Disney Designs No.1: Poor unfortunate shells

Who doesn’t love a bit of nostalgia on an unseasonably-cold September evening? With the wedding coming up, I’m trying to stop obsessively checking the weather forecast for the weekend and lean into the cosy autumnal vibe instead. Lots of children’s books/films, bubble baths, and herbal tea (Twinings Lemon Drizzle Green Tea is the only thing getting me through chilly work afternoons at the moment, let’s be honest).

So, it’s not surprising that I’ve chosen now to start a ‘jewellery from Disney films’ blog series. (You may be thinking ‘hmm, large life change looming – is she watching kiddie films because she’s in denial about becoming someone’s actual wife?’, but if I’m honest, this series was The Goblin’s idea.)


This was a pretty fun one to research, and I’ve learnt several unexpected things, like the difference between a nautilus and an ammonite, and the fact there was a Little Mermaid Broadway musical (how did I miss this?!).

Ursula’s necklace

Ursula uses her shell necklace to keep Ariel’s voice once she’s traded it for legs. The first time we see her, Ursula is already wearing the ornament, so it’s presumably something she values as a piece of jewellery in itself. After all, where better to keep the precious spoils of your nefarious deals than in your favourite accessory? (I mean it worked for Voldemort…for a while…)

According to the Disney wiki, Ursula’s necklace is a nautilus shell, which, it turns out, is not the same as an ammonite, although they look pretty bloody similar:

As this extremely helpful page explains, they’re both cephalopods (from the Greek for ‘head-feet’), but the main difference between them is that ammonoids are extinct. No news on why nautiloids survived extinction despite being pretty much identical to their extinct ammonoid siblings (apart from their small biological differences such as flesh tubes – yuck – and separations between shell chambers). Whatever the reason, I’m guessing Ursula uses one because fossils don’t tend to have handy storage chambers…

Fun bonus reminder: in the original Hans Christian Anderson story, the Little Mermaid sacrifices her voice by having her tongue cut out rather than putting her voice in a shell. That necklace would have been more Hannibal Lecter than Hans Christian… (Although Ursula has more in common with Hannibal than you’d think – more on that later.)

Fairytale facts: Disney budgets, Ursula’s characterisation, and prehistoric jewellery

1) Ursula is an octopus with only 6 tentacles due to Disney’s budgetary constraints – apparently animating 8 tentacles in 1989 was way more difficult and pricey than just the 6 they ended up with.


2) In the original draft of the film, she was meant to be Triton’s sister, making her Ariel’s aunt. They decided to save that storyline for The Lion King, which I think is a good thing. I mean, how much more badass is Ursula as a character when she’s just generally power-hungry and keen for revenge than if she were explicitly usurped in some way (yawn)? Also, Ursula screws Ariel over for revenge, but what about the rest of the merpeople? She seems to just be a cannibalistic sadist with great charisma – what’s not to love?

See? Cannibalism.

3) Ursula is not alone in favouring seashell jewellery; from Brittany to the Bahamas, and countless other cultures across time and space, it has and continues to be incredibly popular. So popular, in fact, that what’s thought to be the first extant jewellery, created 100-135,000 years ago, is made out of seashells:

Source: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5504545

Back in the here and now, if you want a subtle silver version of Ursula’s magical pendant, my ammonite gives a nod to the sea witch without making your boss passive-agressively email you the company dress code…


Unfortunately, you can’t use it to trap the voice of every pillock making obnoxious comments on the tram… May have to consider that for the next shop upgrade!




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