Ariel's Story Studio (also known as The Little Mermaid Story Studio) is a point-and-click adventure interactive storybook game developed by Media Station and Creative Capers Entertainment, and published by Disney Interactive. The game was released as a tie-in to the 1997 re-release of the 1989 Disney film The Little Mermaid. The game's plot is an abridged retelling of the film. Despite sharing the same style of gameplay and the same primary developer in Media Station, this game has never been released under the Disney's Animated Storybook name, although it is generally considered to be the eighth entry in that series. As a result, the game is sometimes known as Disney's Animated Storybook: The Little Mermaid.
The vision of Marc Teren, VP of entertainment for Disney Interactive, was to create games with a "true and fair representation of the original property", and aim to capitalise as "ancillary products to successful theatrical and home video releases". To achieve this, Teren helped ensure the games were animated by Disney animators. From December 1994 to February 1995, the company had hired 50 new employees. Children's Business suggests the series came into fruition because in the contemporary entertainment market, it was "customary now for entertainment companies to release CD-ROMs to support a film or TV show".
In 1997, Disney had re-released The Little Mermaid as "counter-programming" to Fox's animated film Anastasia, which was set to be released at the same time. The two studios were "scrambling to mine every potential dollar from their investment and make sure neither outdoes the other", so also butted heads in the video gaming space. Ariel's Story Studio competed against Anastasia: Adventures with Pooka and Bartok. Joseph Adney, Disney Interactive's marketing director, said "What we're trying to do is go way beyond the movie by providing for the child to direct it".
Disney and Media Station collaborated to create more than 12,000 frames of digital animation for each game, as well as 300 music and vocal clips. Digital music and sound effects were composed, orchestrated, arranged, edited, mixed and synchronized at Media Station. The games had hundreds of clickable hotspots that produced animated gags, as well as many mind-challenging interactive games. The voice cast sometimes consisted of actors from the films reprising their roles; meanwhile, at other times voice soundalikes were used. In this game, Jodi Benson and Samuel E. Wright reprise their roles as Ariel and Sebastian respectively. The game was included in The Animated Storybook Collection, along with four other games in the series.
According to Teacher Librarian, the game was produced by Disney Educational Productions, and was a part of their Disney Edu-Station website.
Players could follow along with the story, sing along with four songs from the movie, and take part in activities such as conducting an orchestra and taking photos of fish. Players learn skills like reading, vocabulary and critical thinking. The game was narrated by Ariel, Sebastian, and Ursula. It also has a "Create Your Own Storybook" feature that allows players to devise their own storybooks, both words and pictures, and then print out the finished product.
The game was the tenth top-selling home education program across nine retail chains (representing more than 40 percent of the U.S. market) in the week ending January 31, 1998.
Discovery Education wrote that the game was "fun and creative", and that it would appeal to children aged three to eight. Edutaining Kids wrote that the game was the most "educationally valuable" out of the three titles included in the Disney Princess Jewelry Box Collection, along with Disney's Princess Fashion Boutique and Disney Princess Magical Dress-Up. SuperKids thought the game was a crowdpleaser, and a nice entry in the edutainment category that would appeal to girls. Daily News suggested that "both [Ariel's Story Studio and Anastasia: Adventures with Pooka and Bartok] can have lives lasting far longer than the movies will be in theaters". The Boston Herald said the game's strong point was its soundtrack and karaoke activity, as opposed to Anastasia's adventure game mechanics, describing it as "more of an interactive storybook than a game". The Washington Times thought the game was "excellent", and recommended parents to buy it in a package with The Little Mermaid Print Studio. In another article, the newspaper deemed it "brilliantly executed" and a "splash hit". Rocky Mountain News gave the game a "tentative endorsement", noting that it helps to counteract the bias toward boy-oriented video games, and offered an opportunity got "computer-savvy girls to cheer".