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A Great Prequel
This movie was remarkably refreshing and entertaining. The overall appearance of the film was pleasant. I really enjoyed the character design and animation; the film was very true to the original designs portrayed in the first Little Mermaid, and included just enough of modern 3d animation techniques to give additional depth to the 2d creations without spoiling its 2d nature. The story had a solid plot that supported other Little Mermaid films, as well as giving the viewer a touching glimpse of Ariel's mother and a deeper understanding of King Triton's character. The songs, while not as moving or masterful as Menken and Ashman's work on the first Little Mermaid film, were decent and fit in well with the overall theme of the movie. The movie flowed easily between the musical numbers and non-musical moments.
This is definitely one of those "Movie #3"s that rises well above the awful direction (plot, character, music, etc) that most sequels seem to follow.