This gender swap allows us to see the story of Eric, a merman who dreams of the surface and the wonderful things humans make. (I can’t even type that with a straight face.) His father King Triton sees Eric’s longing for the surface as dangerous, and his obsession with humans equally so. Still, Eric is a dreamer and he can’t see how a world that makes such wonderful things…could be bad.
It’s interesting to see this with a man hording human junk in his grotto. With a sixteen-year-old girl, for some reason it seems far more normal (I dunno, like some women’s obsession with buying shoes). It also makes lines like, “But Daddy, I love him!” truly hilarious. He’s got of a bit of a Romeo flair–I don’t mean that in the colloquial sense…I mean it in the Shakespearian sense: Romeo’s a bit of a whiner who goes from being desperately in love with Rosaline to being in love with Juliet on the same day (or close to it, at least). Teenagers really don’t know what love is.
Anyway, one day, Eric sees a human on board a ship and falls madly in love. Her name is Ariel, and she’s a princess.
It’s interesting with this gender swap that not a lot has changed about Ariel. Both Eric and Ariel in non-swapped forms are adventurous and curious, and they are constantly searching for new experiences. So the female version of Eric (i.e. Ariel) is the same. She’s being forced to settle down by her parents and pick a husband (sounds a bit like Jasmine’s backstory, doesn’t it?) but she’d rather sail the seas.
So anyway, Eric watches Ariel and the other sailors celebrating and spends quite a bit of time simply ogling Ariel. Note that it definitely feels more stalker-y when it’s a guy ogling a girl. (Just wait, it gets weirder). A storm breaks out, lightning starts fires everywhere, and the ship is wrecked. In the process of saving her dog, Max (or Maxine, if we swap everyone’s gender), Ariel gets trapped on board as it explodes. Eric bravely rescues her and takes her to shore. Over her unconscious body, (creepy!) Eric sings his undying love for Ariel then continues to watch her from a distance once she regains consciousness. Ariel can’t contemplate getting a restraining order because she has no idea that a merman has become forever fixated on her. No problem, though, because now she’s in love with her mystery dreamboat.
Moving on, after his dad blows up all of his neat human stuff and Eric’s having a cryfest on a rock in his grotto, two creepy eels convince him to go see the sea witch for help. [[Note: If I gender swapped everyone, including Ursula, she’d/he’d probably still be a gross octopus, but he’d have a beer gut and a five o’clock shadow.]] She turns him human at the cost of his voice. Meanwhile, Ariel has been looking for the mystery man with the beautiful voice who saved her. This is actually pretty logical. Apparently, according to shows like Family Guy and others, a common female fantasy is to be rescued by a handsome merman (among other things). Ariel’s smitten at this point. She helps Eric out, thinking he’s the man of her dreams, only to find that he can’t speak. Thus he is friendzoned immediately.
[[Side note: Using the friendzoning argument as defense because you don’t have the guts to ask a girl out is bullshit. Girls can be friends with guys pretty easily (refer to When Harry Met Sally for the proof that the inverse is not usually true). If you want it to be something more, we’re often oblivious and need some hints more than you just acting like a good friend. Because, to us, someone acting like a really good friend means they’re a really good friend. I mean, Ariel gave up the ability to talk just to be with the one she loved (however misguided the love-at-first-sight impulse might be). Man up.]]
Moving on. Eric is fascinated by the human world, almost gets to kiss a clueless Ariel and thus keep his human form, but then gets blocked by those two lousy eels. Ursula (Urkel? Ulysses? I can’t think of any good U names for her/him) takes matters into her own tentacles and turns her/himself into a man and tricks Ariel with his pilfered voice to marry him. For some reason this, to me, is even more creepy than when Eric is put in a trance. Ariel’s going to marry, then who knows what else the sea witch. Sure, maybe the wedding was just a stalling tactic to prevent the fateful kiss, since Ursula goes back to her usual form in time to gloat over her victory. But seriously, she could have turned Eric into a merman and made him her gross octopus sex slave under the sea, or at least one of those gross seaweed people.
This is where it gets cool. Ariel sets off after Eric after Urkel grabs him, saying, “I’ve lost him once, I’m not going to lose him again!” Then, Ariel faces down a hundred foot octopus with a magic trident and freakin’ skewers him with a boat. Can I get a ‘hell yeah?’ Anyway, Triton has pity on his son as he sees him pining away for Ariel and gives him legs. Then they get married and Ariel makes Eric her trophy prince.
Bonus: Before and after shots!
Behind-the-scenes factoid: I tweaked Aladdin’s body for Eric the Merman. At first, I thought to myself, “I distinctly remember there being mermen in the movie besides Triton. I’ll just use their body and attach Eric’s head.” Nope. The mermen are all either 1) shown from the back, 2) misty in Ursula’s cauldron or 3) shown in full or partial silhouette. So, apart from having to majorly tweak King Triton from pro-wrestler size with Santa Claus beard and pepperoni slice nipples, I decided to use another character. Hercules was a no-go (that darn armor), and the thought of what a Google search of “bare chested Disney characters” would pull up terrified me, so there was only one other possible character. So there you have it. Aladdin’s body, Ariel’s tail, and Eric’s head. (Sounds like that song from Pete’s Dragon).
Ariel’s photoshopping took quite a bit longer than Eric’s. The background alone is four different stills, including the rope and (if you looked closely, you may have already noticed, Max). Ariel’s head and body is a composite of five different shots, all of which are in varying states of dress. Wow.
All characters and stills are owned by Disney. No copyright infringement is intended. Original frame grabs provided by disneyscreencaps.com.