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The Little Mermaid TV Series You Never Knew Existed

The period of 1989 to 1999 is a crucial piece of the Walt Disney Company's history, known colloquially as the Disney Renaissance. After several years spent struggling to put productions on the big screen that were both critically favored and made big money, the company pumped out a legendary string of hit movies that put the Disney name back on the map. "The Lion King," "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," and "Mulan" were a handful of the titles included, but "The Little Mermaid" holds the honor of being the feature that kickstarted it all.

Now just over 30 years old, "The Little Mermaid" is still regarded as a major feather in Disney's cap — grossing over $233 million and thoroughly impressing critics upon premiere. Moviegoers across the globe adored Ariel (Jodi Benson) and all of her aquatic friends, writing their names in the cinematic history books and prompting the release of more "Little Mermaid" content. The 2000 direct-to-video sequel titled "The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea" and the 2008 prequel called "The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning" are arguably the most well-known of the bunch.

Unsurprisingly, neither of these films could hold a candle to the original "Little Mermaid," but at least they're not the most unmemorable additions to the canon. A prequel TV series came into being long before either of them that surely you've never heard of. 

The Little Mermaid animated series didn't take the world by storm

Capitalizing on the success of "The Little Mermaid," the "Little Mermaid" animated series arrived on the small screen in late 1992. Set between the events of "Ariel's Beginning" and the 1989 film, the program sought to explore Ariel's life before meeting Prince Eric (Christopher Daniel Barnes), flesh out fan favorites like King Triton (Kenneth Mars) and Sebastian the crab (Samuel E. Wright), and introduce new faces such as Urchin (Dan Cooksey) and Spot (Frank Welker). It managed to last three seasons, encompassing 31 total episodes before bidding audiences farewell in 1994.

Despite its strong cast and lengthy run, the downgraded visuals and uninteresting stories left "The Little Mermaid" cartoon trapped in the shadow of its cinematic predecessor. In fact, it kicked off the trend of TV shows based on beloved Disney movies winding up lost to time in favor of their source material. Look no further than 1998's "Hercules: The Animated Series" or "The Emperor's New School" from 2006 for evidence that this wasn't a one-and-done phenomenon. Though rarely the case these days, sometimes it's for the best to simply leave lightning-in-a-bottle projects to stand on their own.

"The Little Mermaid" animated series certainly didn't break any new ground, nor has it left a lasting impression on the majority of viewers. Nevertheless, it's an interesting byproduct of one of Disney's most tumultuous periods, and if you're ever interested in checking it out, it currently resides in the expansive library of Disney+.