Actress Jodi Benson’s legendary place in cinematic history was solidified when she voiced Ariel in Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” with Benson’s winsome vocal chops bringing the rambunctious sea-maid to life.
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“It’s been life-changing over the last 35-plus years now, being part of this film and creating this character,” Benson told CBN’s Faithwire. “It’s been an unbelievable journey.”
Benson, who just released her new book, “Part of My World: What I’ve Learned from The Little Mermaid About Love, Faith, and Finding My Voice,” said the Ariel gig was supposed to be a “one-and-done job,” which is what makes the film’s ongoing intrigue and popularity more than three decades later so notable.
“I am just so incredibly blessed and grateful,” she said.
Benson said Disney’s animation arm was struggling when “The Little Mermaid” was released in 1989. She didn’t know at the time that a lot was riding on the film’s success.
“We were not aware of the pressure and everything that was put upon this film and what the expectations were,” she said.
“The Little Mermaid” was a rousing sensation, of course, and the rest is, well, history.
Listen to Benson tell her incredible story:
Benson’s Dive Into Entertainment
Benson said she knew she wanted to pursue musical theater when she was 8 or 9 years old. Her desire to sing, dance, and act came without ever having seen a Broadway show.
“I just had something inside of me that was like, ‘I want to give this a try and see what happens,'” she said. “I didn’t know if I was any good.”
Armed with the desire to perform — and on a quest to follow God’s will for her life — Benson embarked on a journey into the entertainment realm.
She went off to college, fully intending to give these talents a professional try. Unsure of what would unfold, she set a backup plan to become a lawyer, but rousing success never beseeched her to fall back on that alternative path.
“It’s just truly been an incredible faith walk,” Benson said. “Obviously, God knew that He had my career lined up 10,000 steps ahead of me.”
The actress’ voyage has led her to star in the “Toy Story” franchise as Barbie, in “Sofia the First,” and in numerous other projects along the way, making her voice a familiar sound for multiple generations.
Her Biggest Faith Lesson
Benson didn’t miss a beat when asked to reflect on the biggest lesson she’s learned about God along the way.
“He’s in control, and I’m not, and that’s that’s the key,” she said. “He’s not only God of my life, but He’s director, He’s casting director, He’s Producer, He’s everything.”
Benson has come to fully rely on the Lord, believing He’ll take her where He wants her to go.
“I just need to walk in the room. I just need to do my best and throw it out there and let it go,” she said. “Because I’ll be part of the things I’m supposed to be part of, and then I’m not going to be part of things I’m not supposed to be part of.”
Benson’s Christian Roots
The actress grew up in a religious home. As she got older, though, she came to realize she could directly communicate with God, not needing to rely on other human beings as conduits.
“When I met my husband while I was 18 … he’s like, ‘You know you can have that personal relationship,’ and I knew that I had that, so it was just the realization of: It isn’t a religion,” Benson said. “It really is this ongoing, 24-seven relationship that I can call out and talk to any time of the day or night.”
As for her new book, “Part of My World: What I’ve Learned from The Little Mermaid About Love, Faith, and Finding My Voice,” the actress said she very carefully approached the project. Rather than a memoir or autobiography, she said she wanted to tell behind-the-scenes stories and “shine a light on others.”
Benson said she’s hoping the book leaves people encouraged and gets them thinking. She’s also hoping it helps them avoid the “same mistakes” she made in her life.
“Maybe they’d read a story, and it would make them think about something they’ve never thought about before,” she said. “Whether it’s thinking about, ‘Is there a higher power?’ ‘What does that look like?’ ‘Am I all that there is?'”
Find out more about “Part of My World.”
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