice usage of the whole room.

Also worth noting, I had to adjust my AV Receiver's volume up by 10-15dB to match the Diamond Edition Blu-ray's 7.1 DTS-HD MA track. In comparing the two at even volumes, the lossy Atmos mix sounds pretty good and I can't really say the lossless mix has a noticeable advantage, nor would I say this quiet Dolby Atmos mix suffers from any dynamic range issues that weren't present in 2013.

Conclusion: for what it is, The Little Mermaid sounds lovely, but it's not a massive upgrade over the 7.1 track on the Blu-ray, which up-mixes nicely, nor is it the type of oh, wow Atmos mix we've heard in demo-worthy soundtracks.

Special Features

3.5 Stars out of 5

The Little Mermaid (VUDU edition) includes 12 bonus features:

  • Part of Your World Performed by Jodi Benson & Alan Menken
  • Alan Menken and the Leading Ladies
  • Treasures Untold: The Making of The Little Mermaid
  • Audio Commentary with Ron Clements, Jon Musker, and Alan Menken
  • Dcappella Part of Your World Music Video
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Part of Your World: A Look Back
  • Crab-E-Okes
  • Stories from Walt's Office: Gadgets & Gizmos
  • #Treasures Untold
  • Under The Sea Adventure
  • What I Want From You is... Your Voice

Final Thoughts

Though I personally wish Ariel had more to do in the movie's second half, The Little Mermaid has been a joy to revisit three decades after its theatrical debut. Filled with iconic songs and detailed animation, you can't help but want to be part of its world. As a 4K Digital release, I'm a bit torn by the results. On the plus side, you get bolder colors and more fine details -- just like we experienced with The Lion King -- and the contrast is much-improved over the rather crummy looking digital HD release. Buuuuuuut, this is a rare Dolby Vision transfer where the contrast crushes black levels for anything dark on screen. The Dolby Atmos mix is nice too, but is less robust than The Lion King soundtrack, and the sound mixers don't really push the Atmos immersion. (In my opinion, the 7.1 mix on the Blu-ray up-mixes as well as this sounds natively.)

Personally, I don't think it's worth $25 to buy this as a standalone release -- I'd probably spend $30 to get the 4K disc combo pack which includes a code for this digital copy -- but let's call it worth a look for Disney fans who don't buy discs anymore.

List Price $29.99
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  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs:
    4K UHD/Blu-ray/Digital
    Video Resolution/Codec:
    2160p/HEVC H.265
    Length:83
    Release Country:United States
    Aspect Ratio(s):
    1.78:1
    Audio Formats:
    English Dolby Atmos, Latin Spanish, & French-Canadian 5.1 Dolby Digital
    Subtitles/Captions:
    English SDH, Spanish & French
    Special Features:

    NEW Sing Along Mode – Sing along to the movie in this sing-along version of the film.

    NEW Alan Menken & the Leading Ladies Song – From the voice of a mermaid to the tunes of a muse, the music of Alan Menken has scored the soundtrack for some of Disney’s most iconic leading ladies. Join Alan, Jodi Benson (Ariel), Paige O’Hara (Belle), Judy Kuhn (Pocahontas Singing Voice), Lillias White (Calliope) and Donna Murphy (Mother Gothel) as we celebrate the music of their films in honor of the one that started it all … “The Little Mermaid.” In this discussion, the ladies will share their memories of musically creating their characters with Alan, discuss what it means to be part of the Disney Princess/leading lady legacy and create new memories as they sing with Alan around a baby grand piano.

    NEW “What I Want From You…Is YOUR VOICE” – Enter the recording studio and get an inside look at the cast of “The Little Mermaid” in their original recording sessions.

    NEW Stories From Walt’s Office – Gadgets & Gizmos – Like Ariel, Walt Disney was a collector of many different things from miniatures to early mechanical characters that inspired the invention of audio-animatronics. We take a look at some the collections that Walt kept in his office in the third episode of this series.

    NEW #TreasuresUntold – Join Ruby Rose Turner and Olivia Sanabia from the Disney Channel Original Series “Coop and Cami Ask the World” as they take a deep dive to explore some hidden treasures and fun facts about Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.”

    NEW DCapella “Part of Your World” Music Video

    Deleted Character: Harold The Merman

    Under The Scene: The Art Of Live Action Reference

    Howard’s Lecture

    Audio Commentary With Ron Clements, John Musker and Alan Menken

    "Part of Your World” - A 30-Year Retrospective – Songwriter Alan Menken and Jodi Benson, the acting and singing voice of Ariel, sing the epitome of Disney “I Want” songs “Part of Your World” and discuss its impact since it was first heard 30 years ago. (Digital Exclusive)

    Classic Bonus Features – Over 3 additional hours of previously released classic bonus features including Deleted Scenes, Easter Eggs, Music Videos and more! (Digital Exclusive)
    Movie Studio: Disney
    Release Date: February 12th, 2019

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