- If you grew up in the ’90s, you may have found yourself excitedly going through Disney movies searching for hidden Mickeys and other Easter eggs.
- One that many Disney fans may be familiar with is the brief appearance of Mickey, Donald, and Goofy in “The Little Mermaid.”
- While speaking about the animated film’s 30th anniversary, codirector Ron Clements told INSIDER a Disney animator simply added the trio into the scene along with Kermit the Frog as “a little inside joke.” Clements found it funny and it was left in the film.
- Clements said it’s the sort of thing that wasn’t expected to be spotted when seen in theaters. The characters appear over a quick four seconds and Kermit only appears in a few frames of the film’s first four minutes.
- “The Little Mermaid’s” release on home video and later Blu-ray and digital made it easier for die-hard fans to scour the film for these gems.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.
If you’ve ever done a close watch of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” you may have noticed Mickey, Goofy, and Donald appear in an early scene of the movie when King Triton is first introduced to a crowd of mermen.
If you look closely, Kermit the Frog can be spotted as well.
The four are a few of many Easter eggs, or hidden references, that have been spotted in Disney movies over the years. Nowadays, some Easter eggs like the Pizza Planet truck or the number A113 have become staples in Pixar movies.
But back in the late ’80s, it wasn’t something that was usually planned. You have one artist to thank for the appearances of the four classic characters in “The Little Mermaid.”
“In that particular case, and I would say this to the case of how a lot of these things happen, the animator who animated the crowd in that scene did that himself as a little inside joke, and I think he did it for himself,” “The Little Mermaid” codirector Ron Clements told INSIDER of how Mickey and his friends made their way under the sea.
INSIDER spoke with Clements in March for the 30th anniversary of the 1989 movie this year. The Disney legend also directed “The Great Mouse Detective,” “Aladdin,” and “Hercules” with John Musker. More recently, the duo directed “Moana” before Musker retired in 2018.
Clements couldn’t recall who animated the crowd in that scene, but he did know about this one after it was inserted into the background.
“We were aware of it,” said Clements about this particular Easter egg. “It was pointed out to us. Sometimes, if it wasn’t pointed out, we wouldn’t notice some of these things. But in that case, it was and we thought it was very funny.”
“It was one of those things that you could almost never ever possibly notice in the movie, seeing it in a theater,” said Clements of the fun nod to Mickey and the gang. “It’s interesting because that was a time when ‘Mermaid’ was one of the first new films to go onto home video and it would only be on home video where you could kind of look at it over and over and go back and forth that anyone would ever even have noticed it because it would be almost imperceptible.”
Clements is right. It’s easy to watch the early scene of “The Little Mermaid” and be unaware that Mickey, Donald, and Goofy are even in the scene. The roughly four-second scene moves over the crowd quite quickly and the main focus is on King Trident.
In fact, you’re very likely to miss the fourth cameo by Kermit the Frog because he’s away from the trio of other characters in the scene and only appears in 15 frames of the animated movie. His green coloring makes it easy for him to blend into the background.
It’s not until you pause and watch the film frame by frame, that you’re really able to make out Mickey and his pals. The first VHS release of “The Little Mermaid” was in May 1990. That really wasn’t the easiest to do with a video cassette. It wasn’t until the film was first released on DVD, a decade after its theatrical release in 1999, that die-hard Disney fans were more easily able to freeze frame specific scenes to look for these hidden images and messages waiting to be discovered.
Now that it’s available for purchase digitally on YouTube, Amazon, and iTunes, it’s easier to go back and notice even more in the 40-frame breakdown of the scene. INSIDER spotted two young mermaids appearing to wear Mickey ears and a man with antennae coming out of his head. Another young man can be seen wearing sunglasses under water.
“We don’t as directors, John [Musker] and myself, we don’t tend to put those things in ourselves, and, again, it tends to come from the animators, the layout artist, or the background painter. I know there have been a few sort of controversial ones here and there,” said Clements.
Still, no matter how many times you may have paused your “Little Mermaid” DVDs and Blu-rays, Clements recalled another one you may have missed after all of these years, where you can spot Don Knotts’ character from 1964’s “The Incredible Mr. Limpet,” which Clements said he grew up watching.
“In ‘Under the Sea,’ in that last sequence, where all the fish are pointing toward this empty rock where Ariel is supposed to be and she’s left. If you look really carefully in that, the Don Knotts fish character in ‘The Incredible Mr. Limpet,’ he’s in there with his glasses. Once again, that was done, the animator just thought it would be fun and stuck it in.”
The 30th anniversary edition of “The Little Mermaid” is available on Blu-ray and DVD now here.
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