- “I admit that in the past I've been a nasty... they weren't kidding when they called me, well, a witch.”
Ursula (also known as the Sea Witch) is the main antagonist of Disney's 1989 animated feature film The Little Mermaid. She is a villainous Cecaelia (half-woman, half-octopus) who strikes deals with unfortunate merfolk with the promise of making their dreams come true. Ursula's contracts, however, are covertly designed to advance her own ambitions and cause general misery. In the past, Ursula was a resident of King Triton's palace, before being banished and exiled by order of the king. Scorned, she has since vowed to exact vengeance by harnessing the power of the king's trident and installing herself as ruler of all the ocean.
Ursula is loosely based on the nameless sea witch from the original Hans Christian Andersen tale, while her characterization takes inspiration from the drag queen Divine. Ursula's fervent confidence and theatricality have been met with critical praise, and have influenced villains that followed. She has since featured prominently as a primary member of the Disney Villains line-up.
- 1 Background
- 2 Appearances
- 3 Live-action appearances
- 4 Printed media
- 5 Video games
- 6 Musical
- 7 Disney Parks
- 8 Gallery
- 9 Trivia
- 10 References
- 11 External links
Ursula belongs to a race of creatures known as Cecaelia. She states through a monologue that she once lived in the royal palace of King Triton, the king of the underwater city of Atlantica. She boasts that her previous life was lavish and included such spoils as "fantastical feasts." Power-hungry and devilish, even in the past, Ursula garnered a disreputable reputation amongst underwater dwellers. She was widely known as the "Sea Witch", an alias she accepted in stride.
Ursula's greed and use of dark magic led to her banishment. By orders of the King, Ursula was exiled from Atlantica and made her home in the remains of a leviathan lined with a garden of writhing polyps. These polyps were merfolk who had previously gone to Ursula for help but found themselves unable to fulfill their side of the bargain, leading Ursula to claim them as her own and adding them to her collection. Ursula laments her distaste for her living conditions, despite having maintained all of her powerful black magic. From her secluded lair, she awaits the chance to get her revenge on Triton and become Queen of Atlantica by stealing the king's trident, an extremely powerful weapon that grants its user control over the seas and its foils. Ursula is aided by her two moray eels, Flotsam and Jetsam, whom she refers to as her "babies".
Ursula is based on the "sea witch" character in Hans Christian Andersen's story "The Little Mermaid". In the original story, the sea witch is a neutral enabler, but for Disney's animated adaptation, the character was modified into a full-fledged antagonist and plays a larger role in the overall story.
During pre-production, Ursula was not originally designed as a Cecaelia; a legendary hybrid of human and octopus. It was thought that she would be another species of sea creatures, such as a rockfish or lion fish, or would have a snake-like appearance, as revealed in The Disney Sketchbook. The production team then saw a documentary about octopi and decided that their multiple arms and imposing appearance would be perfect for the character they were creating. Ursula is only drawn with six tentacles, due to the studio's budget and difficulty in coordinating eight tentacles (though she has eight limbs if you include her arms). Pat Carroll has stated that this makes her a squid, though biologically she still resembles an octopus far more than any other sea-creature. Moreover, a squid has ten tentacles, not six. Although, unlike most Cecaelia, Ursula is very obese. The character has been compared to Madame Medusa from The Rescuers in terms of style, dramatics, and choice of minions.
Pat Carroll, Ursula's voice actress, envisioned the character as "part Shakespearean actress, with all the flair, flamboyance and theatricality, and part used-car salesman with a touch of con artist." Carroll, who is a contralto, deliberately deepened her voice for the role.
During development, Vanessa's, Ursula's human alter-ego, story arc went through radical changes as revealed by a leaked script online. Originally, Vanessa's method of hypnotizing Eric was different; instead of suppressing his free will and eliminating his capability to display emotion, she let him have a broader range of emotion and gave him some free will. The point of this sort of hypnosis was to influence Eric in Vanessa's direction and accept her over Ariel on his own, emphasizing deception over the brute force from the final film.
After Vanessa hypnotizes Eric, he introduces Ariel to her on the morning of the third day, announcing that they will be married by sunset. This is vastly different from the final film where Ariel eavesdrops on their announcement before running away, never getting a good idea at who Vanessa is until Scuttle tells her. To better conceal herself due to her being so close to Ariel, Vanessa wears a scarf in the original script as a way to hide her nautilus necklace and not arouse suspicion from Ariel. And when Ariel runs away, Eric is about to run after her, but Vanessa pulls him back and kisses him; using Eric's fake love for her as a way to intimidate him.
The scene inside the cabin is exactly the same as the film, but the wedding itself has noticeable differences. In the original, Vanessa was actually eager to marry Eric and was impatient about the wedding being done before sunset suggesting some ulterior motive aside from just taking Ariel. In the original script, she also gets to actually say "I do" unlike in the final product.
Vanessa isn't able to kiss Eric again, though, as the ceremony is disrupted by an explosion off the side of the ship and Scuttle's small army shows up and begins to attack Vanessa. She fights back in the original version, much like in the film, but quickly stops when she realizes she is blowing her cover as a sweet, innocent girl. She then begs Eric to protect her, which he does. Since Scuttle can't get close to Vanessa, he intends to reveal her true form to Eric by bringing up the mirror from her cabin. He crashes into a pole and the mirror breaks, but Eric is able to see Vanessa for what she is the reflection of the water the sea creatures brought on board the ship. This breaks the illusion and he rejects her for Ariel. At this point, Vanessa's voice returns to sounding like Ursula's, presumably because the spell has been broken, and Eric and Ariel are about to embrace. Much like in the final movie, the sun sets before they can kiss, and Vanessa turns back into Ursula, dragging Ariel back with her under the sea.
In this ending, Ariel does not get her voice back until the very end, which changes the dynamic of the scene entirely. No explanation was ever offered as to why this half of the ending was changed.
On a separate note, early storyboard concept art revealed that Vanessa and Eric would have originally been married at the castle instead of on a ship, with Ariel lurking above in observance. This change may have been made to add a sense of urgency for Ariel to stop the wedding by having it take place somewhere else. It also may have been done to create a better transition between the wedding scene and the final battle underwater.
Vanessa's role in the film is inspired by the original Andersen tale. In that story, after the prince has been rescued by the mermaid, he is found on the beach by a princess whom he believes to have saved him. Later on, after the mermaid becomes human, she discovers that the prince will be marrying the maiden. In the end, the maiden marries the prince while the mermaid (who chose not to kill the prince despite the urging of her sisters) dies and ascends to a spiritual rebirth. The maiden, like the Sea Witch, was also a neutral character rather than a villain.
In the book, the maiden does not speak and is presented as being sprightly and innocent. She is very much in love with the prince, though, snuggling up to him while not being possessive of him, as she did not object to his friendship with the mermaid. Vanessa's façade is based on imitating this behavior while snickering behind others' backs, eliminating the presence of anything innocent.
In tone, and by nature, Ursula was very dark with a wicked sense of humor. After her banishment from Atlantica, the sea witch established herself as a beacon of hope for 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 presumably spoke in a grandmotherly tone, as if her only concern was the satisfaction of her customers, just as she did with Ariel. This would have lulled her clients into a false sense of security, making her schemes easier to fall for. She would have pressured her victims into accepting her offer, portraying herself as their last resort at making their dreams come true, especially if her initial deal wasn't appealing alone. Also, if Ariel's deal is any indication, Ursula would sadistically ensure her customers fail at upholding their end of the deal, resulting in their souls being kept forever in her possession, their bodies becoming permanent members of her living garden as polyps. The motivation of such practices are never exclusively revealed, though it could be theorized she held a general contempt for merfolk as a result of her banishment. However, she reserved no sense of morality or remorse for those she tormented. In Ariel's case, her intentions are purely to use the young mermaid as a pawn to obtain power over the seas. On a separate note, Ursula is the only character seen eating in the film when she ingests a hapless shrimp during her opening scene.
Throughout the film, Ursula is driven by vengeance and a lust for power. Her prolonged vendetta against King Triton fueled her desire to usurp him in revenge for her banishment from the palace. She quietly spies on the merfolk with the help of her minions, Flotsam and Jetsam, biding her time until she eventually finds an opportunity to concoct a scheme capable of placing her in power; this, of course, being Ariel falling in love with Eric. Ursula's insatiable hunger for revenge and power finally culminate at the film's climax when she crowns herself ruler of the seas, her maniacal rage matched only by her increased size.
Despite Ursula's irredeemable traits, she had a softer side as seen in her relationship with Flotsam and Jetsam, who Ursula lovingly referred to as her "babies" or "poopsies". They are the only creatures she treats with any true affection, despite barking at them at times when enraged. The only remorse she ever displayed was after accidentally killing them with Triton's trident, immediately redirecting her anguish and rage toward Ariel for causing it in the first place. In the TV series, however, she does abuse her minions for failure at times.
Ursula was classy, if not a bit flamboyant, and presents herself with confidence. She had an eye for high standards and decorum as evidenced by her belief that lurking in doorways is rude. Though she was very obese, she appeared to suffer dysmorphia, claiming to be "wasted away to practically nothing" and "starving". Despite this, she exhibited vanity, regularly admiring herself and applying makeup and hair treatment. Though she had power to alter her appearance, she chose her naturally curvaceous figure, apparently content and even going so far as to flaunt it in a sultry manner. Most of her personal distaste derived from her demoted social status and lack of power.
Though Ursula was highly intelligent and calculating, she was extremely arrogant and egotistical to the point of underestimating her opponents. For example, when she used the trident to transform herself into a giant, she disregarded Eric as a threat and did not consider that her size made her an easy target. She gleefully brought shipwrecks to the surface, inadvertently providing Eric the perfect means to retaliate, without realizing his strength and skill as a sailor. By the time her fatal mistake was realized, it was too late, and she was easily impaled by the broken bow of Eric's ship before she could react. It was these negative traits and mistakes that eventually led to Ursula's painful, yet justified, death.
Though it is ambiguous as to whether or not Ursula knew she was evil, she makes it clear (in song) to Ariel that she is aware of her infamous reputation among the merfolk and appears to agree with and embrace their assessment. Some media, such as the Disney Villains book, back this up.
Ursula is a morbidly obese octopod, classified as a cecaelia (half human, half octopus). She has light lavender skin, short white hair, and her body, from the waist down, is black with six tentacles dotted by violet suckers. The area around her eyes is a darker shade than the rest of her face. Her eyes are gray and she has a mole near the right side of her mouth. She is always seen wearing makeup; in particular, she has aqua blue eye shadow, deep red lipstick, and red nails. For jewelry she wears purple shell earrings and a gold nautilus shell necklace.
Ursula's alter-ego, Vanessa, looks like what could be considered a "mean girl" version of a Disney Princess. In many respects, she resembles Ariel with her striking beauty, slim figure, and long hair. It is believed that this was deliberate, to match Eric's hazy recollection of the woman on the beach. However, it's not difficult to tell them apart. Vanessa has olive skin, dark brown hair (black when wet) that is parted down the middle rather than brushed to the side like Ariel's, higher cheekbones, and violet eyes in contrast to Ariel's bright blue which are accented by highly arched eyebrows. The latter feature gives Vanessa a more mischievous expression, especially when she's pleased with herself. Vanessa wears three outfits during her appearance on screen: the first is a sleeveless blue dress under a deeper blue corset. She wears this and black shoes on the beach when hypnotizing Eric, along with a long black cape, but is later seen without the cape. Her second outfit is simply the vanilla-colored slip she later wears under her wedding dress and black flats. Her final outfit is the aforementioned wedding dress, a long white affair with ruffles covering the front and a split skirt, revealing the slip underneath. This dress has large puffs at the sleeves, much like Ariel's. She also wears a long, opaque white veil on her head and a pair of white high heels. With all three outfits, she wears Ursula's golden nautilus pendant which contains Ariel's voice. That is, until Scuttle destroys it at the end of the movie.
Powers and abilities
Ursula's magical abilities, even without the Trident, were very potent. She was able to concoct various potions to create various 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 transformation into 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 got the drop on her. It is 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 movie. She was also able to implant voices into Flotsam and Jetsams' heads to relay orders to them, as indicated by her debut scene in the movie.
She was also capable of creating poisonous ink clouds which could absorb the energy of the Trident and enhance Ursula's power. Her most dangerous ability, 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's also implied that she absorbs their souls while transforming 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 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 fulfilling it is via her death, as evidenced when the polyps turned back into merpeople by the aftermath of her death at the hands of Prince Eric.
- “Flotsam! Jetsam! I want you to keep an extra close watch on this pretty little daughter of his... She may be the key to Triton's undoing.”
When Ursula first appears in the film, she states through a monologue that she once lived in the royal palace of King Triton, the king of the underwater city of Atlantica. She was banished from Atlantica and made her home in the remains of a leviathan where she waits the chance to get her revenge on Triton and become Queen of Atlantica. She currently resides in a leviathan home lined with a garden of writhing polyps which were merfolk who had previously gone to Ursula for help, but found themselves unable to fulfill their side of the bargain, leading Ursula to claim them as her own and added them to her collection. Though she remains powerful, Ursula laments her distaste for her living conditions, and secretly watches over King Triton's youngest daughter, Ariel, believing her to be "the key to Triton's undoing". With time, Ursula's assumptions are proven correct, as Ariel one day meets and falls in love with a human prince, named Eric, against Triton's explicit rules.
Ursula commands her minions, moray eels Flotsam and Jetsam, to lure Ariel to her lair, claiming that only she can help make the princess' dreams of living on the surface, beside her apparent true love, a reality. Little does Ariel realize that this is part of Ursula's scheme to take the kingdom. Through the song "Poor Unfortunate Souls", Ursula proposes an agreement where she will transform Ariel into a human for three days, during which Ariel must receive the "kiss of true love" from Eric. If Ariel succeeds, her transformation into a human will be permanent, but if she fails, she will turn back into a mermaid and be bound to Ursula for eternity. The price for the transformation is Ariel's voice (which Ursula will keep no matter what happens). Ariel agrees and signs a contract that Ursula has conjured. As Ursula orders Ariel to sing, the sea witch summons magical hands to rip out Ariel's voice, which is then magically pulled into Ursula's Nautilus shell necklace. She then laughs gleefully as her plans begin to unfold: Ariel's tail is split into legs. As she laughs, Ursula allows Sebastian and Flounder to take the human Ariel to the surface. During the time that Ariel is a human and must win a kiss of true love from Eric in order to remain human permanently, Ursula takes every measure to prevent the kiss from occurring, such as when Flotsam and Jetsam tip over the boat in which Ariel and Eric are sitting as the two are close to kissing.
Fearing that Ariel and Eric may actually fall in love and share a kiss before the deadline, Ursula decides to take matters into her own tentacles. With intent to sabotage Ariel's relationship with Eric so she can continue with her evil plan, Ursula takes the form of a beautiful human female with Ariel's voice. Under the alias "Vanessa", Ursula bewitches Eric to marry her. However, Ariel's seagull companion, Scuttle, discovers Ursula's villainy and quickly alerts Ariel and King Triton's court composer, Sebastian, who rushes off to alert the king. Before she can completely misdirect Eric into marrying her, Scuttle is able to stall the wedding for the time being and, in the chaos, destroy the Nautilus shell containing Ariel's voice, breaking Eric’s trance and returning Ariel's voice to its rightful owner. However, the sun sets before Ariel and Eric can kiss and Ariel transforms back into a mermaid. Ursula changes back to her true form, grabs Ariel and jumps back into the sea, where she is confronted by King Triton.
Ursula reveals her true goal and forces Triton to choose between his freedom and his daughter's. Triton agrees to take Ariel's place, and once Triton is transformed into a polyp, Ursula takes his crown and trident. Furious with Ursula's trickery, Ariel attacks the sea witch, who immediately retaliates and threatens to destroy the former with the power of the trident. Before she can, Ursula is attacked with a harpoon by Prince Eric. Flotsam and Jetsam are sent to capture the Prince and successfully do so while dragging him down into the sea before Sebastian and Flounder rush to the prince's aid. Ursula readies a killing shot for Eric, but Ariel grabs hold of her hair, thus redirecting the blast towards Flotsam and Jetsam—killing them. Saddened and enraged by the death of her minions, Ursula seeks vengeance on Ariel and magically alters herself to a massive size. With her new form, Ursula declares herself as ruler of the entire ocean and creates a powerful storm. Eric takes control of a surfaced ship while Ursula's attention is on Ariel. As Ursula wickedly taunts the idea of "true love" and prepares to kill Ariel using the power of the trident, Eric impales the sea witch by plunging his ship's splintered bow through her abdomen. Ursula screams in pain, and the bow catches lightning, brutally electrocuting her body. As Ursula loses her last ounces of life, she drops onto the ship and sinks into the sea as her dismembered body falls to the ocean floor.
After Ursula's fate is sealed, all the merfolk that have had been under her power, including Triton, are released from their bonds and transform back into their original forms. With Ursula and her minions gone for good, Ariel is able to return to her human form, and she and Eric are finally able to kiss for the very first time, marry, and live happily ever after.
Ursula appears as the main villain of the Little Mermaid prequel television series, (which takes place one year prior to her death in the original film). The episodes she appears in are "Against the Tide", "Tail of Two Crabs", "Heroes", and "Ariel's Treasures". In all of these episodes, she executes various plans to antagonize King Triton and take over Atlantica. Contrary to the film canon where Ariel first meets Ursula during their deal, Ariel is shown to interact with Ursula more, usually foiling her schemes.
In "Against the Tide", Ursula has been experiencing failures in her most recent magic spells. She believes it to be the work of an odd sea creature that is said to cause bad luck whenever it's around. Ursula decides to destroy the creature, but Ariel rescues it, as she believes it to be harmless. Eventually, the creature's whereabouts have been located at Triton's palace, and Ursula invades the palace during King Triton's homecoming. She prepares to eliminate the beast by using the stolen magic of the trident, though Sebastian was clever enough to make a makeshift version of the creature, and trick Ursula into destroying it instead. With the beast supposedly gone, Ursula departs.
In "Tail of Two Crabs", Ursula takes advantage of Sebastian's jealousy towards his rival Zeus the Crab, by transforming into Sebastian's "Fairy God Crab". She offers him a wish if he can recover a rare artifact holding great power. Sebastian delivers, and Ursula is able to turn King Triton, Flounder, and Ariel into sea worms. Luckily, Zeus is able to subdue Ursula and revert her curse.
In "Heroes", Apollo, a legendary hero who once saved Atlantica from Ursula and her army of octopi, returns to Atlantica, just when Ursula decides to revive her old army in an attempt to dominate Atlantica once more. Like the previous battle, however, Apollo prevails with the help of the fire-breathing Sea Dragon. It is also implied in this episode that the reason behind her exile was because she tried to create copies of the Trident, referred to as dark tridents, for the aforementioned army against Atlantica.
Lastly in "Ariel's Treasures", Ursula enchants the human items in Ariel's grotto, in an attempt to wreak havoc on Atlantica.
Although Ursula doesn't make a physical appearance in the 2000 direct-to-video sequel, she makes a cameo and is mentioned various times, mostly by her sister younger Morgana, also a Cecelia, but with eight tentacles instead of six.
Ursula, herself, can be seen in a picture within Morgana's lair. Interestingly, she serves as the driving force for Morgana's story arc, though not exactly in the sense of revenge. Rather, Morgana feels eliminating Triton and stealing the throne would prove her superiority over her sister, as the former spent most of her life in Ursula's shadow.
At the end of the film, after Morgana is imprisoned frozen in an iceberg and forced to sink to the darkest depths of the sea, the framed picture of Ursula makes one last appearance, sinking alongside her.
In the deleted, yet fully animated song "Gonna Get My Wish", a younger Ursula makes a brief appearance in the form of a flashback, alongside Morgana and their mother. The scene also gives a visual representation of Ursula's past and relationship with Morgana. In their youth, Ursula wears a purple bow tied to her hair.
Despite her death in the film, Ursula made numerous cameos in the series House of Mouse, often seen alone or with Ariel.
In "Pete's House of Villains", she replaced Daisy at her desk after Pete took over.
In "Jiminy Cricket", Jiminy gives Ariel advice resulting into taking her voice back from Ursula. Her mode of transportation was seen as a wave vehicle.
She was also part of the all-female guest list in the episode "Ladies' Night".
In the episode "House of Crime", Goofy interrogates Vanessa, asking if she has seen any disguised villains. She silently shakes her head and then transforms back into Ursula when Goofy leaves her table.
In "Donald and the Aracuan Bird" when Donald is served to Ursula, she claims that she did not order him.
Ursula appears in the episode "Keep on Rollin'", as Pete’s date and a member of his gang, alongside the Beagle Boys. They crash Yen Sid’s roller rink, where Ursula uses her strength and tentacles to torment the roller rink’s patrons. She and Pete then kick out Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and Daisy, declaring that “disco is dead”. After a series of misadventures, Mickey and his friends return to the roller rink to win back the night. Ursula, Pete and the Beagle Boys take on the heroes, but Ursula is personally foiled by Goofy. Mickey and Minnie eventually use their magic to imbue Ursula, Pete and the Beagle Boys with disco clothes and rhythm, horrifying the villains to the point of fleeing the roller rink.
Two different, yet unrelated versions of Ursula appear in the ABC fantasy drama series.
This first Ursula is a mythical sea goddess who is considered a myth by merfolk as she hasn't been seen for a thousand years. This identity appears in the episode "Ariel", where in the episode, Ariel prays to her for guidance so she can be able to continue her life as a human and forever be with Prince Eric. Using this opportunity, the Evil Queen appears as Ursula to Ariel and gives her a magic bracelet that gives the wearer Ariel's tail in exchange for their legs. Ariel, in an act of gratitude for Snow White's earlier help, gives the bracelet to Snow so that she can live her life free from the Queen while Ariel gets to be with Eric.
However, Snow White tries to tell Ariel that Ursula isn't real. Much to Ariel's shock, Regina shows up and admits this was a way to get Snow using Ariel. She then gives Ariel an ultimatum: leave Snow with Regina and live happily with Prince Eric or perish along with Snow. Ariel appears to choose the first choice, but then stabs Regina with a fork and removes the bracelet from Snow, who then escapes with Ariel into the water. After delivering Snow safely onto land, Ariel returns to tell Eric how she feels, but when she attempts to speak, she discovers that her voice is missing. Regina, standing on the docks, reveals she had taken her voice so Ariel can never tell Prince Eric how she truly feels. Ariel becomes devastated, and Regina proceeds to tell Ariel to leave.
When Regina returns to her castle, she looks into her mirror and discovers Ursula herself, proving that Ursula is indeed real. Ursula then grabs Regina with her tentacles through the mirror itself, threatening a fearful Regina to never pose as her again, or she will prove to Regina "just how real she is", before subsequently letting her go and disappearing. Although Ursula's physical appearance is largely based on the Disney version, her personality is closer to that of the original Hans Christian Andersen tale, being largely a neutral entity, although will get vengeful when someone poses as her.
A second Ursula appeared as one of the main antagonists in the second half of the fourth season, played by actress Merrin Dungey while Tiffany Boone played the young Ursula. She made her season four début in the episode "Heroes and Villains". She was originally a mermaid princess and the daughter of King Poseidon, named after the original sea goddess. Her back-story is similar to Ariel (from the movie) because she had a beautiful singing voice and lost her mother who had been killed by a pirate. Her father developed a xenophobic grudge against humans and use the voice talent of Ursula to lure sailors to their doom. However, she refused to attack the Jolly Roger, saving Captain Hook and his crew. In grudge with her father, she steals a magic bracelet from his vault, allowing her to become human. She becomes a pub singer and befriended Hook. However, Hook had concluded a pact with Poseidon to trap her singing voice within an enchanted shell in exchange for squid ink, to neutralize his nemesis Rumplestiltskin. Instead, Ursula herself steals the ink from the vault for him just as her father arrives to take the procured item away.
Angered that the ink has been crushed, Hook removes her voice so the King can never use her to sink another ship again. Betrayed and developing great hate against the human and her father, Ursula decided she no longer wanted to be a mermaid and used her father's trident to transform her fishtail into tentacles, becoming the Sea Witch. Later, Ursula is invited to the Forbidden Fortress by Rumplestiltskin, where she meets Cruella De Vil and Maleficent. Rumple used the three villainesses to get the Dark Curse, but the witches, in turn, had to face the Chernabog. Later, she becomes good friends with the two witches and the three became associates. They work together to steal a magical gauntlet from Rumplestiltskin, capable of revealing the weaknesses of their enemies. Once they learn this crucial information, they'll be able to come out on top, having had enough of constantly facing defeat. To do so, the villains kidnapped Rumple's servant, Belle, and held her for ransom. Once Rumple arrived at the transaction point, Belle was covered in Ursula's tentacles to prevent her from escaping. Her grasp increased with time due to Rumple's hesitation, but once the Dark One handed over the gauntlet, Belle was released. Later, she, Cruella, and Maleficent ask for help from Snow White and Prince Charming in stopping the Evil Queen. But once their plan fails, Ursula asks if she can choke the duo with her tentacles, claiming that they are bored. She and Cruella remained Maleficent's primary associates (and somewhat henchmen) and guarded the cave in which Maleficent rested with her unborn child. After the baby is stolen by the heroes they previously worked with, Ursula and Cruella chase them down, where they end up being transported to the Land Without Magic, using the magic from the dragon egg containing the baby to stay young.
Many years later after the Dark Curse, Ursula was seen in the Land Without Magic working as an aquarium worker in New York feeding the fish there. Mr. Gold finds her (after being forced out of Storybrooke by Belle) and offers her a chance to get even with the heroes and find the Author. They then head out to find Cruella De Vil and Maleficent. Ursula and Mr. Gold find Cruella De Vil in Long Island. Upon using Mr. Gold's cellphone, Ursula and Cruella make a deal with Regina to let them into Storybrooke in exchange for info on how to defeat the Chernabog. After the Chernabog disappeared upon being thrown over the town line, Ursula and Cruella were invited into Storybrooke. Later that night, Ursula and Cruella get Mr. Gold back into Storybrooke and work to bring Maleficent back from the dead.
But soon her intentions drift when she sees Hook in the forest so Ursula heads out to confront him, where he agrees to give back her singing voice so she can tell him about Mr. Gold's plans. Since the shell that trapped her voice is in the Enchanted Forest aboard the Jolly Roger, she uses a piece of the ship's rigging to open a portal and cross realms to bring the vehicle to Storybrooke's harbor. She succeeds, however, the ship arrives shrunken and encased in a bottle. From Will, it is restored to normal size with a magic essence. Below the ship deck, Hook gives Ursula the shell containing her singing voice, but she is unable to reabsorb it. Disappointed, she considers her happy ending is still impossible without the Author's help, causing her to void her deal with Hook, who pulls a gun on her. She easily knocks him out and throws him into the water before returning to the cabin. There, she assaults Mary Margaret, who arrived with Emma and David to rescue August. As Ursula refuses to relent, Hook returns with her father, Poseidon, who can restore her voice since he originally enchanted the shell. Poseidon apologizes to Ursula for using her singing voice as a weapon, and he expresses regret over not cherishing her gift to honor her mother's memory. After regaining her voice, Ursula fully reconciles with her father and decides to go home with him. Before leaving, she tells Hook about Mr. Gold's scheme to dethrone Emma as savior and make her evil. As Ursula explains, Emma gave everyone their happy endings in this world, and once she is not the savior anymore, only then the Author can give the villains what they want.
Ursula appears in the sequel only making a cameo, voiced by Whoopi Goldberg. She unleashes one of her tentacles on the pirate gang and orders them and Uma to be quiet and tells them that the dishes are not going to wash themselves. She often likes to stay home and watch soap operas.
Ursula is slated to appear in the live-action remake of The Little Mermaid, where she will be portrayed by Melissa McCarthy, and it has been confirmed that McCarthy has already recorded her rendition of "Poor Unfortunate Souls".
In the first two issues of the official The Little Mermaid comic, Ursula appears briefly to negotiate with a race of eel-men for the carcass of a Leviathan which she would convert into the home seen in the 1989 film. She also briefly appears in a segment of the fourth issue, where she tries to create a new hairstyle to entertain her due to banishment from Atlantica making her lonely on her birthday, but it backfired on her. She doesn't appear in the Marvel Comics serial for The Little Mermaid, although a character similar to her appears known as Pirhaia in the penultimate issue. Ursula frequently appears in Ariel's comics in the Disney Princess magazines, often in a villainous role. In the Disney Press book The Villain Files, it is implied that Ursula is Ariel's aunt, a concept that is based on the abandoned story concept of the 1989 film.
In The Little Mermaid version of My Side of the Story, Ursula claimed she was actually the protagonist and revealed to have been romantically infatuated with King Triton, supposedly.
Ursula is first mentioned in the saga in the third book when a cast member says Tigger was spying on her. In the fifth book, she appears at Typhoon Lagoon when King Triton is talking with Finn. She has the power of the water and even creates a whirlpool where Finn almost drowns. She also appears on the cover of Kingdom Keepers V: Shell Game. In the seventh book, it is revealed that she has been disguised as Storey Ming ever since the Keepers went on their Disney Cruise through the Panama Canal.
Ursula is mentioned in the second novel The Beast Within: A Tale of Beauty's Prince by author Serena Valentino. In the novel, it is mentioned that Ursula lives in a kingdom adjacent to that of Belle and the Prince, and when the Prince dumps his fiancée prior to Belle, she attempts to drown herself. Ursula then rescues her and trades her life for her beauty. The Enchantress then goes to Ursula to convince her to give up her deal in exchange for something else. In the end, she convinces her.
Descendants: Isle of the Lost
Ursula is one of the villains brought back to life to be imprisoned in the Isle of the Lost. She owns a store called Ursula's Fish and Chips and she always chases out Ratigan and his crew every time they go there.
Ursula was the adopted daughter of a human fisherman and she grew up unaware of her powers or that she was King Triton's long-lost sister. After her powers were exposed the people in her village turned on her and attempted to burn her, her father tried to stop them but was killed in the process. From that moment on, Ursula was driven by the hatred of the people in the village and grief for the loss of her father. After attempting to destroy the village, King Triton reveals himself to be her brother and takes her home to his kingdom. But Ursula is not allowed to be around her brother's subjects in her octopus form, because he thinks she is ugly and a true monster. The only person who treats Ursula with kindness is Triton's wife Queen Athena, and she has heated discussions with her husband on Ursula's behalf. But after Athena's death, Ursula is banished to the Unprotected Waters by Triton. She tells her story to The Odd Sisters and they agree to help her kill Triton and in return, she will find their younger sister Circe.
Unfortunately little do the sisters know, Circe is in Ursula's Garden of Lost Souls.
It is revealed that Ursula has a heated rivalry with Maleficent, the Dark Fairy.
A Twisted Tale: Part of Your World
In A Twisted Tale: Part of Your World, Ariel was never able to regain her voice and was forced to leave Ursula with the transformed Triton while she returned to Atlantica with the trident. Now apparently permanently in the form of Vanessa, Ursula used her new position to work on expanding the influence of Eric's kingdom through subtle military campaigns and other strategies, while also carrying out research to grant herself magic powers on land (her existing influence only possible due to a spell she cast while still in the ocean tied to Ariel's voice).
When Ariel returns to the surface a few years later after one of Scuttle's relatives reveals that Triton is still alive, she is able to reclaim her voice and begin a campaign against Ursula. Although Ursula appears to be able to anticipate and thwart Ariel and Eric's attempts to undermine her as she prepares a ritual to sacrifice Triton and gain new power, Ariel is eventually able to stop her by provoking Ursula to turn back into her true self in full view of the people of Eric's kingdom by dowsing her with water from a fountain linked to the sea, Ariel then using the same fountain to give herself the power to kill Ursula with the trident.
Ursula appears in the first Disney Chills book, Part Of Your Nightmare. She is summoned by Shelly Anderson, a girl that wants to be popular. She grants Shelly one wish, but only she knew that the "contract" that she made Shelly agree to was fake. She is heard throughout the book as a voice that repeatedly tells Shelly about "her wish" or that "time was running out".
In this book, she comes out as the antagonist/main villain and very mischievous. Similarly to Ariel, Ursula grants a wish for a small price to pay. In the end, though, Ursula reigned victorious as she turned Shelly into a fish after Shelly got the trident for her.
Ursula is the final boss of all the Little Mermaid video games which were contemporary with the film's original release, from the versions on the Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega Genesis to the Tiger LCD handheld version. In addition, she has appeared in several multi-franchise Disney video games.
Ursula is a recurring villain in four installments of the Kingdom Hearts series. Originally, she was a member of the legion of Disney villains led by Maleficent who sought to dominate the worlds via the power of darkness and control over fearsome creatures known as the Heartless.
In Kingdom Hearts, Ursula is able to manipulate Ariel into handing over the trident, wanting to use it to take control of the ocean. However, due to the efforts of the game's protagonists Sora, Donald, and Goofy, Ursula is defeated and vanishes into the darkness, alongside other villains who were slain by Sora and company.
In Chain of Memories, Ursula makes an appearance in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories as a figment of Sora's memories, using Flounder to force Ariel into giving her the trident, claiming she'll have the guppy killed if she refuses.
Ursula returns yet again in Kingdom Hearts II, where she returns from the darkness and offers Ariel her dream to live upon the surface in exchange for her voice. The plot that follows mirrors the original film, and upon Ursula's acquisition of the trident, she becomes a monstrous giant and tries to eliminate Ariel, as well as Sora and friends. However, with their new ally, Prince Eric, Ursula is defeated and sealed yet again.
An apparition of Ursula appears in Dream Drop Distance as the first boss in the game. She is, suddenly attacking Sora and Riku with her tentacles and magic as the heroes were on their way to the Mark of Mastery exam. When Ursula is defeated and sealed, but she used her whirlpool to drag Sora and Riku underwater and towards the Keyhole to Destiny Islands and the entrance to the Sleeping Worlds, beginning their new journey. How Ursula came of being is unknown, though her motives were to simply have revenge on Sora.
Along with other toons, Ursula had her essence drained by Mizrabel and into a wasteland. Unlike the other villains, she had no affiliation to Mizrabel whatsoever. When Mickey found her and explained it was Mizrabel's fault for this second "banishment", Ursula demanded to know where the witch was to prove there was only room for 1 witch: herself. As Mickey didn't know, she was directed to the fortress to scheme against Mizrabel. She asks for a cauldron in exchange for not harming any of the other toons Mickey saved; she keeps her end of the bargain.
Ursula appears in the game as one of the corrupt and unlockable heroes, she is unlockable with thirty tokens if certain requirements are met, her ability to steal energy is the same when she stole Ariel's voice, her basic attack is to throw a potion to an enemy, while the rest of his attacks are the same as presented in the movie.
Ursula plays a small role in the game, being featured as a boss alongside Flotsam and Jetsam during The Little Mermaid stage.
A stage musical version of the 1989 film debuted in Denver for a pre-Broadway tryout, and in January 2008 opened on Broadway. Actress Sherie Rene Scott originated the live role. The role was later played by Heidi Blickenstaff and Faith Prince. The show closed on Broadway Aug.30, 2009.
In this version, Ursula is King Triton's sister. As revealed in the lyrics of Ursula's song "I Want the Good Times Back", (later replaced with "Daddy's Little Angel") when their father died, the pair were given an equal share of the sea plus two magical items. Triton received the trident while Ursula received the magic Nautilus shell. Though the two were to rule the seas together, Ursula's greed and use of dark magic to usurp Triton led to her being banished. Her need for revenge is her motivation for the show.
Unlike the 1989 film, Ursula is depicted as being large but not obese, and the entire subplot where Ursula transforms into a human has been removed entirely. In the show's finale, Ursula is defeated by Ariel, not Eric, when the mermaid destroys Ursula's magical shell since the climax in which Ursula becomes a gargantuan monster and then impaled by the bow of a ship is too expensive and impractical for a staged show.
Ursula sings new songs in addition to the film's "Poor Unfortunate Souls". These songs are "I Want the Good Times Back", in which Ursula reminisces over her luxurious past, "Her Voice", in which Ursula anticipates the sunset of the third day and a reprise of "Poor Unfortunate Souls" in which Ursula 'negotiates' an agreement with Triton for Ariel's soul. Ursula also sings briefly at the end of a new sequence called "The Contest", in which Ariel's voice can be heard as the sun sets, but is then merged with Ursula's own voice.
When the show was heavily revamped for the national tour, Ursula's song "I Want the Good Times Back", was deleted in favor of a new song "Daddy's Little Angel", which gives her a new backstory. In this new history, Ursula was the youngest of seven sisters, who born as a Cecelia, and not a mermaid disgusted her father Poseidon. Out of jealousy she murders her six older sisters, and becomes Queen, only for Triton, who in this new book is the younger brother, comes of age, and deposes and exiles her.
An earlier demo workshop contained different songs written for Ursula that was eventually removed from the production. Ursula's introductory song is "Wasting Away", though it was later replaced by "I Want the Good Times Back". A different reprise of "Poor Unfortunate Souls" was written for Ursula just before she transforms into Vanessa, but since the Vanessa subplot was removed, so was the reprise. Another song, "All Good Things Must End" features Ursula gloating on her victory over Ariel, but the song was removed entirely. Emily Skinner performed as Ursula in this workshop.
The Fantasmic! show debuted in 1992 in the California park, only a few years after The Little Mermaid debuted. Ursula appears in the finale, summoning the powers of the sea to destroy Mickey Mouse, though she herself is ultimately beaten. Originally, a twenty-foot Audio-Animatronic Ursula float traveled around her segment in the show on the water, but the air constantly leaked from the blow-up tentacles, and the animatronic as a whole was a maintenance nightmare, so currently, the character is only featured via animation projected onto water screens.
In the 2015 rendition of World of Color, Ursula was featured during the brief montage celebrating villains. She also appeared in the 2019 version called Villainous.
In 2017, Ursula appeared as a special walkaround character in Disneyland's Frightfully Fun Parade.
In Voyage of the Little Mermaid, Ursula appears as an audio-animatronic living the same role as the film. After she strikes her deal with Ariel, the rest of her scenes are showcased on a screen where it shows her transforming into Vanessa, becoming a giant and her death.
In Disney's Hollywood Studios version of Fantasmic!, Ursula has a much smaller role compared to the original, taking part in the ensemble of villains.
At the Magic Kingdom, Ursula serves as one of the Fantasyland villains for the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom game, where Hades revives her from her death and recruits her to steal a piece of the Crystal of the Magic Kingdom. However, like Maleficent, she plots to double-cross him and take the piece for herself. Once the piece is in her possession, Ursula plots to flood Cinderella Castle and the rest of the Magic Kingdom so that she may dominate the park along with the rest of the seas. Likewise, similarly to her transforming into Vanessa, she also disguises herself as Ariel at one point in an attempt to deceive Merlin and the guests into aiding her in her goal. She returns during the final battle with Hades. In the end, the park guests to defeat Ursula and the other villains by trapping them in the Crystal of the Magic Kingdom.
Ursula's magical contract can be seen on the attraction Miss Adventure Falls in Typhoon Lagoon as an easter egg. While the bottom half of the contract is obscured, it is visible within the archaeological collection of Society of Explorers and Adventurers member Captain Mary Oceaneer aboard her wrecked ship the M.S. Salty IV and has the visible text, "I hereby grant unto Ursula, the witch of the sea-". Also in Mary's possession of note is the Snarflblatt of Ariel's possession from the Little Mermaid.
Ursula is a central character in the annual Halloween-themed fireworks show Hallowishes at the Magic Kingdom's Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party "hard ticket" event along with Jafar, Oogie Boogie, and Maleficent.
Ursula also appears in the Happily Ever After fireworks at the Magic Kingdom, where she transforms to a monstrous size with the trident at hand during the Adversity sequence. Ultimately, Prince Eric manages to defeat her by throwing a spear at her, in which the Ursula scene loops into the Pride Rock scene.
A massive sculpture of Ursula is also one of the features of The Little Mermaid's area of Disney's Art of Animation Resort.
In the Tokyo DisneySea version of Fantasmic!, Ursula's role is similar to that of California's. During the Halloween season, Ursula makes a live appearance on the Mediterranean Harbor's Villain's World show.
In France, Ursula appeared in Mickey and his Magic Halloween Night with other villains.
Ursula makes an appearance during the final scene of The Nightmare Experiment, where she magically alters her size as she did in the film.
Ursula also appears during the climactic montage of the 2016 version of Villains Night Out!. In 2017, she was added to the parade portion of the show and appeared as a face character alongside the Evil Queen and Jafar.
Ursula plays the part she did in the original film, first appearing in the ride's Poor Unfortunate Souls scene, represented by an 8-foot tall, 12-foot wide animatronic, to turn Ariel into a human. Her defeat is one of the last scenes of the attraction.
Ursula's animatronic is one of the most detailed that the Disney Imagineers have ever created. It was designed to move more fluidity than the average AA and gradually apart from one of the Disney Parks' greatest achievements of the year.
- Ursula's species is a cecaelia (a half-person (usual woman)/half-octopus).
- In the TV show, however, her species was referred to as Octopid.
- As her death scene reveals, Ursula actually appears to have a skeleton, despite having a lower body of an octopus (as octopuses are cephalopods and do not have bones).
- In the original story, Ursula (simply known as "the Sea Witch") was not malevolent, but rather neutral. She was also a minor character only appearing once. In the film, while she was a cecaelia she isn't an animal but rather hideously ugly. In the film, she never met Ariel's sisters but in the original story, she did.
- "Ursula" is a Latin word meaning "little female bear".
- Despite being half-octopus, Ursula only has six tentacles. However, if her arms are counted as limbs as well, then she actually does have eight limbs altogether.
- While Ursula's usually depicted with light lavender skin, her appearance as a kid in both the family photo and the song "Gonna Get My Wish" indicated that her natural skin color was actually light green colored similar to Morgana and their mother.
- Saleen, a villainess from the Aladdin TV series, had her design based on Ursula's old concept art.
- Ursula's blood's color is dark blue like cephalopods, as shown briefly when Eric's Harpoon scratches her arm but appears black due to how dark it was.
- In the film when Ursula grows into a giant her voice sounds low. However, in the Kingdom Hearts series when she grows into a giant, her voice remains the same as her normal size.
- The final battle with Ursula was intended to play out very differently than in the final film. First, Ariel initially succeeds in getting herself out of Ursula's grip, only for Flotsam and Jetsam to retrieve her. Also, she was to have accidentally killed Flotsam and Jetsam without any feelings of remorse or horror at what she had done, and her manner of death involved being impaled with the Trident by Eric before he passes out. The reason for the change was because Jeffrey Katzenberg had seen the Bruce Willis action thriller film Die Hard during the film's development, and advised that they "make the ending more like Die Hard." On a related note, Ariel's voice was to be released to her after Ursula was killed.
- The idea of Eric using the Trident to impale Ursula would later be reused for Kingdom Hearts II, though Eric would remain stable instead of passing out.
- The animators created the character of Ursula for 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. Then Nancy Marchand, Nancy Wilson, Roseanne Barr, Charlotte Rae and Elaine Stritch were all then considered. Then Stritch was cast in the part, but her style clashed with that of lyricist Howard Ashman, so Pat Carroll got the part.
- As mentioned several times in this article, an original draft of the film was actually going to make Ursula as King Triton's younger sister, which would have made her Ariel's paternal aunt, as well as predate Scar as being the first Disney villain to be related to the protagonist biologically had it been kept. Whether it was kept as canon in the main franchise is debatable, although both the TV series and Return to the Sea strongly imply otherwise, where they made an entire race based on Ursula's design, and she had a sister and a mother who were not mer-people, respectively.
- Despite this, the aspect of Ursula and Triton's relation was kept in the broadway musical, along with more of Ursula's backstory.
- In the book Disney Villains: The Top Secret Files, it's revealed that Ursula was originally more slender in her youth and got to the size she's seen within the film due to overindulging on the gourmet meals at the palace. The musical also makes it clear that the lavish meals are what she misses most about her old life.
- In one of the Little Mermaid stories, "Reflections of Arsulu", Ursula disguises herself as Arsulu (an anagram of her original name), a beautiful blonde mermaid with a red tail and magenta shells. She does this in order to gain entry to Atlantica, where she causes a great deal of discord. Ariel finds out about her whole plan and uses a mirror and a flock of goldfish to foil Ursula's plan by showing her family Arsulu's real reflection.
- Ursula's body gestures are modeled after Norma Desmond from Sunset Boulevard.
- For less than a second in the original film, when Ursula is transforming into Vanessa, one can hear Jodi Benson's voice imitating Pat Carroll's low-key laugh.
- With Ursula's brief stint as Vanessa, she is one of the few villains to share a voice actress (Jodi Benson) with the film's heroine.
- "Vanessa" is a type of butterfly, which was one of the ingredients Ursula used to turn herself into Vanessa.
- In the Japan dubs of The Little Mermaid and the Kingdom Hearts series, Ursula is voiced by Kujira. Incidentally, Kujira's nickname means "whale" in Japanese, fitting in with the aquatic theme.
- Ursula is the only female villain to come from the Disney Renaissance.