The Little Mermaid holds a very special place in the history of Disney animation. For many who look back, this 1989 musical classic represents the beginning of a new Disney Renaissance. It was also the entry-point into Disney for many young fans who would come to know the songs of these particular films as the soundtrack to their collective youth (and the jumping off point for a lifetime of fandom). This summer, Disney has been celebrating the music of The Little Mermaid with Find Your Voice, a month-long online singing contest. Fans can show off their voices by choosing one of that film’s three most popular songs, recording their own vocal rendition, and uploading it to the Find Your Voice website. The winner will get a trip to LA for a special Disney Music Group recording experience, not to mention $1,000 cash.
One of those fans whose life was shaped by The Little Mermaid is singer and YouTube star, Nick Pitera. Disney came across Nick doing unique covers of Disney songs and asked him to contribute a new video for release as part of a campaign promoting the Find Your Voice competition. They even asked him to travel to the D23 Expo and perform live for fans on the convention’s most visible stage. What makes Nick’s renditions of Disney songs so amazing is that not only does he have an incredible singing voice, but that his vocal range allows him to accurately perform both the male and female verses of the songs he chooses to cover. As if that weren’t enough, through clever editing Nick achieves an effect in which he multiplies himself, allowing him to harmonize and simultaneously perform additional sound effects and interludes while the song builds around him.
It’s something you truly need to see to believe. Take a look at this video of Nick (or should we say, nine Nicks) performing “Kiss The Girl”:
Besides his talent and the loyal following that his videos have gained him, there was one more thing about Nick that made him a perfect match for Find Your Voice: for the past five years, he has been working at Pixar Animation Studios as a full time 3D modeler. We had to speak to him for ourselves and find out more about how he could manage to do both at the same time.
“I’ve been singing my whole life but it was not necessarily something I pursued. I decided to go to school specifically for animation and that was the career I chose to pursue,” Nick told us. However, he didn’t stop singing outright, he just had to get a bit more creative in how he pursued it. “I’ve known that those were my two passions since I was four,” he revealed to us, noting that The Little Mermaid was the first movie he ever saw in a theatre. “I learned how to draw and learned how to sing from Disney movies, and I always wanted to do both. I think it keeps me balanced, being able to do visual art during the day and then switch gears in my free time.”
So, what brought him into the spotlight of YouTube, and jump-started the singing hobby he had put on hold while he got his degree? “My senior year of college, actually, there was a contest–A Disney contest–that called for putting up a YouTube video singing a song from The Little Mermaid,” recalls Nick. “So I entered that, putting up a video singing ‘Part of Your World, only because it was a requirement for the contest, and that video sort of went viral.”
But many of the viewers thought the video was somehow faked because of Nick’s uncanny ability to recreate original singer Jodi Benson’s vocal sound. To prove himself, Nick called in another of his favorite Disney songs. “My friends convinced me to do a duet with myself, to show I could sing low as well,” he explained. “So I put up ‘A Whole New World’ and it really went viral. That’s what started the online audience that I now have. I always wanted to pursue music but I didn’t necessarily have an outlet. YouTube provided that. I’ve been riding that wave ever since and treating it as my second career.” Five years later, both videos are still online and have accumulated over 4,400,000 views and 31,600,000 views, respectively. Fans still comment on them every day.
Nick knows that his videos are a bit unorthodox, but feels the freedom to think out of the box because for the moment it’s still secondary to his career as an animator. “I’m able to take risks with music and choose my projects.” His instincts have brought him a half of a million subscribers, and over twenty of his videos have garnered more than a million views each. It’s something that he says he’s still getting used to, five years after his first viral hit. “It takes a minute to process the fact that the view counts on those videos are actual people.”
Take a look at the official Find Your Voice page on Disney.com to see user-submitted videos, as well as more guest singers like Nick Pitera who have provided their own renditions of The Little Mermaid’s classic songs. And if you’d like to show off your singing voice and possibly win the prize package for yourself, there is still time to submit your own entry.