Forget Cruella: An Ursula Prequel Is Disney's Most Important Origin Story
Disney's recent live-action release, Cruella, tells the origin story of the titular Cruella de Vil and explores what led to her becoming the dog snatching villainess Disney fans know. Cruella isn't the first Disney villain to receive a Wicked-style redemption film, with Maleficent charging out of the gate with two solo films under her belt. Disney's newfound exploration of its villains and what makes them human provides the company with a plethora of stories to explore and expand upon. Of course, there's one Disney villain in particular who is perfect for a redeeming origin story -- The Little Mermaid's Ursula.
Ursula the Sea Witch first appeared in Disney's The Little Mermaid in 1989 as the film's main antagonist. Long since banished from the kingdom of Atlantica by King Triton, Ursula used the king's daughter Ariel to steal Triton's power. She was ultimately killed and defeated by Ariel and her love Prince Eric, but that didn't stop her from reappearing in Disney's multiple Little Mermaid adaptations over the years.
Little Mermaid: Why Was Ursula Banished From Trident's Kingdom?
The exact reason why Ursula was banished by King Triton is never stated in the original film. The Broadway musical adaptation of the movie expands on Ursula's relationship with Triton and her banishment, depicting the two as siblings who each inherited a portion of their father's power after he passed. Ursula dabbled in dark magic and wanted more power, resulting in Triton banishing her from Atlantica just as he did in the movie.
An origin story could dive into Ursula's relationship with Triton before her lust for power overtook her and paint a picture of what their lives were like before Triton was king. The musical establishes that the two were meant to rule together after their father's passing, meaning Ursula may have been Queen of Atlantica for a time. Perhaps in a Maleficent-esque twist, Triton usurped Ursula's power by spreading lies about her using dark magic to become the sole ruler of Atlantica. That could have led to her actually using dark magic and slowly transforming into the devilish sea witch.
Is Ursula A Villain - Or Just Misunderstood?
Like most Disney villains in their original appearances, Ursula is a fairly straightforward villain with a clear motive and an inherent wicked nature. Her only drive is to usurp Triton's place on the throne and become Queen of Atlantica, with her having no qualms about using her niece to get to Triton. The Little Mermaid film also depicts Ursula as having a long history of making deals with merpeople that ultimately only benefit her and results in the eternal enslavement of the merfolk. Overall, she's certainly memorable as a villain but not all that fleshed out past her evil desires.
Of course, an origin film would have to expand on that, with the biggest addition being what drives Ursula to become or be seen as a villain. If she grew up in Triton's shadow, or vice versa, that could create easy sibling conflict that would likely escalate during their time ruling together following their father's death. An outside threat could also come to the kingdom to create a reason why Ursula needs to explore dark magic to begin with. Triton would most likely have a more direct hand in the downfall of his sister no matter what, even if he does not wish to see himself as the villain.
Why Does Ursula Deserve A Prequel Origin Story?
Whereas villains like the Wicked Witch or Cruella needed major fleshing out from the source material to create their origin stories, Ursula already has all the key parts she needs from her original movie. The banished magical sister of the King of the Sea already has promise. Depending on how dark Disney is willing to go, the film could even explore Ursula having a hand in the death of Ariel's unseen mother (because we're definitely ignoring that terrible animated prequel).
Of all the Disney villains to flesh out and make more "human," Ursula fits the mold the best. The story of an up-and-coming royal figure transformed into a scorned, banished witch follows a similar path to that of Elphaba in the Broadway musical Wicked.
Perhaps like her fellow misunderstood witch, Ursula could start off as someone who truly wants to help the kingdom with her magic, but perhaps through a magical accident or Triton's machinations, she becomes an evil figure to the people of Atlantica. With its upcoming live-action adaptation of The LittleMermaid,Disney will have the perfect opportunity to bring Ursula back into the mainstream and hopefully expand on her further with her own standalone film.