Watch “The Little Mermaid” animated cartoon and it’s a short, comical story told with excellent songs. Then watch the live-action version of “The Little Mermaid” and you’ll notice a difference. First, the live-action version changed the story slightly. Second, the live-action version isn’t as comical as the animated version but adds additional depth and emotion to the story.
In both versions, Ariel is a mermaid who is unhappy living as a mermaid. She yearns to see the outside world where humans exist. In the animated version, Ariel is the focus of the story, but in the live-action version, they added more details to make Eric the prince similar to Ariel.
Like Ariel, Eric also feels trapped by his father who also happens to be a king. Eric wants to wander the ocean while his father and mother want him to stay in the castle. Eric’s feeling of being trapped perfectly mirrors Ariel’s feeling of being trapped.
To further parallel the emotional state of Ariel and Eric, the live-action version has Ariel wander into a room where Eric keeps artifacts he’s discovered from the ocean. This perfectly mirrors Ariel’s own fascination in collecting artifacts from the human world.
The live-action version gives more background information about Eric and his life, but it exactly mirrors Ariel’s life, which helps bring them closer together since they both think alike and feel trapped in similar ways. This is a huge improvement over the animated version, although the animated version is more comical with more interesting musical numbers that the live-action version fails to match.
By comparing the two versions of the same story, you can see how each version tells the story. People will always prefer one version over the other, but by studying both, you can see what each one got right and wrong.
The main lesson is to notice that by mirroring Ariel’s own emotional state in Eric, the live-action version makes the two main characters feel like they’ve found their perfect partner.
Mirroring the hero is a crucial technique to tell any story. In any good story, there’s a hero and a villain who represents the evil version of the hero. Then there’s another mirror between the villain and the hero’s mentor, who represents a good version of the villain. Finally, there’s often an ally who has problems similar to the hero.
Mirroring the hero through multiple characters can strengthen any story so be sure you make every character a mirror image of somebody else in your story. Audiences may not consciously notice such mirroring but if mirroring doesn’t exist, the story will suffer and audiences will definitely know something’s wrong with your story even though they may never know exactly what that might be.