By Bruce Steele
Disney’s The Little Mermaid (1989) and Marvel Studios’ Iron Man (2008) are among the 25 films named today to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.
“Films have become absolutely central to American culture by helping tell our national story for more than 125 years,” Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress, said in a statement. “We are proud to add 25 more films by a group of vibrant and diverse filmmakers to the National Film Registry as we preserve our cinematic heritage. We’re grateful to the entire film community for collaborating with the Library of Congress to ensure these films are preserved for the future.”
In 1989, The Little Mermaid kicked off Disney’s renaissance of animated musical films. In the title role as Ariel was Disney Legend Jodi Benson, a young Broadway actress who was encouraged to audition for the part by the film’s lyricist, Disney Legend Howard Ashman. Some 33 years later, Benson said she still performs Ariel’s big song, “Part of Your World,” every week.
“I’m thrilled and honored on behalf of my character and The Walt Disney Company for the Library selecting our very special film,” Benson said in an interview. The selection, she said, “is really amazing and such an honor.”
Watch Benson talking about The Little Mermaid in this video from the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry:
Iron Man, the story of the origin of wealthy inventor Tony Stark’s superhero persona, was released in 2008. It launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which now encompasses 30 feature films. Portrayed by Disney Legend Robert Downey Jr., Stark went on to appear in two direct Iron Man sequels and four Avengers films, as well as Captain America: Civil War (2016) and Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017). The character’s saga ended in Avengers: Endgame (2019).
Each year since 1989, the Library of Congress has named 25 films that it deems as “culturally, historically, or esthetically important” to its National Film Registry. Online nominations from the general public are part of the selection process, and the Library of Congress reported that 6,865 titles were submitted for consideration this year.
Twenty-two Disney films have previously been added to the Registry: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs(1937) in 1989; Fantasia (1940) in 1990; Pinocchio (1940) in 1994; Steamboat Willie (1928) in 1998; Beauty and the Beast (1991) in 2002; Toy Story (1995) in 2005; Three Little Pigs (1933) in 2007; Disneyland Dream(1956) in 2009; Bambi (1942) in 2011; Mary Poppins (1964) in 2013; The Old Mill (1937) and The Story of Menstruation (1946) in 2015; The Lion King (1994), Rushmore (1998), and Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) in 2016; Dumbo (1941) in 2017; Cinderella (1950) in 2018; Old Yeller (1957) and Sleeping Beauty (1959) in 2019; and Flowers and Trees (1932), Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983), and WALL-E (2008) in 2021.