This is my favorite Disney movie, so I was eager to add it to my list for this challenge. I've seen it quite a lot so I feel like there's not much in the way of new insights to the story for me, because I've thought this was a fantastic film for a long time. But for this post, I'll highlight what I love about it, and why I think it works so well, and why it's appeal is so enduring.
The Little Mermaid's Broadway type musical structure makes it very special I think. The orchestral main theme, that features the opening credits, is absolutely gorgeous. I mean, I can just listen to the wistful, haunting melody forever. Seriously. It's probably a little thing when thinking of the whole movie, but it starts off the mood of Ariel's earnest fascination for the human world, and for the romance perfectly.
The introduction to Ariel is kind of perfect too - she is shown as scatter-brained, impulsive, curious, and brave, just from the first few scenes and she is a fantastic heroine. I have seen disparaging comments on Ariel's changing herself to be with a man, but I think it's clearly established that she wanted to be a part of the human world, and her feelings for Prince Eric was the impetus. Love at first sight though - I'm totally iffy on that. LOL
I think I love this story the most out of the Disney films because Ariel is so intent on achieving her dream. She risks everything, she wears her heart out on her sleeve, she is so honest and passionate, and I love the adventure of her story. It's nice that it has a fantastical setting, showing a (unrealistic) version of life under the sea to make the beauty of the story even more appealing. The music is just beautiful too - listening again to just the incidental music, the melodies are so strong. And there are three (possibly four) really popular, well known songs from this film, which not every Disney film can boast. "Part of Your World" is my favorite song, and to me is the best one, but a case can be made that "Under the Sea" or "Kiss the Girl" can take that title.
The music, the story, and the heart of this film make it a beloved movie for me, and I don't think I can ever get tired of just how sweetly earnest and romantic it all is.