The Little Mermaid 30th Anniversary Celebration at D23 Expo 2019

This year marks the 30th anniversary celebration of The Little Mermaid and Jodi Benson was there to celebrate with fans in true mermaid style. My dreams came true at D23 this year. My lifelong dream of being in the same room as Jodi Benson finally came true.

D23 Expo 2019 let fans celebrate all the wonderful things about Disney’s The Little Mermaid. The 30th anniversary celebration was hosted by H2O+ in the D23 Expo Arena hall on Sunday morning. Jodi was the master of ceremonies as she took us all through the past 30 years of magical mermaid memories.

The event kicked off with a number of little mermaids on the stage singing the first few lines of “Part of Your World.” Then, before you could say “guppy,” Jodi was out on stage singing the classic song.

I didn’t actually realize that I was crying until I was full-on sobbing. The Little Mermaid has always been a favorite for me, and I have always looked up to and admired Jodi. There was so much emotion on the stage and throughout the audience!


As Jodi welcomed the audience, she said that her word for the day was “thankful” as she spoke about the last 30 years and what The Little Mermaid has meant to her. She was then joined on stage by Ron Clements, the director for the film.

Ron talked about the challenges that Disney animation and storytellers faced when construction The Little Mermaid. After all, the original Hans Christian Andersen version of the story is not exactly what you would call a happy ending. Luckily for us, they made it work!

Art director Michael Peraza also joined Jodi and Ron on stage and shared some beautiful original artwork that was created for the film.

Michael was also on hand to discuss some of our other favorite characters of the film. After all, every good movie has to have a great villain. Enter, Ursula!

Did you know that Ursula was originally planned as another mermaid?

“At one point, Ursula was talked about being a sister to King Triton, so it was sibling rivalry going on. She was another mermaid,” Michael said.

But of course, Ursula was finally created as the larger than life octopus that we all know and love. Voiced by Pat Carroll, Ursula is definitely a fan-favorite when it comes to the Disney Villains and is my own personal favorite baddie. Pat was not able to attend this year’s expo, but she did share a video with fans discussing her time as our favorite sea-witch.

“Now, I’ve got to say something to all of you who love The Little Mermaid. Yes, you. I do wish I could be with you today for this marvelous celebration, but I’m talking to you from my home, here on Cape Cod, and that’s awfully far away. Life’s full of tough choices, innit,” she said. “I’m sending you greetings from sea to shining sea, and I hug you with my tentacles. Congratulations to all of you, the cast, the crew and the fans on the 30th anniversary of The Little Mermaid.”

Here’s another fun Ursuala trivia fact – Pat Carroll was not the first choice for the role. The studio was originally interested in Bea Arthur (Golden Girls) for the part.

Fans were also treated to a special tribute to Buddy Hackett, the voice of Scuttle. Buddy was definitely a character in his own right and I truly don’t think Scuttle could have been voiced by anyone else in the same way. Buddy brought him to life!

Now, at this point in the panel I have cried (okay, sobbed), laughed, reminisced, and felt true joy. But at D23 Expo, there is always another surprise waiting around the corner.

Enter, Auliʻi Cravalho. You already know her as the voice of Moana, but you will soon know her as another Disney Princess. Auli’i has been cast to play Ariel in the live musical event, airing this November on ABC.

Auli’i spoke about what it means to her to carry on the tradition of playing Ariel and also shared a first look at the set for the live musical event.

The panel wrapped up with an Under the Sea sing-along performance. You better believe I was singing along!

Disney is all about making magic and memories that will last a lifetime. Seeing Jodi Benson perform Part of Your World is a magical memory that I will never forget.

Congratulations to all of those involved in Disney’s The Little Mermaid! Here’s to 30 more years of under the sea adventures!

Monica V

Monica lives in Ann Arbor, MI. She is a former Disney Cast Member (via the Disney College Program Fall 2011) and a current Disney Addict.
Monica V


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