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“Flounder, you really are a guppy.”
Flounder is a major character in Disney's 1989 animated film The Little Mermaid. He is Ariel's best friend, who regularly embarks on her adventures despite his cowardly demeanor. Though his name would imply otherwise, he is not a flounder, but a tropical fish.
Flounder comes from a large family, with numerous siblings. His actual name, according to "The Evil Manta", is Guppy Number 35. His exact age is unknown, but he appears to be younger than Ariel (16) during the events of The Little Mermaid and its prequel stories.
There are two conflicting portrayals of how Flounder and Ariel first met. In "The Evil Manta", Ariel encountered Flounder during a swim, but her size made him believe she was a big fish trying to eat him, and thus swam off. After catching up to Flounder as he cowered in fear, Ariel explained that she was a friendly mermaid. Ariel offers to return Flounder home, to which he happily accepts. The two formally introduce themselves to each other and talk about their mutual interests while swimming back, cementing their friendship.
In Ariel's Beginning, however, Ariel overheard Flounder making music (which at the time, was forbidden by order of King Triton). When Ariel tries to join in on the fun, he and Ariel are confronted by guardsfish. Flounder leads Ariel to an escape while teaching her various fishing techniques. They are eventually confronted by Sebastian, who orders for Flounder's arrest for breaking the law. Ariel successfully vouches for Flounder's freedom, allowing him to go free.
Since their initial meeting, Flounder and Ariel developed a strong friendship. The two are nearly inseparable, to the point where Flounder is a welcomed guest of King Triton's palace and regularly participates in activities of the royal family. Being as how they spend nearly every moment together, Flounder also acts as Ariel's confidant. Ariel is also very protective of Flounder, at times acting as something of a mother figure to him. When the two find themselves in peril, Ariel will always put his safety before her own.
As her closest friend and confidante, Flounder is incredibly loyal to Ariel, as well as protective. Part of his reasoning for joining her various exploits is to watch out for her should things go wrong. Though he would rather her hobbies were less perilous, Flounder will always stick up to those who chastise Ariel for her adventurous spirit, including King Triton.
Flounder is essentially the polar opposite of Ariel. He is often riddled with anxiety, scares easily and hates adventure (for the most part). Like Sebastian and King Triton, Flounder is something of a "voice of reason" as he tries to talk Ariel out of adventuring for her own (as well as his) safety. Unfortunately, Flounder's apprehensions never get through. When gets "cold fins", in fact, Ariel will sometimes (and effectively) pressure Flounder into tagging along. While he is not necessarily insecure or prone to peer pressure, Flounder does not like to be called "a guppy" (a baby, in underwater speech), and will therefore join Ariel on her forbidden exploits to prove himself. However, Flounder can be brave and pull through when Ariel truly needs him. For example, during the final confrontation with Ursula in The Little Mermaid, Flounder jumped into the battle by taking on Flotsam and Jetsam.
Flounder is the only character to give unconditional support for Ariel's fascination with human things. He is first seen following the "Daughters of Triton" performance, in during which he and Ariel left Atlantica to explore a sunken shipwreck. Though Flounder would rather leave, Ariel persuades him to tag along. During their scavenging, the duo encounter Glut the Shark, who tries to eat them. While fleeing, Flounder is briefly dazed and nearly becomes Glut's snack, only to be saved by Ariel. When he regains consciousness, Flounder tries to taunt a defeated Glut, but is quickly shooed away when the sour shark snaps at Flounder. Flounder later joins Ariel on the surface, where he recounts the shark attack to Scuttle. Suddenly, Ariel remembers that she was supposed to take part in the concert and rushes back to the kingdom with Flounder.
At the palace, King Triton reprimands Ariel's behavior, and Flounder tries to defend her. In doing so, he accidentally slips that they swam to the surface, putting Ariel in deeper trouble. Ariel tearfully swims to her grotto, where she laments her misunderstood love for the surface world through "Part of Your World." They soon discover that Sebastian had been watching them, and Flounder pleads for him not to tell King Triton about Ariel's collection. Suddenly, a ship passes by, sparking Ariel's curiosity. While she observes the sailors onboard, Flounder and Sebastian follow closely. A storm soon hits, and in during which, Ariel rescues a human from drowning. She swims him to the shoreline where he is revealed to have survived. Flounder and Sebastian watch on as Ariel reveals herself to have fallen in love with the human. Flounder and Sebastian agree not to tell King Triton.
During "Under the Sea", Flounder sneaks Ariel off to her grotto, where he reveals to have uncovered a statue of the human she fell in love with, Prince Eric. Ariel is overjoyed, by this is quickly halted by King Triton, who destroys the statue and most objects in the grotto. As Ariel mourns the loss of her collection, Flounder leaves with Sebastian. Ariel is then visited by Flotsam and Jetsam, who convince the mermaid to seek help from Ursula. Ariel reluctantly agrees, with Flounder and Sebastian following behind. Ariel makes a deal with Ursula to become human; she must share "true love's kiss" with Eric before the last sunset of three days. After her transformation, Flounder and Sebastian swim Ariel to the surface, where they explain the situation to Scuttle. While Sebastian joins Ariel in Prince Eric's palace, Flounder and Scuttle stick close by for updates. When it appears that the prince has fallen in love with another girl, however, Flounder mourns alongside Sebastian and Ariel.
Scuttle discovers that the "other girl" is actually Ursula in disguise. Flounder swims Ariel to Eric's wedding ship, where Ariel is able to regain her voice. Unfortunately, she and Eric are unable to kiss before the sunset, leaving Ariel in Ursula's hands. Ursula takes Ariel to the sea, but she is confronted by King Triton. Triton agrees to take Ariel's place and is turned into a polyp, leaving Ursula to take over the kingdom. When Eric comes to battle Ursula, she sends Flotsam and Jetsam to capture him. Flounder and Sebastian fight the eels and frees Eric, allowing him and Ariel to take on Ursula after she transforms into a giant. After the sea witch is killed by Eric, King Triton realizes that humans are not all bad and that the love between his daughter and Eric is genuine. Triton turns Ariel back into a human and allows the two to wed. Flounder is present at the wedding, where he gets a big goodbye kiss from Ariel as she leaves her life in the sea. Flounder is last seen watching happily alongside Sebastian and King Triton as the wedding ship floats off.
Flounder appears in all the episodes of the prequel television series, sharing constant adventures with Ariel. He generally tries to serve as a voice of reason in comparison to Ariel's more adventurous nature, but usually goes along with her anyway. He is often seen giving rides to Sebastian, who cannot swim as fast as Flounder or Ariel.
In the episode "The Evil Manta", it is shown that Flounder and Ariel met as young children, though Flounder initially mistook Ariel for a large fish that intended to eat him. The same episode shows Flounder outsmarting the Manta, who had been trying to spread prejudice throughout Atlantica asking him that he would only mingle with other fish that look like Flounder himself. Flounder simply fakes believing Manta's words then works with Ariel to fix the problems Manta caused; however, a group of sea creatures discover the two for being a mermaid and a fish together as they prepare to attack the couple. He and Ariel manage to escape from the Atlanticans before they attack the two. Escaping from the commotion, Ariel and Flounder recall when they first met and become friends and the flashback of them as young children reminds Ariel of the prejudice the Manta did. Later after remembering, he and Ariel plan to stop the Atlanticans from hating each other. Flounder yells at them, telling the sea creatures that Ariel is telling the truth about friendship, but they refuse to listen. Ariel and Flounder manage to bring all the sea creatures together in harmony so that they can stop hating each other as well as drive the Manta away from Atlantica.
In the episode "Land of the Dinosaurs", when he has been found frozen in an ice cube, Ariel thaws him with King Triton's trident and he gets a cold resulting in his sneezing.
In the episode "The Beast Within", it centers on Flounder being bitten by a dangerous, monstrous fish called a Howling Hairfish; he then begins to transform into one himself and is later captured by an angry mob of villagers (in his normal self). However, Ariel is able to cure him with the assistance of a school of silverfish as the mob prepares to tumble down the sunken ship, turning him back to his normal self. With this plan worked, Flounder no longer transforms into the monster he keeps turning into, thanks to the silverfish.
Flounder has a small role in The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea. He is first seen at the celebration of Melody's birth and isn't happy about Ariel's decision to keep Melody away from the sea and insists she should explain everything to Melody, which she doesn't. He is later seen 12 years later where he is reunited with Ariel and takes part in the search for Melody. He is shown as an adult and became a father himself, having five children of his own. He is also shown as braver than he was in the first movie.
As the search continues, Flounder and Ariel spot the two stingray pets of Morgana (the antagonist of the film) in the grounds of the palace. The duo follows them to the sea witch's lair, where they believe Melody is being held captive. Whilst Scuttle heads off to warn Eric, Flounder and Ariel enter the icy fortress, only to find themselves captured, along with Melody. Flounder is imprisoned alongside Melody, only to be freed by the princess' companions, Tip and Dash. After a battle ensues and Morgana meets her defeat, however, peace is restored and both the land and sea are free to coincide in harmony as they did years before.
He has a larger role in The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning, in which he first meets Ariel (contradicting the TV series) and later unknowingly leads her to the Catfish Club, where he works as a waiter, but dreams of being a part of the Catfish Club Band. His characterization is notably different in this movie; he doesn't scare as easily and is much more carefree and high-spirited. It is possible that he became more worrisome after the first few adventures with Ariel. He's obsessed with music, constantly humming and beatboxing even at inappropriate moments, which, given that music is forbidden in Atlantica, lands him into trouble on more than one occasion, but which also helps others keep their spirits up, most notably when his beatboxing kicks off the reprise of "Jump In The Line (Shake, Senora)" when he, Ariel, Sebastian, and the Catfish Club Band are on the run from Atlantica.
Flounder made occasional cameos in the television series House of Mouse. A running gag in the show includes Flounder being served alive as Ariel's dinner. This was notably seen in "The Stolen Cartoons" and "Goofy for a Day".
In the episode "Suddenly Hades", Pete flooded the club to prevent Hades from attending the show. However, Ariel, Flounder, and Sebastian stayed as guests instead.
Flounder and Sebastian also starred in commercial bumpers for the Disney Junior along with an octopus, a carp, a snail, and a fluke who are Sebastian's musicians. These short bumpers showcase Flounder and Sebastian engaging in activities, accompanied by a song from an off-screen singer.
In the series of video games, Flounder appears as a relatively minor character in The Little Mermaid's based world, Atlantica. In the original game, as well as Kingdom Hearts II, Flounder takes the job of teaching Sora, Donald, and Goofy how to swim flexibly in the ocean waters after their arrival to the world.
In Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, however, Flounder's role is expanded fairly largely, as he's used as a toy in Ursula's quest for power, holding him hostage and forcing Ariel to choose between giving up the trident or Flounder losing his life. Ariel gives in, and hands over the weapon, but Sora and the gang are able to defeat her before it was too late, saving both the sea and Flounder.
Flounder appears in the stage adaptation of The Little Mermaid. His supporting role is similar as in the film, but he does not give Ariel the statue of Eric and does not help Ariel reach Eric's wedding barge, as the Vanessa subplot has been removed. However, Flounder performs a new song titled "She's in Love", which he sings with Ariel's sisters when they notice that Ariel has been acting "fishy lately". The stage role was originated by Cody Hanford and J.J. Singleton, but the two actors had to leave the show when their height overshot that of Sierra Boggess, who originated Ariel. The role was taken over by Trevor Braun and Brian D'Addario. On the Original Broadway Cast Recording, Brian D'Addario performs as Flounder.