|“||In my day, we had fantastical feasts when I lived in the palace. And now, look at me–wasted away to practically nothing. Banished and exiled and practically starving! While he and his flimsy fish-folk celebrate. Well, I'll give 'em something to celebrate soon enough.||„|
|~ Ursula seeking revenge against King Triton.|
|“||Triton's daughter will be mine, and then I'll make him writhe. I'll see him wriggle like a worm on a HOOK!||„|
|~ Ursula explaining her plan to oust King Triton before she becomes Vanessa.|
|“||(chuckles evilly) SO MUCH... FOR TRUE LOVE!!!||„|
|~ Ursula's last words before she gets impaled by Prince Eric.|
Ursula, also called Ursula the Sea Witch or Vanessa in her human form, is the main antagonist of Disney's The Little Mermaid franchise.
She first appeared as the main antagonist of Disney's 28th full-length animated feature film The Little Mermaid (which is based on the 1837 Danish fairytale of the same name by the late Hans Christian Andersen), the TV series of the same name and the posthumous overarching antagonist of its sequel The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea. She is also one of the secondary antagonists in Mickey's House of Villains.
She is Ariel and Triton's arch-nemesis and is loosely based upon the sea witch in the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale of the same name. Her fervent confidence, flamboyance and theatrics have made her one of the most popular and iconic of all of the Disney villains and she quickly became one of the franchise's primary members following her debut.
In all of her appearances, she was voiced by Pat Carroll, who also voiced her sister Morgana. In her human disguise of Vanessa, she was voiced by Jodi Benson in her first villainous Disney role, who also voiced Ariel in the same film. In the musical, she was portrayed by Sherie Rene Scott. In the TV special, she was played by Queen Latifah. In Descendants 2, she was voiced by Whoopi Goldberg.
Ursula has the upper body of an obese lavender female human, while her lower half is that of a black and purple octopus. This both connects and separates her from the average seafolk. She has white hair, gray eyes, red lips, and aqua blue eyelids.
Ursula has a really big attitude problem and a wicked sense of humor. After her banishment from Atlantica, she established herself as a physical beacon of hope towards unfortunate merpeople, allowing them to strike deals and business propositions that would supposedly result in their happiness, should they successfully fulfill their end of the bargain.
During such deals, she speaks in an extremely manipulative and sarcastic tone, as if her only concern is the pleasant satisfaction of her customers.
This makes her schemes easier to fall for, though should she feel a deal is going nowhere, she resorts to pressuring her victims into accepting her offer, additionally portraying herself as their last attempt at making their dreams come true.
However, if Ariel's deal is to be believed, Ursula sadistically ensures her customers fail at upholding their end of the deal, resulting in their souls being forever in her possessions and their bodies becoming permanent members of her living garden, as polyps.
The motivation of such practices are never revealed for any individual other than Ariel, whom Ursula uses to obtain power over the seas, implying that the sea witch simply enjoys causing havoc to the innocent, having no sense of true morality or remorse for those she torments. Apart from this, Ursula may also be acquisitive and cannibalistic, as she is seen eating some sort of tiny sea creature alive.
She is also very nasty, vengeful and acrimonious, holding a vendetta against King Triton for a prolonged period of time, spending her days spying on his relatives to eventually take advantage of them and concoct a scheme capable of ending in her favor — as the oppressive ruler of the seas. This also ties into Ursula's duplicitous, power-mad and manipulative nature, which drives her motivation throughout the film, and is greatly expressed once she finally crowns herself queen during the climax.
Despite her cruel nature, Ursula has a few redeemable traits to her personality as seen with her relationship between herself and her minions Flotsam and Jetsam. Ursula lovingly refers to the duo as her "babies" and has been shown to treat them with affection, despite barking orders at the two from time to time when enraged. She also is very supportive towards the eels, as shown when they succeeded in sabotaging Ariel's first attempt to kiss Eric, she praises them for a job well done. She is also extremely protective and sympathetic of the eels; even expressing huge remorse over killing them with the trident by accident before driving herself into a murderous state towards Ariel for causing it in the first place.
She is also shown to be very classy and sophisticated, as she presents herself with confidence and an eye for high standards, as evidenced by her belief that lurking in doorways is rude. In addition, she regularly flaunts her curvaceous appearance in an extremely seductive manner and spends time in her vanity, admiring her own physical appearance. She has the power to alter her appearance, but simply chooses not to, showing contentment with who she is as a person, but distaste with her social status and lack of complete power over the ocean.
Powers and Abilities
Ursula's abilities stem from her mastery of thalassomancy (ocean magic/sea magic), and even without the Trident, were very potent. She was able to concoct various potions to create sundry sorcerous 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 transfiguration into her human guise Vanessa and Ursula (although in the case of Vanessa, she needed Ariel's voice to disguise her own). However, she was incapable of altering her reflection, which is eventually how her enemies identified her. It was also implied that she was capable of generating storms and may have electrokinetic abilities even prior to gaining the Trident, since storm clouds were generated the very second the sunset on the third day, and she utilized lightning bolts from the storm clouds to transform back into her original form. When it comes to physical powers, Ursula possesses superhuman strength, though not as strong as Triton, yet strong enough to throw a mermaid towards a rock, as what she did to Ariel in the alternate ending of The Little Mermaid.
She was also capable of creating poisonous ink clouds which could absorb the magical energy of the Trident and enhance Ursula's own power. Her most dangerous gift, 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 was also implied that she absorbs their souls while turning 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 her long time enemy King 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 completing it is via her death, as evidenced when the polyps changed back into merpeople via the aftermath of her deathly demise at the hands of Prince Eric.
As the first major villain of the "Disney Renaissance", Ursula made a considerable impact. An official poll of the top 30 villains in Disney history put her at #5, and the Nostalgia Critic ranked her #6. Ursula was likely the inspiration for the nasty troll queen Gnorga from A Troll in Central Park.
- The name of Ursula's human disguise "Vanessa" is derived from the Latin word "Vanitas", meaning "vanity", "worthlessness", "emptiness", and "nothingness". Also, it is Greek for “butterfly”, as seen in the potion that Ursula uses to become human.
- She is ranked #5 in the Top 30 Disney Villains.
- 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 Vanessa willingly after he discovered that she had the voice he was looking for, although he later had second thoughts at the actual wedding, when Vanessa intimidated him into saying "I do". Also, Vanessa was originally supposed to wear a scarf in order to ensure that her identity as Ursula was safe (as it hid her nautilus) when meeting people up close (such as Ariel).
- She is one of many villains who is an all-encompassing force.
- 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. While fighting off the animals, Vanessa also nearly hinted that she was never who she claimed she was so she faked fear at a suspicious Eric. Scuttle, in this version, also decided to exploit the fact that Vanessa's true form can be revealed from her reflection by airlifting the mirror from the bridesroom over to her and positioning it near her, but she caught on and destroyed it before he could get into position. However, her reflection was already exposed from water seeping onto the deck from the animals, thus giving away who she really was to Eric. Perhaps the biggest difference is that Vanessa 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 Scuttle in a very similar manner to Homer and Bart in The Simpsons (coincidentally, both The Little Mermaid and the first Simpsons episode were released in 1989).
- Often in storybooks, she is known as "The Maiden".
- Vanessa is one of the four Disney characters to possess violet eyes, the other three being Aurora, Megara, and Dr. Facilier. On a related note, Vanessa was also the first villain to possess purple eyes, eventually being succeeded by Facilier.
- In the official comic adaptation, Vanessa was shown multiple times singing in Ariel's voice without the necklace hanging around her neck, implying that she does not need the necklace to speak in Ariel's voice so long as the necklace is not destroyed or that this was an error on the artists' part.
- In Once Upon A Time, Ursula is the goddess of the sea who gives mermaids the ability to walk for 12 hours from high tide until high tide once a year. She never makes contact with Ariel, as the one who made a deal with Ariel was the Evil Queen masquerading as Ursula. However, she does make contact with the Evil Queen who had deeply offended her by the masquerade, and threatened to show the Queen how real she can actually be if she ever pretended to be her again.
- Ursula's death is by far one of the most cruel, brutal, violent, merciless and destructive ones in a Disney animated film, with her being impaled and electrocuted onscreen, then disintegrating as she dies. Also, what appears to be pieces of her disintegrated body after she disintegrates are shown sinking to the bottom of the sea (along with the trident) afterward.
- The animators created the character of Ursula for the late Bea Arthur, who declined as she was occupied with The Golden Girls. Jennifer Saunders then auditioned for the role of Ursula, but was turned down. Somehow in 2002, Steven Spielberg got hold of her tape and insisted to the three directors of Shrek 2 that she would be cast as the scheming Fairy Godmother. After Bea Arthur turned down the chance to voice Ursula, the late Nancy Marchand, the late Sylvia Sidney, Nancy Wilson, Roseanne Barr, the late Coral Browne, the late Charlotte Rae, and the Elaine Stritch were all then considered with the latter eventually being cast in the part. However, Stritch's style clashed with that of the late Howard Ashman, so Pat Carroll got the part.
- Ursula's physical appearance in the Disney film is based on the famous drag queen singer and actor Divine.
- Yet unconfirmed, given that Ursula said "So long, lover boy!" to Eric in a very suggestive tone and manner when she takes Ariel back to her lair, it's possible that she may have had sexual relations with him after brainwashing him. If this is true, then Ursula would be the first Disney villain to commit sexual assault as Eric was in no control of his actions.
- Ursula is pictured on one of the 10 USA non-denominated commemorative postage stamps celebrating "Disney Villains", issued as a pane of 20 stamps on July 15, 2017. The set was issued in a single sheet of 20 stamps. The price of each stamp on day of issue was 49 cents. The other villains depicted in this issue are the Evil Queen from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Honest John from Pinocchio, Lady Tremaine from Cinderella, the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland, Captain Hook, from Peter Pan, Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty, Cruella De Vil from 101 Dalmatians, Gaston from Beauty and the Beast, and Scar from The Lion King.
- It is debated by many fans if Ursula is a squid or an octopus based on the number of her tentacles. She has only six tentacles as it was less expensive to draw, but it has been suggested that her arms count as the other two.
- Ursula serves as a lesson to King Triton. If he hadn't get over with his hatred towards humans and never let Ariel be with Prince Eric, he would've been ended up like her.
- Even though Ursula is the main antagonist of the film, she has only around 18 minutes of screen-time.
- Due to the sea witch and temple princess characters being merged into one as well as being made villainous in characterization in the Disney version, Ursula or more accurately Vanessa, has a very similar role to the False Prophet from the Book of Revelations.
- Literature (A Twisted Tale Part of Your World) version of Ursula are far worse than her animated movie counterpart.