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Here’s What To Expect From Disney’s Next Live-Action Remake

Halle Bailey as Ariel in 'The Little Mermaid'.

She’s gearing up to be a part of our world and we’re seated and ready to see it. The Little Mermaid is up next on Disney’s slate of its beloved classics getting the live-action adaptation treatment and with the recent success of Pinocchio (if you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend it), the excitement is on for Ariel, her sisters, and her friends from under the sea. 

First released in 1989, the original Little Mermaid was loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale of the same name. The film went on to win an Oscar and has since secured itself as among Disney’s most beloved classics, with children and adults alike knowing all the words to some of the musical’s greatest hits like “Part of Your World,” “Under the Sea,” and “Kiss the Girl.” 

With all this in mind, just what can we expect from this all-new remake? Well, here’s everything we know so far. 

The cast of The Little Mermaid

Disney first announced that the coveted role of King Triton’s youngest and most adventurous daughter Ariel would go to singer Halle Bailey. Halle is one-half of R&B duo Chloe x Halle, who signed to Beyoncé’s Parkwood Entertainment label. Some of her prior acting credits include small parts in movies like Last Holiday and Disney Channel’s Let It Shine. She is best known for her role on Grown-ish.

In a statement released together with the announcement of Bailey’s casting, the film’s director Rob Marshall had this to say about the budding young singer-actress: “After an extensive search, it was abundantly clear that Halle possesses that rare combination of spirit, heart, youth, innocence and substance—plus a glorious singing voice—all intrinsic qualities necessary to play this iconic role.”

The sentiment was echoed by none other than Jodi Benson herself, who voiced Ariel in the original film, after the appalling comments regarding Bailey’s race surfaced online following the announcement, telling Vanity Fair:

“I think that the spirit of a character is what really matters. What you bring to the table in a character as far as their heart and their spirit is what really counts. I think the most important thing for a film is to be able to tell a story. We need to be storytellers and no matter what we look like on the outside, no matter our race…our color of skin, our dialect, whether I’m tall or thin, whether I’m overweight or underweight or my hair is whatever color—we really need to tell the story.” 

As for Bailey herself, she stayed mum throughout the height of the unnecessary and borderline racist backlash. She did not address it until the summer of 2022 in an exclusive interview with Variety, where she spoke about recognizing the significance of her casting and what it meant to other children of color. She further talked about how she drew strength from her family and how she remained unfazed with the help of her grandparents, who shared the racism and discrimination they’ve also had to deal with through the years:

“It was an inspiring and beautiful thing to hear their [her grandparents’] words of encouragement, telling me, ‘You don’t understand what this is doing for us, for our community, for all the little Black and brown girls who are going to see themselves in you.”

Joining Bailey are Melissa McCarthy as Ursula (singer Lizzo had auditioned for the role but lost to McCarthy) and The Farewell’s Akwafina as Scuttle. Rather than being a seagull like in the original, Scuttle will be depicted as a female diving bird to reportedly allow for more underwater scenes with the character. Blindspotting star Daveed Diggs will be taking over for Sebastian, while Jacob Tremblay (best known for Wonder) will voice Flounder.

Academy Award winner Javier Bardem is set to play Ariel’s father, King Triton, while her love interest Prince Eric will be played by Little Women’s Jonah Hauer-King. The role was initially rumored to have been offered to Harry Styles but the One Direction alum had to turn it down, citing wanting to focus on his music in an interview with The Face.

Three new characters for the remake have also been announced: Queen Selina (played by Noma Dumezweni), Perla (Lorena Andrea), and Karina (Kajsa Mohammar). Other actors who are set to appear in the film in undisclosed roles include Jessica Alexander (Get Even), Emily Coates (Cursed), Russell Balogh (The Gentlemen), Adrian Christopher (The Mummy), and Bridgerton’s breakout star Simone Ashley.  

Production of The Little Mermaid

As previously mentioned, Rob Marshall will be sitting on the director’s chair. He is best known for his film adaptation of the Broadway musical Chicago but has had prior ventures with the House of Mouse. Some of his other credits include Mary Poppins Returns, Into the Woods, and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

John DeLuca, David Magee, and Jane Goldman worked on the film’s screenwriting, while icon Alan Menken is also set to return to work on scoring together with producer Lin-Manuel Miranda. As for cinematography, award-winning Dion Beebe will be leading the way. 

The music in The Little Mermaid

Lin-Manuel Miranda has confirmed that all of the songs from the original will be featured in the remake so we can all breathe a sigh of relief. Alan Menken has also stated there will also be a few other new songs, which will primarily be a blend of his and Manuel’s styles. I think that confirms that there will most likely be rapping involved. 

“So much of my work on The Little Mermaid was that wish fulfillment,” Manuel shared in an interview with Collider. “I actually didn’t write any new songs for Sebastian the Crab because I love his songs so much. I was like, ‘I can’t. Nope, not me. I can’t do it.’ I did get to write for some of the other characters in that movie. Every song you love in The Little Mermaid is still in The Little Mermaid, we just found some new moments to musicalize. That’s really tricky.”

Storyline and plot of The Little Mermaid

Ariel and Prince Eric making heart eyes at each other because plot
(Disney)

Like with most of Disney’s recent ventures into adapting and remaking its animated classics, we can probably expect that the story will remain pretty much the same as the original with a few changes here and there. Its official synopsis reads as follows:

The Little Mermaid” is the beloved story of Ariel, a beautiful and spirited young mermaid with a thirst for adventure. The youngest of King Triton’s daughters and the most defiant, Ariel longs to find out more about the world beyond the sea, and while visiting the surface, falls for the dashing Prince Eric. While mermaids are forbidden to interact with humans, Ariel must follow her heart. She makes a deal with the evil sea witch, Ursula, which gives her a chance to experience life on land, but ultimately places her life – and her father’s crown – in jeopardy.

Trailer for The Little Mermaid

We have yet to see a full-length trailer but Disney has given us a quick peek via a teaser featuring Bailey’s Ariel swimming under the sea through an old shipwreck as the familiar scoring of the original plays in the background. The short clip ends with her looking up and singing a few lines of “Part of Your World.”

Chills, I tell you. Chills. 

The Little Mermaid‘s release date

The Little Mermaid is set to hit theaters on May 26, 2023. We have yet to receive word as to when it’ll be available for streaming on Disney+, although we can probably expect that to happen around 45 days after its theatrical run, as per prior releases on the platform. 

(featured image: Disney)

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Danielle is a twenty-something writer and postgrad student based in the Philippines. She loves books, movies, her cat, and traveling. In her spare time, she enjoys shooting 35mm film and going to concerts.