“Disney Jr.’s Ariel” Destined To Be Next Hit Preschool Series

Disney Jr.’s Ariel has the potential to be the next classic preschool series for the network, and will likely be a huge hit bringing kids into the vibrant and toe-tapping world that is Atlantica, with a stunning voice cast, diversity, and catchy tunes.

Set in the Caribbean-inspired fairytale kingdom of Atlantica, the series follows young mermaid princess Ariel (Mykal-Michelle Harris) as she embarks on underwater adventures with her family and friends, including King Triton (Taye Diggs), Ursula (Amber Riley), Flounder (Gracen Newton) and mer-friends Fernie (Cruz Flateau) and Lucia (Elizabeth Phoenix Caro). Each episode highlights themes of self-expression, curiosity and resourcefulness and celebrates the multicultural elements of the Caribbean through food, fashion, language and folklore.

Dr. Patricia Saunders, professor of English and hemispheric Caribbean studies and director of graduate studies at the University of Miami, serves as cultural consultant on the series. Traditions and culture from the Caribbean are injected into the world of Atlantica, and is done in such a way that it’s not in your face, but subtle and fits the story of each episode. Kids might find themselves 10 years down the line looking back and realizing what they learned about the culture was thanks to Disney Jr.’s Ariel.

Adult fans of the original animated classic, The Little Mermaid, might find the new series a bit jarring at first, especially if they are thinking that they’re introducing their little ones to a preschool iteration of the familiar tale. Well this is not for you – this is for them. But don’t worry, much of the DNA is the same, but there are notable differences. First, you’ll absolutely recognize Sebastian and Flounder. Those are basically lifted from the film classic, with similar personalities and voice performances. Ursula is here too, but one of the more drastic (but completely logical) changes is that the Ursula you know and love is not present in the preschool series. She has been completely changed to be appropriate for the demographic, and takes on the role of an auntie and a mentor-type of figure to Ariel, as she is Triton’s sister. It’s a great choice and is one of the standout characters of the series, voiced brilliantly by Amber Riley. She even has her (albeit softened) eel sidekicks, now named Ebb & Flo.

Similar to the animated classic, this series is built on music. From the theme to the songs featured in each episode, the kids will be singing and dancing along with each catchy and flavorful tune, while even adults will find their heads nodding and toes tapping, thanks in large part to their Caribbean vibes. And parents, don’t worry – Walt Disney Records will release a digital soundtrack on Friday, June 28

The eye-popping animation is great for the younger set as well, bringing the world of Atlantica to vibrant and colorful life. And the tech behind it is surprisingly great for a Disney Junior show, one example of which is the amazing textures, especially in Ariel’s hair. All of it put together brings the underwater world to life in an immersive way that will have kids engrossed in the series. With the target-demo in mind, I give this 4.5 Atlantica Day celebrations out of a possible 5.

You can catch Disney Jr.’s Ariel on Disney Jr. on Thursday, June 27th with later airings on Disney Channel, followed by a first batch of episodes debuting on Disney+ the next day, Friday, June 28th.

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Tony Betti
Originally from California where he studied a dying artform (hand-drawn animation), Tony has spent most of his adult life in the theme parks of Orlando. When he’s not writing for LP, he’s usually watching and studying something animated or arguing about “the good ole’ days” at the parks.