Why was the Original Little Mermaid Cover Banned?

You might’ve heard about the Disney movie “The Little Mermaid” making its way onto VHS in 1990 and becoming a massive hit, selling 10 million copies in just one year.

But did you know the original VHS cover sparked a huge controversy and was ultimately banned?

Why was the Original Little Mermaid Cover Banned

The 1989 VHS cover of The Little Mermaid movie underwent a replacement a few years after its initial release. Apparently, some folks thought it was a little too suggestive and not appropriate for kids. So, let’s dive in and find out what really went down.

The Controversial Tower

The cover art for the classic film, “The Little Mermaid,” features a charming depiction of the main character, Ariel, as she sits on a rock alongside her love interest, Prince Eric.

Ariel’s friends, Flounder, the fish, and Sebastian, the lobster, can also be seen in the foreground – along with various oceanic elements and treasures.

Ursula and Ariel’s father, King Triton, are on either side of a castle with multiple towers.

Unfortunately, one of the towers caused controversy as it appeared to resemble a phallic symbol:

Source: Disney

Despite the design going unnoticed for over a year, it was eventually brought to the public’s attention by Entertainment Weekly.

This led to a customer in Arizona complaining to Disney and the subsequent removal of the video from store shelves, attracting widespread media coverage.

The Real Story Behind the Phallic Symbol

Who would have thought that underneath all the magic and adventure, there might have been some mischievous artwork lurking about? Yes, that’s right! Rumors have been swirling for years about a less-than-G-rated image on the castle spire. But hey, let’s give the artist the benefit of the doubt. Take a look at his side of the story.

Last Minute Work

The truth behind the mysterious phallic symbol on the “The Little Mermaid” VHS cover has finally been revealed!

Fact-checking website Snopes was able to get in touch with the artist. Apparently, The illustrator made the phallic symbol by mistake.

Moreover, Disney artist Dave Woodman, who worked on some of our favorite 90s animations, shared the real story on Instagram.

According to animator and producer Stephen Worth, the artist was none other than Ron Dias. He was paid to do the cover at the last minute, which led to a weekend of working non-stop to meet the deadline.

Dias Added a Sense of Humor to it

Stephen Worth says that Ron feels exhausted from all the late nights working on the artwork. So, Dias decided to sneak in a little joke for himself. But, when he looked at it on Monday, he realized his inside joke wasn’t exactly subtle.

The Executives have Approved the Illustration

Feeling guilty for potentially ruining a classic children’s movie, Ron Dias quickly pointed out his mistake to his production contact and offered to fix it for free. But, he was told that the executives would review it that same afternoon and he would be informed of any necessary revisions.

After a worried wait of a whole week, Ron followed up on the revisions. To his surprise, he was told that the cover had been approved even after he brought up the questionable tower.

According to Stephen Worth, Ron shrugged his shoulders and said, “If they don’t care, I guess I don’t either.” And it seems like Disney was happy with it all because they gave Ron the lead stylist job on the “The Little Mermaid” TV show shortly after.

VHS Tapes Say Goodbye to Original Artwork

Ron Dias’ castle creation was set to shine as the star of promotional materials and posters during the theatrical release of “The Little Mermaid.” It also graced the cover of the highly coveted home video version for about a year. That is until the whispers of a particular tower caught the attention of movie-goers.

Banned cover vs. New cover

In response to the complaints received about the questionable tower featured in the original artwork of “The Little Mermaid” movie, the image was replaced with a more appropriate and child-friendly version on the VHS tapes.

This decision was made to ensure that the film and its associated merchandise were suitable for all audiences, particularly children, by aligning with the wholesome and family-friendly nature of the movie.

The Reaction of the Public and the Media to the Ban

The ban on the original Little Mermaid cover sparked a heated debate, with mixed reactions from the public and the media.

While some parents and educators supported the ban, viewing it as a necessary step to protect children, others saw it as censorship and an attack on artistic freedom.

Every media outlet couldn’t resist covering the controversy while taking sides. Despite the fuss, “The Little Mermaid” continued to be a beloved story, with alternative covers produced for those countries where the original was banned.

To this day, the tale of the little mermaid remains a timeless classic, inspiring the hearts and imaginations of generations to come.

Societal Views on Sexuality and Nudity

People had different opinions about nudity and sexuality. Back then, showing such things was considered not okay for kids, and there were strict rules to control how nudity and sexuality were portrayed in movies and shows.

In most Western societies, nudity was only acceptable in certain contexts, such as fine art, and sexual content was typically only depicted in a limited or veiled manner.

Contemporary Children’s Book Covers Comparison

Nowadays, books and media for kids have changed. They show more diversity and are more open about nudity and sexuality.

While censorship still exists, it is not as strict as it used to be. Nudity and sexuality in kids’ books and media are not as big of a deal anymore.

If we compare contemporary kids’ books and covers to the original Little Mermaid video cover, we can see how times have changed, and the ban on the cover seems outdated and too strict.

How Much is the Banned The Little Mermaid VHS Worth?

The 1990 VHS release of “The Little Mermaid” turned into a true collector’s item, highly prized by Disney fans.

With its infamous cover art stirring up trouble, this rare treasure is now worth a lot. The seller lists them on eBay from $100 to a whopping $9,989.08.

Disney collectors are always on the hunt for rare and hard-to-find merchandise, making the original VHS release an irresistible item, especially in excellent condition with its original packaging still intact.


If anyone asks “why was the original little mermaid cover banned?” simply say that the original VHS cover of The Little Mermaid caused significant controversy.

Some individuals deemed the image inappropriate and sexually suggestive, while others considered it harmless. This resulted in a contentious debate with varying perspectives, with some supporting the ban due to concerns for child protection and others advocating against censorship.

New covers were created featuring Ariel in a more modest background. Despite the controversy, The Little Mermaid remains a cherished classic and continues to captivate audiences with its timeless story.

Moreover, The original VHS cover is now a rare collector’s item and is highly sought after by Disney enthusiasts. It can command substantial prices on online auction platforms.

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