Ursula is the main antagonist of Disney's 1989 animated feature film the Little Mermaid and its 1992-94 spin-off television series in the saga. She is voiced by Pat Carroll.
Over the years, Ursula has become one of the most popular and iconic of all the Disney Villains and is one of the franchise's primary members.
Ursula is a very dark and sinister villain with a sense a humor. Ursula is very manipulative and has a talent of making great sense and making persuasive points when trying to strike a deal. Unlike many Disney Villains, most of whom care very little for their followers, Ursula puts her henchmen Flotsam and Jetsam before anything and everyone else. Ursula treats the eels like children and refer to them as "babies" or "poopsies". When the eels are killed accidentally by Ursula because of Ariel, she mourns and takes all of her anger and sadness out on Ariel and attempts to kill her once and for all. She is known to fill the heads of merpeople with deceptions; she feeds Ariel with the lie (or at best half-truth) that men on the surface like silence in women. In fact, Prince Eric loved Ariel's voice, and Ursula manipulated her into giving up precisely the thing that would have let him recognize the mysterious girl who had saved him from the sea. Despite using contracts to get her way, Ursula has little regard for following her end of the bargain. This is demonstrated when immediately after Triton signed away his freedom for Ariel's safety, Ursula claims she'd have no qualms killing Ariel, despite being implied to have promised to not harm Ariel as a condition of the contract, and gleefully tries to in the final battle. The latter instance is possibly due to Ariel being the cause of Flotsam and Jetsam's deaths. However for a villain she expects standards in her home, even telling Ariel "We mustn't lurk in doorways. It's rude."
Ursula's magical abilities, even without the Trident, were very potent. She was able to concoct various potions to create various spells, including mass-transfer (implied during the song "Poor Unfortunate Souls") as well as physically altering people's bodies, as evidenced by her transforming Ariel into a human, as well as her own transformation into Vanessa and Arsulu (although in the case of Vanessa, it was implied to be the result of her nautilus). However, in both instances that she utilized it on herself, she was incapable of altering her reflection, which is eventually how her enemies got the drop on her. When it comes to physical powers, Ursula possesses Superhuman Strength, though not as strong as Triton, yet strong enough to throw a mermaid to a rock, as what she did to Ariel in the alternate ending of the movie. She was also, capable of creating poisonous ink clouds which could absorb the energy of the Trident, and enhancing Ursula's power. Her most dangerous ability, however, was her ability to turn people into polyps should they fail to fulfill their end of the bargain via contracts, having done so multiple times under unspecified circumstances, nearly did so with Ariel, and successfully did so with Triton. It's also implied that she absorbs their souls while transforming them into polyps, making herself more powerful in the process. Likewise, once the contract is made, it is indestructible even to someone as powerful as Triton. Presumably, this arcane power is one-way, as she does not end up becoming a polyp for failing to fulfill her end of the contract. In fact, the only way to completely stop a contract short of fulfilling it is via her death, as evidenced by the aftermath of her death at the hands of Prince Eric.
The Little Mermaid
When Ursula first appears in the film, she states through monologue that she once lived in the royal palace of King Triton, the king of the underwater city of Atlantica. She was banished from Atlantica and made her home in the remains of a leviathan where she waits the chance to get her revenge on Triton and become Queen of Atlantica.
The entrance to Ursula's leviathan home is lined with a garden of writhing polyps which were merfolk who had been previously gone to Ursula for help, but found themselves unable to fulfill their side of the bargain, leading Ursula to claim them as her own and added them to her collection. The garden of polyps are part of the original fairytale, but are simply guards of the way to the sea witch's home, and not condemned merfolk.
Ursula commands her minions, moray eels Flotsam and Jetsam, to watch Triton's youngest daughter Ariel, whom might be "the key to Triton's undoing". Opportunity arises when Ursula learns that Ariel has fallen in love with a human (a prince named Eric), against Triton's explicit rules. Flotsam and Jetsam lure Ariel to Ursula's lair, claiming that only Ursula can help her.
Through the song "Poor Unfortunate Souls", Ursula proposes an agreement where she will transform Ariel into a human for three days, during which Ariel must receive the "kiss of true love" from Eric. If Ariel succeeds, her transformation into a human will be permanent, but if she fails, she will turn back into a mermaid and be bound to Ursula for eternity. The price for the transformation is Ariel's voice (which Ursula will keep no matter what happens). Ariel agrees and signs a contract that Ursula has conjured. As Ursula orders Ariel to sing, the sea witch summons magical hands to rip out Ariel's voice, which is then magically pulled into Ursula's Nautilus shell necklace. She then laughs gleefully as her plans begin to unfold: Ariel's tail is split into legs. In comparison, the original fairytale involves the sea witch taking the little mermaid's voice by cutting off her tongue, and her tail was transformed into legs by a magic potion which the mermaid was to drink on the beach surface.
During the time that Ariel is a human and must win a kiss from Eric in order to remain human permanently, Ursula takes every measure to prevent the kiss from occurring, such as when Flotsam and Jetsam tip over the boat in which Ariel and Eric are sitting on as the two are close to kissing. Fearing that Ariel may be better at performing the task than Ursula has thought and that Eric will be kissing Ariel by sunset for sure, Ursula decides to take matters into her own tentacles, determined to make Ariel hers for eternity and to make Triton writhe. She then takes the form of a beautiful human female with Ariel's voice in order to sabotage her relationship with Eric.
After transforming herself into a human by the name of Vanessa, Ursula bewitches Eric to marry her, but the wedding is disrupted by interference from Scuttle and other sea animals he called to help. In the chaos, the Nautilus shell containing Ariel's voice is broken, breaking the enchantment and returning Ariel's voice back to its owner. However, the sun sets before Ariel and Eric can kiss and Ariel changes back into a mermaid. Ursula, restored to her normal form, grabs Ariel and jumps back into the sea, where she is confronted by King Triton. She reveals her true goal, and forces Triton to choose between his freedom and his daughter's. Triton agrees to take Ariel's place, and once Triton is transformed into a polyp, Ursula takes the crown and magical trident. Ariel is angry at Ursula for what the latter has done to the former's father and tries to fight. Ursula threatens to kill her with the trident, but is hit by Eric with a harpoon. Angry, she sends Flotsam and Jetsam to strangle him, but Sebastian and Flounder extricate him. Ursula then prepares to kill Eric with the trident, but Ariel pulls on her hair, which makes her shot miss Eric. Instead, the shot accidentally hits her eels and destroys them.
Furious, Ursula grows into a giant and declares herself as the ruler of all the ocean with the ability to control the waves, the sea and all its spoils. She then creates a rainstorm to separate Eric from Ariel and a whirlpool to raise some shipwrecks. The sea witch then imprisons Ariel at the bottom of the whirlpool and decides to test her new powers by killing the princess as her first tyrannical act. Using the trident, Ursula fires multiple destructive blasts at Ariel, who just barely manages to avoid them. Ursula laughs wickedly and prepares an unavoidable blast that would destroy Ariel forever as well as her true love dreams. She is concentrating hard on finishing the princess that she doesn't notice that one of the shipwrecks is heading toward her due to Eric having taken control of that ship. Just as Ursula about to destroy Ariel , Eric impales the sea witch by plunging the ship's splintered bow through her belly. As Ursula screams in pain, the bow catches lightning during the storm that electrocutes her and destroys her for good cutting her reign of terror short. After Ursula's death, all the merfolk that have had been under her power, including Triton, are released from their bonds as they transform back into their original forms. Her death soon allowed Eric and Ariel to kiss for the first time.
In the 2006 Platinum Edition DVD release of the film, deleted scenes revealed early concept ideas where Ursula is Triton's sister, making her Ariel's aunt. This concept was not used in the final film, though it sometimes resurfaced in spin off material, and is in the Broadway musical.
The Little Mermaid (TV series)
Ursula appears as the primary and most recurring villain on the The Little Mermaid prequel television series. The episodes she appears in are "Against the Tide", "Tail of Two Crabs", "Heroes" and "Ariel's Treasures". In all of these episodes, she executes various plans to antagonize King Triton and take over Atlantica.
In "Against the Tide", Ursula has been experiencing failures in her most recent magic spells. She believes it to be the work of an odd sea creature that is said to cause bad luck whenever it's around. Ursula decides to destroy the creature, but Ariel rescues it, as she believes it to be harmless. Eventually, the creature's whereabouts have been located at Triton's palace, and Ursula invades the palace during King Triton's homecoming. She prepares to eliminate the beast by using the stolen magic of the trident, though Sebastian was clever enough to make a makeshift version of the creature, and trick Ursula into destroying it instead. With the beast supposedly gone, Ursula departs.
In "Tail of Two Crabs", Ursula takes advantage of Sebastian's jealously towards his rival Zeus the Crab, by transforming into Sebastian's "Fairy God Crab". She offers him a wish if he can recover a rare artifact holding great power. Sebastian delivers, and Ursula is able to turn King Triton, Flounder, and Ariel into sea worms. Luckily, Zeus is able to subdue Ursula and revert her curse.
In "Heroes", Apollo, a legendary hero who once saved Atlantica from Ursula and her army of octopuses, returns to Atlantica, just when Ursula decides to revive her old army in an attempt to dominate Atlantica once more. Like the previous battle however, Apollo prevails with the help of the fire-breathing Sea Dragon. It is also implied in this episode that the reason behind her exile was because she tried to create copies of the Trident, referred to as dark tridents, for the aforementioned army against Atlantica.
Lastly in "Ariel's Treasures", Ursula enchants the human items in Ariel's grotto, in an attempt to wreak havoc on Atlantica.
The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea
Ursula doesn't actually appear in this direct-to-video sequel, but she makes a cameo and is mentioned various times, mostly by her sister Morgana, also a Cecelia (who has eight tentacles instead of Ursula's six). She is seen as a picture in Morgana's lair and serves as the driving force behind her sister's plot to overthrow King Triton; as Morgana's true goal isn't revenge for Ursula's death, but rather, to outdo her sister in villainy and success. This picture sinks with Morgana when she is turned into a block of ice by King Triton at the end of the movie.
House of Mouse
Despite her death in the 1989 film, Ursula made numerous cameos in the series House of Mouse, often seen alone or with Ariel. In "Ask Von Drake", she was seen popping out of Ariel's giant shell during the Ludwig Von Drake Song. In "Pete's House of Villains", she replaced Daisy at her desk after Pete took over. In "Jiminy Cricket", Jiminy gives Ariel advice resulting into taking her voice back from Ursula. Her mode of transportation was seen as a wave vehicle. At the end of "Max's Embarrassing Date", Ursula is seen in an advertisement attempting to steal the voice of Max Goof's girlfriend Roxanne. In "Mickey and Minnie's Big Vacation", Ursula was one of the many guest to be annoyed when the Pink Elephants are briefly released.
Ursula was one of the lead villains in Mickey's House of Villains, and was also seen in Mickey's Magical Christmas telling Mickey that she wants his voice for Christmas.
Once Upon a Time
In the fantasy drama series, Ursula is a mythical sea goddess who is considered a myth by merfolk as she hasn't been seen for a thousand years. This identity appears in the episode "Ariel", where in the episode, the eponymous Ariel prays to her for guidance so she can be able continue her life as a human and forever be with Prince Eric. Using this opportunity, the Evil Queen appears as Ursula to Ariel and gives her a magic bracelet that gives the wearer Ariel's tail in exchange for their legs. Ariel, in an act of gratitude for Snow White's earlier help, gives the bracelet to Snow so that she can live her life free from the Queen while Ariel gets to be with Eric.
However, Snow White tries to tell Ariel that Ursula isn't real. Much to Ariel's shock, Regina shows up and admits this was a way to get Snow using Ariel. She then gives Ariel an ultimatum: leave Snow with Regina and live happily with Prince Eric, or perish along with Snow. Ariel appears to choose the first choice, but then stabs Regina with a fork and removes the bracelet from Snow, who then escapes with Ariel into the water. After delivering Snow safely onto land, Ariel returns to tell Eric how she feels, but when she attempts to speak, she discovers that her voice is missing. Regina, standing on the docks, reveals she had taken her voice so Ariel can never tell Prince Eric how she truly feels. Ariel becomes devastated, and Regina proceeds to tell Ariel to leave.
When Regina returns to her castle, she looks into her mirror and discovers Ursula herself, proving that Ursula is indeed real. Ursula then grabs Regina with her tentacles through the mirror itself, threatening a fearful Regina to never pose as her again, or she will prove to Regina "just how real she is", before subsequently letting her go and disappearing.
Although Ursula's physical appearance is largely based on the Disney version, her personality is closer to that of the original Hans Christian Andersen tale, being largely a neutral entity, although will get vengeful when someone poses as her.
On November 19, 2014, Ursula was confirmed to return as a recurring character in future episodes, played by actress Merrin Dungey.
The Little Mermaid (1989 animated film)
The Little Mermaid (2008 Broadway Musical)
- I Want The Good Times Back (formely)
- Daddy's Little Angel
- Poor Unfortunate Souls (Reprise)
- Ursula's appearance was based in other Disney villains, like Maleficent (The Sleeping Beauty) and Medusa (The Rescuers).
- Like Maleficent and Medusa, Ursula have eye shadows makeup, and pets that are also her allies: the eels Flotsam and Jetsam. Similarly, Maleficent has a crow, and Medusa has two alligators.
- In The Little Mermaid II, it's revealed that Ursula has a sister named Morgana, who cheats Melody (Ariel's daughter) at the same way that Ursula cheated Ariel.
- When Ursula turns giant, her voice similarly turns rough.