- “What a lovely little bride I'll make, my dear I'll look divine!”
Vanessa is a beautiful woman from The Little Mermaid , and the alter ego of Ursula the sea witch. Using the power of Princess Ariel's voice trapped in her golden necklace , she is able to brainwash Prince Eric into falling in love with her. This is all towards her ultamite goal of ruining Ariel's chances to kiss Eric before sunset.
Concept And Creation
Vanessa's role in the film is inspired by the original Andersen tale. In that story, after the prince has been rescued by the mermaid, he is found on the beach by a shrine maiden whom he believes to have saved him. Later on, after the mermaid becomes human, she discovers that the prince will be marrying the maiden. In the end the maiden marries the prince while the mermaid, who chose not to kill the prince despite the urging of her sisters, dies and ascends to a spiritual rebirth.
Vanessa's place in the film is inspired by the events that transpired in the book. Only now the witch takes the place of the maiden herself, expanding her role as the film's villain.
Vanessa's personality is very similar to her true form's. She is a sadistic and flirtatious woman who takes advantage of others' weaknesses and uses her magic to come out ahead of the game. She takes great glee in the suffering of others, such as when she saw Ariel running away crying and giggled to herself, and singing to herself when victory was at hand. She also shares Ursula's ego; believing herself to have already won when she sings to herself, and under no suspicion that something may go wrong with her plans. And much like her true form, she has a very quickfire temper when her plans start to go awry, such as when she choked Scuttle, smacked around a few birds, and plucked starfish from herself.
However, unlike Ursula, Vanessa is quick to hide these most conspicious traits when in public, going for a more subdued woman who remains demure and sweet by the side of her fiancée in silence. Making others believe that they are the ones in control while she pulls the strings in the dark.
She is quick to show off more skin than Ariel with her attire, and openly admires Eric's body, making no qualms about snuggling with him while stroking his chest.
Vanessa's appearance is that of a slender yet voluptuous young woman, similar to Ariel in certain ways. The majority of the similarities they share is that their waists are similar sizes, and their facial structure is nearly on par to each other. The way their hair is shaped is also in an almost similar overhead fashion. It is believed that this was done to make it more believable that she saved Eric. However, Ursula distinguishes herself from Ariel in many notable ways to keep herself from arousing suspicion from Ariel and her friends, at first.
Most noticeably, their hairstyles are different; while Ariel's hair is flaming red and straight, Vanessa's hair is dark brown and wavy. Ariel's hair is parted on the left side of her head while Vanessa's parted in the center. Also, Vanessa's skin is paler than Ariel's, and her eyes are more almond-shaped and are a violet color instead of blue. She also is slightly bustier than Ariel.
Vanessa wears three outfits during her short appearance on screen. The first of these outfits is a majorelle blue corset with a long light pastel purple dress underneath without sleeves, instead using shoulder straps. She wears this on the beach when she is hypnotizing Eric, along with a long cape as well.
Then, just before the wedding ceremony, Vanessa is seen again in another dress. This one is a vanilla under dress to her wedding gown. It reaches down below her neckline, yet does not have the shoulder straps that her corset did beforehand. She also wears a pair of black flats.
Vanessa's final dress is a long white wedding dress with ruffles covering the front of it and a split skirt. She has a long veil above her head as well, though unlike Ariel's it is not transparent. She also has shoulder puffs as well, though not as large as Ariel's. The dress ends up being destroyed over the course of Scuttle's attack though. She also wears a pair of white high heels during this time.
And with all three outfits, she wears the nautilus necklace, (holding Ariel's voice) around her neck, until Scuttle destroys it.
Vanessa's power are fairly similar to that of Ursula's, but seem to be more limited due to being away from her cauldron, which is the source of some of her most powerful spells. When by her cauldron Ursula was able to make clothes for her Vanessa transformation, with the majorelle corest, cape, and dress being conjured from thin air. Presumably, she was also able to use her powers to either teleport away from her lair, or swim without need of breath while remaining dry on her way towards the surface.
Once away from her cauldron, most of Vanessa's magic is focused on her necklace. With the power of her necklace, Vanessa is able to trap voices and utilize them for herself. In the movie, she uses Ariel's voice but, owing to her more villainous personality, it is deeper and more sultry than Ariel's. Even when she screams, compared to Ariel her voice is more gravely and threatening.
With her voice, Vanessa is also able to conjure up a magical mist that will hypnotize whomever it targets, all it requires her to do is sing and the mist shall embed itself into the eyes of her target, echoing her voice inside their mind. This hypnotization doesn't apparently require her to verbally communicate to her target, (as seen when she silently goads Eric into saying, "I do."), but it does seem to require her mind to be focused enough to give mental commands. Otherwise, the victim will just stand in place doing nothing until given a command. She can only retain control of them while her necklace is still intact, as otherwise, the victim will regain his or her own will.
Even after the shell breaks, Vanessa possesses enough power to transform back into Ursula at the end of the three days, and seemingly draws energy from lightning she summons.
Vanessa also possesses remarkable endurance when she is attacked by the animals yet is willing to brutally fight back when given the opportunity to. This is possibly strength leftover from her form as Ursula.
When Ariel comes "too close" to succeeding in her task, Ursula decided to take matters into her own tentacles. She takes the form of a beautiful woman (under the alias "Vanessa") with Ariel's voice in order to sabotage her relationship with Eric.
On the night of the second day, Vanessa bewitches Eric to marry her by using Ariel's voice in combination with her magic. Then, on the morning of the third day, Eric announces to Grimsby that his wedding would be at sunset. All the while, Ariel is watching from the shadows as the mysterious dark haired girl snuggles up to Eric suggestively, until she runs away in tears. When Ariel has left, Vanessa giggles to herself and looks at the nautilus around her neck glowing brightly.
Cut forward to sunset of the third day, and the wedding ship has departed. Vanessa is in her dressing room singing for her victory, all the while unaware that Scuttle is spying on her. After a moment, she looks in a mirror and her true form is revealed. Scuttle panics and flies off to warn Ariel, and gather troops together to the stall the wedding.
When the wedding ceremony begins, Vanessa walks down a line of bowing guests arm-in-arm with a hypnotized Eric. She encounters Eric's sheepdog, Max, who angrily growls at her. In retaliation, she kicks him with an angry pout on her face before raising her head up innocently. After reaching the priest, she glances over to the setting sun to verify that her scheme is going as planned and smirks wickedly. She then turns to Eric and uses her influence to make him say, "I do."
Before Vanessa can say her vows however, Scuttle comes with an attack force of various sea creatures to attack her. A brief scuffle ensues, played mostly for laughs as Vanessa ineffectively tries to defend herself in an increasingly shrill and vicious manner. As a barrage of animals assault Vanessa, Ariel hops on board just in time to see Scuttle attack Vanessa.
Scuttle bewilders her for a moment, but she retaliates with a choke hold, which nearly suffocates Scuttle until Max shows up and bites Vanessa in the butt. She screams, releases Scuttle, and he manages to pry the necklace off her and sends it flying onto the deck. Ariel's voice is freed from it and Eric is freed from Vanessa's spell.
In spite of this, Vanessa nonetheless succeeds in winning the deal as the sun sets before Ariel and Eric can kiss, and Ariel transforms back into a mermaid. Vanessa triumphantly unleashes her true form as Ursula in front of the guests, terrifying them before taking Ariel with her under the sea.
Ursula briefly appeared as Vanessa once on House of Mouse in the episode "House of Crime". Goofy interrogates her, asking if she has seen any disguised villains. She silently answers no, and then transforms back into Ursula when Goofy leaves her table.
Vanessa does not actually appear in the musical, although a workshop version of it implied that she was intended to appear with an entire song dedicated to her mocking Ariel titled, "All Good Things Must End". In this song, she sings to Ariel about how everything good must die eventually and there is no way to change that. In this demo, Emily Skinner was playing the roll of Vanessa, as she was also auditioning for the role of Ursula
The song was eventually removed from the musical because Sherie Rene Scott believed the song didn't fit the character of Ursula as she interpreted. She convinced the directors to replace them both with, I Want the Good Times Back.
Vanessa appears in one of the scenes in Voyage of the Little Mermaid in Disney's Hollywood Studios. Rather than having a cast member play her on stage, it's just reused clips from the movie, detailing her hypnotizing Eric and being attacked by the animals on the wedding ship.
In one version of Disney on Ice, the story of The Little Mermaid plays out, along with Ursula making an appearance as Vanessa. In this version, she will transform into Vanessa on the rink and dance a solo for a short while before eventually meeting up with Eric.
The process of her hypnotizing him is shown as them doing a tango together, while Sebastian watches. Interestingly enough, when the tango occurs, an instrumental of the deleted song, "Silence is Golden" plays in the background.
Moving forward, Scuttle discovers that Vanessa is Ursula as he spies on her looking through a hand mirror, prompting him to warn Ariel and gather the animals.
At the wedding, Vanessa's outfit is changed to a large wedding dress, and her movements are more limited as she is being chased by the animals. Scuttle then proceeds to harass her to the point where her wedding dress is in shambles and she is back to her form of Ursula. Max then proceeds to bite Vanessa, causing her to lose Ariel's voice as well.
Vanessa also doesn't appear on the ride. However, guests can hear her evil laughter in the background while Ursula is casting a spell in order to transfer Ariel's voice into the nautilus necklace. It does trace the guests back into the scene from "Kiss the Girl" where Ursula made a disguise potion when Ariel's voice is still inside the necklace.
- “Ursula changed herself into a beautiful girl to ruin Ariel's chances with Prince Eric. Ariel gave her voice to Ursula when she signed their contract...and Ursula used Ariel's voice to mesmerize Prince Eric.”
- ―Jiminy's Journal
Vanessa had a brief appearance in Kingdom Hearts II, where, in a similar fashion to the movie, she manages to brainwash Prince Eric. However, they do not wed, unlike the film. At sunset they are seen walking down the beach hand in hand towards a crying Ariel, with Vanessa singing, Part of Your World (Reprise), to a hypnotized Eric.
Sora is quick to point out Eric's dazed expression while Flounder instantly identifies Vanessa as Ursula when he notices the nautilus necklace on her. Sora is quick to act, and fires a bolt from his Keyblade; snapping it off Vanessa, causing it to shatter on the ground, and snap Eric out of his trance. It was too late however, as the sun had already set. Vanessa transformed back into Ursula, and took Ariel back with her to the ocean.
Her design was slightly altered in the Kingdom Hearts games, giving her a slightly shorter skirt (only reaching her ankles instead of coming down to her feet).
Vanessa appears in this game as a boss character for level 6. In this level the player controls the sea creatures attacking Vanessa, and must help them in breaking the necklace she wears by gradually chipping away at the pieces. All while the sun begins to set in the horizon.
Interestingly enough, unlike in the movie, Vanessa in this game shall periodically use her magic to repair the necklace, by engulfing herself in a purple shield.
In this game, Vanessa plays the same role as she does in the movie. The player first sees her in the "Kiss the Girl" scene, when Ursula (still in her narrator's bubble) transforms into Vanessa and hypnotizes Eric with her song, thus eliminating the beach scene from the game.
After the "Kiss the Girl" scene, the player will be taken straight to the wedding. There Vanessa can be seen singing her song, as in the movie, before she moves to the upper deck.
Very little about her role, or even her lines differ from the movie. However, she is given two new lines especially for this game. If one were to click on her while she has Ariel's voice, she will say, "Let's get this wedding over with!" And if the player were to click on Max, he will growl at her for a moment before she calls him a, "Mangy mutt!"
Vanessa can also be seen in a sticker mini game in Ariel's Story Studio. It's a basic mini game where players take different stickers which they've collected throughout the game and place them onto different backgrounds which the players color. Vanessa has one sticker of her in her wedding gown carrying a bouquet of flowers.
- “Face it, my beauty's too rare to match!”
- ―Ursula when the player loses the mini game
Vanessa also appears in the smartphone game Disney Villains Challenge in a mini game titled, "Reveal Ursula." It is set in Vanessa's dressing room on the Wedding Ship. The player is presented with three mirrors that all have a reflection of Vanessa on them. The goal is for the player to find out which reflection is the real Ursula before the time runs out.
The player is given several clues on which Vanessa is which. The wrong reflections will have butterflies flying on them, whereas the right one will have a tentacle swing by, as well as having Vanessa's necklace glow.
If the player wins, the right reflection will be cracked, revealing a scowling Ursula. If the wrong one is chosen, Vanessa's necklace, and eyes will glow, and she'll give a sassy smirk.
BP Modern Classics Adaptation
This adaptation of the story was released in 1995. It squeezed together parts of the movie and changed the way certain events happened due to it's page limitations. One of these changes was the slight expansion of Vanessa's place in the story. Instead of showing up on the beach at Prince Eric's Castle, she immediately appears for him after Flotsam and Jetsam tipped over the boat, with Ariel nowhere in sight.
Skip a few pages to the confrontation at the wedding, Eric and Vanessa are at the alter and in embrace (even though the image on the page in question shows Ariel about to kiss Eric), instead of still reading over their vows. Once Ariel and her friends arrive, Vanessa immediately transforms back into Ursula who claims she and Eric are in love. She then takes Ariel underwater and Ariel doesn't get her voice back until the end of the book.
Once Upon A Princess Adaptation
In 2003, a book adaptation of the movie was released that expanded the narrative of the film by adding new content and characters. One minor change was the expansion of Ursula's backstory in which a younger Ursula was drawn to resemble Vanessa, with a similar hairstyle, but grey hair and purple skin. Since this story takes place from only Ariel's perspective, this is meant to give younger readers an extra hint as to Vanessa's identity before Scuttle tells it to Ariel.
Although Vanessa herself doesn't appear in the short story, she is subtly referenced with Ursula's disguise of Arsulu, another alter ego she adopted to infiltrate Atlantica. She is a blonde mermaid with a red tail, and a magenta seashell bra.
She arranges an accidental meeting with Adella and flatters the latter into believing the story that she is searching for her lost boyfriend. Adella even offers Ursula a place to stay: at the palace, right where Ursula wanted. Then she begins to fill the heads of the royal family with poisonous talk, similar to what The Evil Manta did and began turning them against one another while still retaining popularity amongst all but Ariel.
Ariel was the only one who suspected Arsulu's intentions and eventually discovered her true identity. Ariel then exploits this to have a group of fish expose Arsulu for who she really was.
Errors and Goofs
- Occasionally in the film, Vanessa's hair will inexplicable change from a dark brown to black hair on occasion, even in more outdoors like areas. This color error was fixed in Diamon Edition of the film to give Vanessa a more uniform dark brown hair color.
- Before Vanessa was attacked by the animals, she held a bouqet of roses in her hands. When the bluebirds divebomb her from above though, the roses disappear from her person. We never even see them fall on the ground.
- When the animals are attacking Vanessa, there is one part where dozens of starfish slam into her torso, covering her from face to waist. Where they came from is unclear, because starfish normally can't move very fast at all. Also, all the starfish mysteriously vanish when Vanessa is tossed into the air by the seals. They could have fallen off, but the camera never leaves Vanessa and you don't see them falling.
- The name of Ursula's human disguise, "Vanessa", is derived from the Latin word "Vanitas", meaning "Vanity", "Worthlessness", "Emptiness" and "Nothingness". Interestingly enough, a character named Vanitas appears as one of the main villains of Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep, but unrelated to Ursula.
- In an original draft for The Little Mermaid, Vanessa's role in the plot was quite different than in the final version. Originally, Eric proposed to her willingly after he discovered that she had the voice he was looking for, although he later had second thoughts at the actual wedding, when she intimidated him into saying "I do." Also, she was originally supposed to wear a scarf in order to ensure that her identity as Ursula was safe (as it hid her nautilus necklace) when meeting people up close (such as Ariel). The attack on her was actually much different in the original version, as Scuttle and the various aquatic fauna did not start attacking her and the ship until just before the priest could pronounce them husband and wife. However, during this version of the attack, Eric defends her from the animals. So, for him to see her for who she really was, he had to be exposed to her reflection in the water the animals left. Perhaps the biggest difference is that she still kept Ariel's voice, though for some reason, she was unable to use it anymore.
- At one point while Vanessa was being harassed by Scuttle, she yells angrily "Oh why you little!" and strangles him in a very similar manner to Homer and Bart in The Simpsons. (Coincidentally, both The Little Mermaid and the first Simpsons full length episode were released in 1989.)
- Her name is never revealed before the wedding in the film, often in storybooks she is known as The Maiden.
- In concept arts of Vanessa which is shown on DVDs of The Little Mermaid, her name was written with an 'E', but apparently there was confusion amongst the movie staff, causing her name to appear with an 'A' on her production cel, and everything afterwards.
- Vanessa is one of four characters to possess violet or purple eyes, the other three being Aurora, Megara and Doctor Facilier. On a related note, She was also the first villain to possess purple eyes, eventually being joined by Facilier.
- In the official comic adaptation, Vanessa was shown multiple times singing in Ariel's voice without the nautilus necklace hanging around her neck, implying that so long as it is safe, she will be able to speak with Ariel's voice.
- Vanessa speaks only twice during her brief appearance with Ariel's voice excluding her song. When she has Ariel's voice she first screams, "Get away from me you slimy little-" and later "Oh Why You Little". Following the loss of her nautilus necklace Pat Carroll, the voice of Ursula does Vanessa's lines, where she says, "Eric get away from her", "Eric No!" and "You're too late!"
- The song Vanessa sings in her room may have been the inspiration for the song "This Day Aria" from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, were the villain also sings into a mirror while she is in disguise just before her marriage to a hypnotized man.
- Had Melissa Fahn gotten the role of Ariel instead of Jodi Benson, she would have also provided the voice of Vanessa. In real life, she strongly resembles Vanessa. Coincidentally, she later ended up supplying the English voice of Kanako Urashima, a character from the Anime series Love Hina who ended up having a similar attempt at ruining a romantic relationship between two of the main characters to Vanessa's attempt at ruining Ariel's. She also is famous for voicing Gaz (short for Gazlene), an antisocial girl who doesn't have very good relationships with many people at all, romantic or otherwise, on Nickelodeon's Invader ZIM.
- One interesting bit of trivia to note, is during the wedding, when the priest is about to declare Vanessa and Eric husband and wife, the blue birds that first attacked her can be seen being flung backwards, as if they were just struck by something, yet she had not been seen doing any such. However, one of the storyboards of her shows her angrily shaking her fists at the bluebirds. This implies that a scene with her fighting back was originally animated, but was left out of the final film for unknown reasons.
- Vanessa was the second human villainess to be assaulted by animals before her apparent triumph, the first being Madame Medusa from The Rescuers who shares many qualities with Ursula, Vanessa's true form.
- In 2013, the Little Mermaid Deluxe Doll Set was released, with dolls of Ariel, King Triton, Eric, Ursula, and Vanessa. This marks the first time Vanessa had ever been released as a doll in Disney media.
- Despite Vanessa's relatively minor role in the film, she has gained a dedicated following. Being one of the few villain alter egos (aside from Grimhilde) to get merchandise based on her.
- Although Vanessa does not appear in the Broadway version, the test run did feature a spell from Ursula that was implied to be the spell for the transformation into Vanessa.
- Because of Jennifer Lee's explanation that the King and Queen of Arendelle were lost at sea while trying to get to a wedding, it is theorized that Ursula/Vanessa may have been responsible for their deaths due to the storm she had summoned.