Flotsam and Jetsam speak in unison, finish each other's sentences, and entwine their bodies. The concept of their linkage is further heightened when their white eyes combine to form a single crystal ball, a portal through which Ursula can view the outside world. Ursula would remain in her lair, working from behind the scenes, and watching everything from the crystal ball.
The eels are excessively beloved by Ursula who refers to them as her own children. The eels serve as Ursula's minions and spies, often sneaking around Atlantica, spotting out Ursula's next potential victim.
Unlike most other Disney villains' henchmen who are portrayed as rather comical and bubbly compared to their superiors, Flotsam and Jetsam are portrayed as dark and mysterious lackeys who are surprisingly competent at bringing merfolk to Ursula's lair, matching well with Ursula's wickedness.
They are also incredibly intelligent and known for their efficiency at completing Ursula's tasks successfully (a departure from typical Disney movies where the henchmen are clumsy and botch up every plan), successfully preventing Ariel from kissing Eric, though Ursula decides to take matters into her own tentacles regardless.
Oddly enough, in the TV series that preceded the film chronologically, the eels are incompetent and meek creatures. It is unknown how they became evil and efficient beings.
Flotsam and Jetsam are the first to notice Ariel's infatuation with the world above. Upon witnessing the mermaid fall in love with a human, Prince Eric, Ursula sends Flotsam and Jetsam to propose a deal to Ariel. In addition, in order to ensure that Ariel accepts the proposal, they also made sure they visited Ariel while she was in a grief-stricken state, specifically after King Triton destroyed her grotto in rage, and also flicked a remain of Eric's statue at Ariel in case she attempted to refuse. In making sure that Ursula wins the deal, Flotsam and Jetsam sabotage what would have been a successful kiss between Ariel and Eric.
In the climax, Eric wounds Ursula with a harpoon, and she orders Flotsam and Jetsam to chase him. As Eric surfaces and attempts to climb upon the boat, the eels wrap around him and pull him underwater attempting to drown him. However, Sebastian clips one of the eels' tail with his pincer claw, while Flounder repeatedly slaps the other eel senseless, letting Eric escape. Ursula then uses the trident's magical power to fire a fatal energy blast at Eric, but her aim is thrown off by Ariel, and the killing shot originally intended for Eric instead hits the disoriented eels, frying and blowing them to bits.
Until they met their end, they succeeded at every task Ursula gave them, and due to that, Ursula shocked about what happened to her eels, sadly mourns for them and embraces what was left of them, right before turning her attention and rage towards Ariel and Eric with vengeance.
In an original draft for the ending, they also tried to capture Ariel when she tried to escape, and when Ursula killed them, she barely seemed to notice.
Flotsam and Jetsam appear in the television series taking place before the events of the film. Like the original film, the two are Ursula's pets and familiars, often seen accompanying her in her latest quest for conquest.
Interesting enough, the eels are rather different from their film counterparts, along with their overall relationship with Ursula. In the series, they are shown many times to be meek and incompetent, whereas in the film they are shown to be deadly and intelligent. Furthermore, Ursula is far more hostile and brutal towards her pets, constantly shown berating them and so forth. Examples of these facts can be seen in episodes like "Against the Tide", especially during the scene in which Flotsam and Jetsam openly take notice of Ursula's recent misfortune, and during the climax where King Triton retracts Ursula's poison ink storm to hit Flotsam and Jetsam instead. When they passed out due to the poisoning, Ursula didn't seem to care.
In the same episode, Flotsam and Jetsam also went through a few transformations, via Ursula magic stolen from King Triton's trident. However, this would not become a recurring ability in any form of media after the episode.
Flotsam and Jetsam make an appearance in a short comic strip made for "Disney Comics" where they help Ursula to create a potion to remove Ursula's white hair. However, they make a mistake when giving her the wrong ingredient, causing her to lose all her hair. Ursula punishes them by sticking them into a bottle labeled, "Idiots".
How Does your Garden Grow?
In this short children's book. Ariel and her friends plant a beautiful undersea garden which they cultivate and grow. However, Flotsam and Jetsam being up for mischief, decide to ruin the garden and eat all the flowers (but spitting out all the seeds). This gives them tremendous stomach aches, and they are caught in the act, and because of the seeds they left behind, the garden is able to regrow.
Flotsam and Jetsam are both brought back to life and imprisoned on the Isle of the Lost along with Ursula. Two eels belonging to Jay named Lagan and Derelict are said to be their offspring, but it is unknown which eel is their parent.
Flotsam and Jetsam are the bosses of Stage 2 - the Sunken Ship. Several times their size in the film (and the video game's cover art) they peek out menacingly and occasionally swim between holes in the ship's hull. Ariel must embubble crabs crawling on the floor and fling them at the moray eels to defeat each one.
In Ariel's Story Studio, they play the same role that they did in the film, with a few extras and changes made to how the player interacts with them.
They first appear to Ariel when Triton destroys her collection, and offer to take her to Ursula. They appear again in Ursula's Lair, giving the player's instructions on how to play a riddle game with Ursula's cauldron. They will tell the players what combinations of potions need to be used to make the cauldron work, and it does.
Their last scene is in the Kiss the Girl scene, where they splash water onto Ariel and Eric to keep them from kissing, and they disappear from that point on.
In this game, Flotsam and Jetsam are the focus of a minigame and make an appearance in a second one.
This first minigame involves hitting Flotsam and Jetsam with your pinball in a cramped arena. They will periodically shoot lightning at your ball to throw it off course. Twenty hits are needed to win the game.
The second game involves Ursula in her giant form. You need to hit Ursula multiple times to beat her. All the while, she, along with Flotsam and Jetsam, will attempt to throw your ball off with electrical strikes.
Little Mermaid: Magic in Two Kingdoms
In this game, Flotsam and Jetsam are the focus of a story minigame. In this game, Flotsam and Jetsam lead Ariel to Ursula's Lair, and Ariel must keep up with them, by going through the bubble rings they drop.
They will lead Ariel through three separate areas, as they progress closer to the goal. The first is the open sea, the second is Ursula's land, and the third is the corridor of her lair.
In the original Kingdom Hearts, the two play a similar role to that of the movie. They taunted Ariel into thinking that Ursula will let her venture to other worlds if she traded the trident to Ursula. After getting the Trident, though, Ursula betrayed Ariel and commanded Flotsam and Jetsam to find the keyhole in Triton's throne room. Neither were able to find it and swam away when Sora's party came to help. They later fought Sora and co. in Ursula's lair, but were killed in battle.
In Kingdom Hearts II, Flotsam and Jetsam have returned probably the same way Ursula did. They briefly appear in the chapter "Ursula's Revenge". They first appeared in the cutscene where Ariel and Eric are playing out the Kiss The Girl scene, and interrupted the two by rocking the boat. During the battle with Ursula, the two eels pulled Sora underwater in an attempt to suffocate him but were interrupted by Donald and Goofy freeing Sora, forcing the two to flee. But they were pursued and destroyed by a blast from Sora's keyblade.
Flotsam and Jetsam appear in the 2007 stage musical adaptation of The Little Mermaid, but unlike the film, they are electric eels instead of moray eels. Their eyes are not magically used for Ursula's spying of others, as this role has been taken over by Ursula's magic Nautilus shell. Their interaction with Ursula was increased for the musical, where they become backup singers to Ursula in the song, "I Want the Good Times Back". They are the ones who suggest using Ariel as a way to exploit Triton's weakness, and are the ones who guide Ariel to Ursula's lair with their own song, "Sweet Child".
Later on, in the show, they are commanded by Ursula to block Eric and Ariel's kiss by shocking the boat they are on. When they accomplish this task, they mock Ariel's attempts at love with a reprise of their former song.
Their final appearance in the show is when Ursula had defeated Triton, and victory was in her grasp until Ariel managed to steal her shell. The two swam away, leaving their fates uncertain.
They were portrayed using large puppets on jet-skis designed by Michael Curry, who has worked on numerous projects with Disney. A 34-foot long aluminum pontoon frame holds up the water-resistant fabric covering and is capable of pivoting similarly to a toy wooden snake to give it a slithering motion. They are frequently referred to as "Flotsam and Jet-ski" by Disney alumni. The duo eventually disappeared for some time, and in the 2017 revamp of the show, they were omitted completely.
In Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, Flotsam and Jetsam are revived from the dead by Hades to assist Ursula in her plot to submerge the Magic Kingdom under the sea for Ursula to control. They are also ordered to help find the crystal of the Magic Kingdom. They search in a sunken ship where they run into the park guests. They fight the guests but are defeated when the guests' attack causes a cannon to fall on both of them, firing a cannonball down on their heads. They then swim away in pain from the noise and the weight.
Flotsam & Jetsam make a brief appearance in the dark ride, The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure talking to the riders as they enter Ursula's lair.
In Voyage of the Little Mermaid, Flotsam and Jetsam receive a small cameo.
The eels also appear in the Tokyo DisneySea rendition of Fantasmic! During the show, the duo makes an appearance as floats during the section where Ursula talks of taking over Mickey's mind.
Puppets of Flotsam and Jetsam lead Ursula's unit of the Halloween parade and castle show, Villains Night Out!
- To this date, the eels are often cited as Disney's darkest henchmen.
- Flotsam and Jetsam were briefly mentioned by Captain Hook in the Jake and the Never Land Pirates episode "The Sword and the Stone".
- Flotsam and Jetsam are apparently the only henchmen from the Little Mermaid franchise to actually die at the end of their film.
- Flotsam and Jetsam are unique among most Disney villain minions, as they seem to be competent at everything they do (though in the TV show, they are considerably less competent). Though Diablo from Sleeping Beauty and Sour Bill from Wreck-It Ralph are shown to be equally competent.
- Ursula's reaction to Flotsam and Jetsam's deaths, prompting her to attack Ariel and Eric, was probably inspired by a similar scene near the end of Sleeping Beauty where Maleficent attacks Prince Phillip and the Three Good Fairies after the latter turn Diablo the raven to stone.
- It is unknown on how Flotsam and Jetsam, who were portrayed as meek and incompetent in the TV series, became more deadly and intelligent in the original film; It is possible that after years of working with Ursula they became smarter and more competent and experienced.
- The eels are named after the phrase flotsam and jetsam which means "useless or disregarded objects". This is interesting as they are shown to be quite useful and competent as henchmen.
- During the scene where Flotsam and Jetsam wrap their tails around Eric, their positions are permanently swapped (as one can tell by looking at their eyes) when Sebastian and Flounder attack them.
- Both Flotsam and Jetsam have odd-colored eyes; Flotsam's right eye and Jetsam's left eye are yellow.
- In the original fairytale, the sea witch does not have henchmen who prevent the little mermaid kissing the prince.