Disney’s The Little Mermaid – An Interview with Jodi Benson, Voice of Ariel

Over the past month, I’ve been sharing some fun Disney things that I experienced during my trip to Los Angeles in August. There was the Disney Planes Premiere and a trip to the “Secret” Animation Research Library! We got to see amazing original artwork there and even had a special dinner with a preview of the new Little Mermaid merchandise. Then, we headed to The Walt Disney Studios where I got to interview some amazing talents like Rosebud (one of the Super Buddies) and John Musker & Ron Clements (the writers/directors of Disney’s The Little Mermaid). But, there is one more amazing person that I had the immense pleasure to meet – Jodi Benson, THE voice of Ariel from Disney’s The Little Mermaid!!

Jodi Benson InterviewAside from how great she looks and how super adorable she is, I was completely struck by her humility and sincerity. Jodi was so down-to-earth and friendly with all of us. And, she is so incredibly grateful for everything. Really, she used the words blessing and grateful many times throughout the interviews! In fact, when asked about her legacy & being a real Disney Princess, this is what she had to say…

“Oh goodness.  It’s amazing. Amazing. Again, it’s, you know, it’s-it’s kind of hard for me to, um, to grasp the impact of portraying a character that’s going to live long past you.  It’s kind of overwhelming, not in a bad way.  So when I really stop and focus on it, it’s, you know, it’s like, oh gosh, it takes my breath away to think the experiences I’ve had and just this amazing opportunity, you know, so grateful is the word that I pretty much come up with whenever I stop to contemplate it.”

And, it was evident that she absolutely meant everything she said. You could see the deep gratitude she has for the opportunities that have come from her Disney partnership! Over the years, Jodi has had played a part in a variety of Disney productions (like Barbie in the Toy Story movies and the secretary in Enchanted), but she is of course best known as the voice of Ariel! Prior to that, she was on Broadway and was actually a bit unsure about doing this voice role. It was great to hear the whole story of how everything came to be straight from Jodi and Ron Clements & John Musker. Little Mermaid Interview with Jodi Benson, Ron Clements & John MuskerHoward Ashman (from Broadway, who wrote the music for The Little Mermaid) had a show on Broadway that was getting shutdown after just 6 weeks (of which Jodi played a part). So, he gave the girls in that show the opportunity to audition (along with MANY others from the LA & New York areas).

“I think Howard just felt, um, sorry for all the girls in the show that were about to lose their job. So he gave the entire cast an opportunity to audition for The Little Mermaid, and we didn’t know anything about it except it was an animated feature film.”
According to Ron & John, to audition, females sang “Over the Rainbow”. If they liked it, they’d do a call-back based on a song that Howard had written. Musker & Clements said, “it really wasn’t just that she had done this show with Howard, but that we just felt that her voice best captured this Mermaid that we wanted to get, so we, we cast her based on that tape”. Amazing, right? They hadn’t even met her, which is why Jodi had this to say about getting the role…
“So it was, it was just meant to be.  You know.  I mean, there’s, there’s really no explanation except that God had a plan much bigger than I did, and beyond my wildest dreams because I was not even looking into voice over, or anything like that. It was Broadway, Broadway, Broadway.  And, uh, Yeah.  I mean, that was my love. But again, it’s just, you know, it was just a huge, incredible blessing, and a  huge surprise, and, and how it’s, you know, changed my entire life, this film, and this character.”
Even after getting the role, she never expected the success that would come from it. In fact, we found out that at the time, voice over work was viewed as something a sort of “hasbeen” would do – something that you did only if you couldn’t make it on Broadway anymore. Her family was actually disappointed and people said things to her like, “I’m so sorry”, when she would tell them! Ha! Oh how wrong everyone was! Disney Interview with Jodi Benson
Then, in separate private group interviews later with just Jodi, we were able to ask some fun questions. One blogger asked if she would give up her voice for true love. Jodi said that while it would be hard since that’s such a part of who she is, she would absolutely do so for her husband to whom she’s been married for 30 years! My question for Jodi had to do with what her kids thought of their mom as Ariel. Her response may surprise you! 😉
“My son didn’t really want me to sing Ariel because that meant that mommy was working and he had just wanted, you know, mommy for mommy…my son was three when I kind of showed the movie and I stood next to the screen.  And while the movie was running I was singing along with it.  And that was just really hard for him, because that meant that mommy wasn’t his mommy.  It was like, Ariel wasn’t his mommy.  So then when that went on, I couldn’t sing in public.  It was no mommy, no sing, no sing. And so, I would just sing privately for him at home, at bed time.  But then when I would sing outside, he-he’d cover up his ears and he didn’t want to be around it…Because it was like sharing a part of me that only belonged to him.  My daughter was different, she was totally onboard with all of that.  And of  course, now they, you know, they love it, they love everything Disney.  And they love my job and they’re so proud, you know, to tell their friends, that’s my mom.  And kids ask, they say cool and they’re like, yeah, that’s really cool to go to Disney World or go on the Cruise, so they’ve enjoyed events. It’s been a lot of fun.”
I’ve always wondered how strange it must be for kids to hear their parent’s voice on the tv/movie screen, but not be visually seeing their parent. So, it was fun for me to hear this answer. I’m so glad that he’s come around, as his mom has such an amazing voice. The absolute highlight of our interview time was getting to hear her sing in person. For our last question, everyone asked if she would sing for us. And, sing she did – the acapella Part of Your World Reprise from the movie. I recorded it for you all to hear! 😉

Goosebumps! There were quite a few of us in the crowd that may have gotten a little teary-eyed! It was such a surreal moment. I was a 9-year old little girl when the movie came out. I remember seeing it in the theater. And, I have sung along with Jodi Benson Ariel more times than I can even count. I used to be in choir and theater…and I even auditioned for parts with songs from The Little Mermaid. So, this was so special for me! And, in fact, I feel a little like Jodi with just a deep sense of unbelievable gratitude for the opportunities that I have had recently. I never in my wildest dreams could have imagined interviewing Jodi Benson or having these incredible Disney experiences. It’s truly mind-blowing for me! Jodi Benson Interview Group Photo

What would you want to ask Jodi Benson if you could?

The Lit­tle Mer­maid Dia­mond Edi­tion will be released for the first time ever on Blu-ray/DVD on October 1st, 2013! And, there are sure to be some great special features on the DVD! Stay tuned for more info about the re-release and special features! Disney's The Little MermaidDis­clo­sure: Dis­ney pro­vided me with an all expenses paid trip to the Hol­ly­wood for the pur­poses of this cov­er­age. As always,  all opin­ions, expe­ri­ences, and love of Dis­ney are entirely my own!

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