Prince Eric is the deuteragonist of the 1989 Disney animated film The Little Mermaid, who also appears in its 1992-94 television series and 2000 sequel in the saga. The character is based on the "prince" character of Hans Christian Andersen's story "The Little Mermaid", but adapted by writer Roger Allers for Disney's film. The character was voiced by Christopher Daniel Barnes in the original film and in Kingdom Hearts II, by Jeff Bennett in the prequel television series, and by Rob Paulsen in the direct-to-video sequel. In the 2007 Broadway musical version, Eric was portrayed by Sean Palmer and Drew Seeley.
Despite being of royalty, Eric is an accomplished mariner who is often seen partaking in various duties aboard ships in his own fleet. Eric is a skilled helmsman as he is seen steering ships in both the 1989 film and its sequel. This could be due to the fact that Eric's kingdom is coastal and most of the subjects make their livings by shipping and fishing, and as such it is expected that the rulers be skilled in maritime trades. He even skewers through Ursula in a split-second hard turn in a derelict ship as well as assisting his crew members in storms. Prince Eric spends much of his free time out at sea, fishing. going on explorations, or celebrating his birthday. Grimsby, his servant and personal confidant, often accompanies him on his voyages.
The Little Mermaid
According to the film's official novelization, Eric is eighteen in the film, two years older than the sixteen-year-old Ariel. In his first appearance, Eric, along with his man-servant Grimsby and crew of sailors are enjoying another day sailing out in the sea. Eric overhears sailors talking about King Triton, ruler of the merpeople, which makes him curious, but Grimsby brushes it off as nonsense.
One night, as Eric is celebrating his birthday out in the sea, it is revealed through a dialogue between him and his man-servant Grimsby that the kingdom is eagerly awaiting the day that Eric marries. Eric has turned down at least one princess as a prospective bride, the princess of Glowerhaven, claiming that he is still looking for the right girl. When a storm hits and lightning sets the ship ablaze, everyone manages to escape to the lifeboat, but Eric, climbs back onto the burning ship to save his pet sheepdog, Max. He manages to toss the dog into the sea, but he is stuck aboard as the fire reaches some explosives on the ship, causing the ship to explode. When Ariel finds an unconscious Eric in the water, she drags him to shore and sings to him, but before he can fully regain consciousness, Max and Grimsby arrive, forcing Ariel to dive underwater. Eric tells Grimsby that the former has been saved by a girl with a most beautiful singing voice, but Grimsby, thinking Eric has swallowed too much seawater, carries him back to his palace.
When Eric is seen again, he is on the beach outside his palace with Max, still haunted by Ariel's singing voice and playing Ariel's song on his flute, and has been searching the kingdom for her. But then Max starts to bark excitedly and run off, making Eric follow the dog, who leads him to Ariel, who has been transformed into a human by Ursula. He initially finds her familiar, but her lack of a voice, due to Ariel trading her voice for a pair of legs, makes him think that she cannot be the girl who rescued him. However, he brings her back to his palace and they spend time together. After some advice from Grimsby, Eric takes Ariel on a tour of his kingdom. That evening, the two go on a boat ride in which Sebastian leads a group of animals in a chorus of Kiss the Girl in an attempt to get Eric to fall in love with Ariel and kiss her, so that she can remain human. Just as the two come close to kissing, Ursula's eels, Flotsam and Jetsam intervene by tipping over their boat. That night, as Eric plays Ariel's song on his flute, Grimsby advises Eric to forget about his "dream girl", and focus on the one "warm, caring, and right before his eyes". He apparently does so, throwing his flute into the sea. But before he can approach Ariel, Ursula, who has transformed herself into a human girl named Vanessa arrives and uses Ariel's voice trapped in her seashell to hypnotize Eric into believing she is the girl who saved his life, causing him to forget all about Ariel.
Eric almost marries Vanessa, but before the vows are completed, Ariel's seagull friend Scuttle learns Vanessa's true identity and leads the same group of birds and sea creatures that sung to Ariel and Eric on a mission to stop the wedding while Ariel, with the help of her companion Flounder, swim to the wedding ship. During the chaos, the seashell around Vanessa's neck is smashed, freeing Ariel's voice, which is restored to its owner. Eric, who has come out of the spell, realizes that Ariel is the girl he has been looking for. But before they can kiss, the sun sets, and Ariel is transformed back into a mermaid. Vanessa transforms back into Ursula, takes Ariel as her prisoner, and dives into the ocean. Determined not to lose Ariel again, Eric goes after them, diving into the sea to help Ariel. He hits Ursula with a harpoon, and Ursula instructs her pet eels Flotsam and Jetsam to strangle Eric, but Flounder and Sebastian extricate him. Ursula attempts to finish Eric off with a trident she has gotten from King Triton, but due to Ariel's intervention, she accidentally destroys her eels instead. Eric and Ariel attempt to escape from an enraged Ursula, who enlarges herself into a giant. Ursula then separates Eric from Ariel as she traps the mermaid princess in the bottom of a whirlpool Ursula has created. While Ursula is concentrating on finishing Ariel, Eric climbs onto one of the shipwrecks that has surfaced as a result of the whirlpool, takes control of the ship and steers it toward Ursula. Just as Ursula is about to destroy Ariel, Eric impales the sea witch by plunging the ship's splintered bow through her belly, saving Ariel, as well as the entire underwater kingdom of Atlantica, in the process. Ursula, while also being backfired by the energy of the trident, uses her last breaths to bring the ship down with her, but Eric jumps off in time.
Eric manages to reach the shore, and collapses from exhaustion. When he wakes up, he sees Ariel, transformed back into a human (courtesy of King Triton), and the two embrace finally kissing for the first time. The film ends with their wedding, at which Eric and Ariel exchange vows, and Triton accepts Eric as son-in-law.
The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea
In the 2000 direct-to-video sequel, Eric is a supporting character. Although happily married to Ariel, the couple have a problem in protecting their daughter Melody from Ursula's sister, Morgana. Morgana blames everyone on board Eric's ship for killing Ursula although it was only Eric who skewered Ursula. Eric does not contribute to the plot, instead playing a supporting role in helping Ariel and/or Melody. However, he was the one who convinced Ariel to temporarily transform into a mermaid to help their daughter. In the end, he was reunited with Ariel and Melody as humans and merfolk began celebrating together. This makes him the first and only father of the Disney Princes in the franchise and this movie.
The Little Mermaid (TV series)
The prequel television series is set before the events of the 1989 film, and focuses almost entirely on Ariel. However, Eric makes very brief cameo appearances in three episodes.
The first cameo occurs in Season 1 episode "Thingamajigger". This episode implies that Eric plays a significant role in altering Ariel's perception of humans. Through dialogue, Ariel says that despite her fascination with human things, she is fearful of humans because of the stories she's been told since she was little. But when she witnesses Eric release a trapped dolphin from a net, she starts doubting the truth of those stories. To avoid messing up the film's story, Ariel does not see Eric's face, and Eric does not see Ariel at all.
In the Season 3 episode "Scuttle", Ariel and her friends stop a bunch of pirates from boarding a vessel, which turns out to be Eric's royal barge. Ariel does not see Eric at all, but Eric briefly glimpses Ariel from a distance, though Grimsby brushes it off as his imagination.
In a later Season 3 episode "Ariel's Treasures", Eric is seen briefly aboard a ship, from which a human item falls and is later collected by Ariel.
The Little Mermaid (Broadway)
In the 2007 Broadway musical adaptation of the Disney film, the role of Eric is originated by Sean Palmer and Drew Seeley is also playing the role. It is explained through dialogue that Eric's father has passed away, and it is Grimsby's duty to help Eric find a bride so he can return to the throne properly, despite Eric's affinity for exploring the seas.
Eric contributes singing vocals to the opening song "Fathoms Below", and performs two solo songs: "Her Voice", a song about Eric's obsession with Ariel's voice that had been written for the original film but discarded, and "One Step Closer", a new song where Eric helps Ariel express herself through dance. Eric also provides vocals in the quartet "If Only", where he expresses confusion over his attraction to Ariel, and his fear that if he finds the girl with the right voice, he might lose Ariel.
A new subplot in the stage musical is a singing competition where the eligible princesses in all the land are invited to sing for Eric. The princesses perform in the song "The Contest", which is set to the tune of Ariel's song "Part of Your World".
- Prince Eric is the first official Disney Prince not to sing in his film; however, he does sing in the musical and the sequel film of Melody's christening.
- Prince Eric is the second Disney Prince to kill the film's villain, the first being Prince Phillip and the third being Aladdin (or fourth if you count the Beast defeating Gaston).
- Eric is the first Disney prince to have a dog as a pet. The Beast/Prince Adam is the second.
- Eric is one of the only two Disney princes to be hypnotized (Prince Charming is hypnotized in Cinderella III).
- Eric is the first Disney prince to be featured being able to play a musical instrument. Prince Naveen is the second.
- Eric is the only Disney prince to be a father.
- Prince Eric is the first Disney Prince to show his bare feet. The second being Prince Adam the third Aladdin, the fourth John Smith and the fifth Flynn Rider.
- Prince Eric is the first Disney Hero to have his life saved by his respective love interest. Ariel saved him from drowning and from being destroyed by Ursula when she obtained the Trident.
- Prince Eric speaks the first non musical line of The Little Mermaid being "Isn't this great, the salty sea air, the wind blowing in your face!"
- Prince Eric is most likely Danish due to Hans Christian Andersen's appearance in the TV series.
- Prince Eric's original voice actor Christopher Daniel Barnes was only 16 when he recorded his voice for Eric. The producers decided to cast him because he sounded much older than his actual age and he went on to voice Prince Charming in the Cinderella sequels.
- Prince Eric is the first Disney Prince to have dimples, the second being Prince Naveen.
- In "Kinect Disneyland Adventures", Prince Eric is mentioned by Ariel:
- "Oh, I can't wait to dance with Eric. He's so handsome."
- Prince Eric is similar to Robin Hood in the sense that both have risked their lives to rescue someone who got trapped (Tagalong for Robin, Max for Eric) when trying to escape, got trapped themselves, and nearly died.