|Family & Friends|
|Relationships:||Prince Eric (significant other)|
|Portrayer:||Joanna García Swisher|
Ariel is a fictional character that appears in the ABC television series Once Upon a Time, where she is played by JoAnna Garcia. Ariel is loosely based on the Disney character of the same name from the 1989 animated film The Little Mermaid.
View the Ariel Gallery.
Showrunners Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz had wanted to introduce the character for a while but saved her for season three when the show's setting temporarily moved to the fictional Neverland, a land with mermaids. Ariel's highly anticipated appearance was announced with a teaser trailer at the show's panel at the San Diego Comic-con on July 20, 2013, during the hiatus between the second and third seasons. The showrunners provided their own "spin" on the character of Ariel for the show, but maintained her spirit as someone "who wants to see the world and who wants to experience things outside of what they know". In portraying the role, García had to film scenes swimming in the cold ocean water of Vancouver with her legs bound, which was additionally challenging since it was her first role after giving birth. Ariel's main arc took place over several episodes of the 2013-2014 third season, and she later appeared in one episode each of the fourth and sixth seasons.
Ariel first appears in the sixth episode of season three, "Ariel". In the Enchanted Forest flashbacks of the episode, Ariel meets Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) by saving her from drowning. Snow and Ariel become friends, during which Snow advises Ariel to pursue her love interest Prince Eric (Gil McKinney), whom she'd rescued from drowning earlier. Ursula, the sea goddess, has given merfolk the ability to gain legs once a year; Ariel uses this gift to turn human and attend Prince Eric's ball with Snow. At the ball, Ariel and Eric dance, with Eric commenting that Ariel seems familiar to him. Eric invites Ariel to join him on an expedition around the world that is leaving the following morning. As Ariel contemplates her dilemma she is approached by the Evil Queen Regina (Lana Parrilla), who has disguised herself as Ursula and pretends to want to help her. Regina's true agenda is to capture Snow, but Ariel thwarts Regina's plan and manages to escape with Snow. As an act of revenge, Regina takes Ariel's voice so she cannot call out to Eric before he leaves on his voyage.
Years later Regina calls to Ariel for help. Regina is trapped on Neverland and needs Ariel to use her merfolk ability to travel between realms and collect something from Storybrooke. In return, Regina restores Ariel's voice and gives her a bracelet that can give her legs for 24 hours and tells her that Prince Eric is in Storybrooke. In the following episode, "Dark Hollow", Ariel travels to Storybrooke to meet Belle (Emilie de Ravin), and they work together to find Pandora's box. Ariel manages to bring the box back to Regina in Neverland, and in return, Regina casts a spell on the bracelet so Ariel can use it to gain legs whenever and for however long she wishes. At the beginning of the tenth episode of the season, "The New Neverland", Ariel and Eric are reunited in Storybrooke.
In the seventeenth episode, "The Jolly Roger", Ariel has been separated from Eric again due to the events of "The New Neverland". In the Enchanted Forest, she learns that Eric has been kidnapped by Blackbeard the pirate, and teams up with Hook to help save him. Faced with an ultimatum, Hook chooses the Jolly Roger over information on Eric's whereabouts; Ariel is angered at Hook but leaves to find Eric on her own. In Storybrooke a year later, Zelena (Rebecca Mader) disguises herself as Ariel, pretending that she's still searching for Eric in order to torment Hook with his guilt. It is later revealed that Ariel successfully found Eric on her own and they have been living happily together.
Ariel returns briefly in season four episode "Poor Unfortunate Soul". She rescues Captain Hook from drowning when he falls off the Jolly Roger after altercation with the sea witch Ursula (Merrin Dungey). Queen Elsa of Arendelle cast a spell to shrink the Jolly Roger into a bottle in order to punish its previous owner, Blackbeard; Ariel was unknowingly trapped in the spell as well. Although Ariel is still mildly angry with Hook after their last encounter, she is grateful for his freeing her from the ship's spell. Ariel then helps bring Ursula's father, King Poseidon (Ernie Hudson), to Storybrooke so that the father-daughter pair can reconcile. Ariel also appears in season 6 episode "A Wondrous Place". Flashbacks depict Ariel's travels to Agrabah in search of Prince Eric; although she is unsuccessful, she meets and befriends Princess Jasmine (Karen David). In the episode's present time, Ariel reunites with Jasmine and helps her defeat the sorcerer Jafar (Oded Fehr).
Reception for the role has been received positively, with Amy Ratcliffe of IGN saying "The mermaid was endearing, and Garcia couldn't have done a better job with her. She had terrific chemistry with everyone, too".