Jodi Benson has voiced countless characters in video games, television shows, and animated features as well as appearing on Broadway, but she is most well-known for providing the voice of Ariel in Disney’s The Little Mermaid. I had an opportunity to sit down for a roundtable discussion with Jodi about being Ariel and the impact it has had on her life.
Jodi came from Broadway and was new to voicing animated characters so she had to learn the ropes while she was recording Ariel. She even faced first-day jitters just like anyone starting a new job. “The first two days were just a whirlwind and you have to overcome your nerves because your nerves show through your voice so much. And I just didn’t know what I was doing. I felt embarrassed and completely unqualified. Learning this whole craft was a little hard for me.”
She credits her ability to create the voice and character of Ariel to all the incredible people she worked with like Ron Clements, John Musker, and Howard Ashman.
“During our sessions that’s probably the most challenging thing for me, I felt like I was giving it my all and when I was in the studio, and I still do this now, I don’t just say the lines I physically act everything out. That’s just kind of how I work. I would just pour it all out on the line and pour out my heart and Ron and John would push the button and say ‘We’re just not getting it.’ And that’s were Howard was really helpful to try to convey everything that you’re feeling with just your voice.”
Yet, from that rocky, nerve-wracked start came one of the most beloved Disney princesses. Jodi knew, even before the movie was a hit, that she was working on something that could last far longer than just those first nervous recording sessions and it was a big concern.
“The realization that this character was possibly going to live forever and to maintain the integrity of it and the responsibility. It’s not a job. It’s not just a character. She’s an icon, a character that’s touched a lot of people’s lives.”
She first voiced Ariel 25 years ago and since then, the character has remained an important part of her life. “Everything that I’ve had…ever since that day, since the movie came out, every job, every concert, business relationship, pretty much everything has happened because of this film. It’s been really life changing.”
And although many actors tire of the roles that made them famous and grow weary of being identified as one character among the many they have played, Jodi has no such problems being identified as he little red-headed mermaid.
“This character has definitely changed my life. Some people ask is it limiting or do you feel its been restricting to you or that’s the only way people know you as and I just don’t really see it that way. I just look at it as an incredible blessing.”
You can hear Jodi in her most famous role when The Little Mermaid Diamond Edition arrives on Blu-ray/DVD on October 1st.