One quality that Jodi Benson most admires in Ariel is her tenacity.
Though Ariel’s drive is fueled by her love for Eric, Jodi believes it can be applied to many areas of life. Whether it’s career, family, or romance, it’s more than likely we all want to obtain something that seems so out of reach, so unbelievable. Ariel was willing to sacrifice a lot to get her opportunity to meet Eric and live in the human world, and Jodi herself reached beyond what others wanted her to do with her life (law or dental hygiene) to make her 8-year old Broadway dreams come true.
Can you imagine if she didn’t? We wouldn’t have this:
This gorgeous song “Disneyland” from the musical Smile marked the beginning of a working relationship between Howard Ashman and Jodi. Ashman wrote the books and lyrics for the short-lived Broadway show. (Marvin Hamlisch worked on the music.) During the run of the show, Ashman was already starting work on The Little Mermaid and had all the Smile girls audition for the role.
A role that, of course, went to Jodi.
This video is such a gift. Watching Howard and Jodi collaborating on “Part of Your World”, a song that shaped so many of our childhoods and an absolute Disney classic, is riveting. Howard so intently knew Ariel’s story and how much his vision formed the bright-eyed character we would come to know.
Hearing this song still gives me chills, and you can only imagine how I felt last week when I was invited to hang out with Jodi and a few other ladies at a manicure and cocktail event for the upcoming re-release of The Little Mermaid. (Today’s the day — go get your copy!) The four-year old in me who cried and sang along with Ariel back in my parent’s living room during my first viewing of the movie was absolutely awestruck. But Jodi is so unbelievably down-to-earth and incredibly gracious, repeatedly saying how blessed she was to represent this movie for as many years she has.
True story, friends. Jodi is just as sweet and amazing as you want her to be in person.
Sipping a delicious Under the Sea cocktail and having an intimate roundtable conversation with Jodi was the perfect way to spend a Monday afternoon. Questions ranged from how she got the role of Ariel, her favorite song (“Part of Your World”), and what her kids think of her job (they love it!). So many shared their own memories of watching the movie for the first time, and just how much it meant to them. Even after all these years, Jodi still loves hearing about when people first watched the movie. She knows how important it is to people.
As a huge theatre fan, I was curious to find out if Jodi would ever return to Broadway. After such an awesome experience in Crazy for You (including a Tony nomination) in 1992, she said she was happy to go out on top. But if the part of Elphaba in Wicked opened up for a short, short run, that would be a dream role. (She said she sings some of the Wicked songs during concert performances.)
After the Q&A, we were invited to get mermaid-inspired manicures, which were so much fun. (A girl could get used to this kind of pampering!)
It’s not every day that Jodi Benson is asking to admire your nails and talking about all the city spots she hit during her trip to New York. (They went to see Newsies!) As someone who gets perpetually nervous meeting famous people, I never imagined I’d feel quite this at ease and I know this evening will be one I always treasure.
Melissa also covered this event at Mouse on the Mind!
Disclosure: I attended this Disney PR event free of charge. My manicure, drinks and snacks were paid for by Disney. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my own experience at the event.