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The Original Ariel Supports Changes for ‘The Little Mermaid’ Remake

Jodie Benson as Ariel and Halle Bailey as Ariel in The Little Mermaid animated version and remake

Jodi Benson, the original voice actor behind Ariel in the The Little Mermaid animated film, supports the changes that have been made to the Disney live-action remake. Benson originated the role of Ariel in the 1989 animated film and went on to reprise her role for The Little Mermaid II, The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginnings, and The Little Mermaid TV series. Now, over three decades after Benson first voiced the iconic character, Halle Bailey has picked up the baton to portray the live-action version of Ariel in the 2023. The Little Mermaid, which hits theaters on May 26, is a retelling of the animated classic (itself a retelling of a much darker story) with a few notable changes.

While The Little Mermaid is one of Disney’s most beloved animated classics, parts of it haven’t aged well. After all, the entire premise of the original film is that Ariel gives up everything—her voice, life, and appearance—for a man, which just doesn’t reflect modern values. Several of the classic songs have also come under scrutiny given our increased awareness and understanding of consent, feminism, and personal agency. “Kiss the Girl” has become a bit problematic in that the song urges Prince Eric to simply go and kiss Ariel without taking into account consent—especially troubling since Ariel’s voice is gone and she literally can’t offer verbal consent. Meanwhile, “Poor Unfortunate Souls” is also a bit concerning in that Ursula sings about girls who are quiet and complacent being preferred over girls who speak their minds.

As a result of these concerns, The Little Mermaid‘s filmmakers have made a few changes. The plot was revised to make Ariel long for the real world and freedom instead of a prince, and the two aforementioned songs have been modernized to reflect consent and remove gender stereotypes. The film is also aiming to be more diverse and representative by starring Bailey, the first Black woman to play a live-action Disney princess.

Jodie Benson addresses The Little Mermaid changes

The Little Mermaid (1989)
(Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Benson confirmed that she supports the changes the filmmakers made for Disney’s remake of The Little Mermaid. She acknowledged that times have changed and believes that director Rob Marshall and producer John DeLuca incorporated the necessary changes in a very effective manner that still keeps the spirit of the original alive:

“We’ve got to be aware of our growth as humans and what’s important now and what maybe isn’t as important. Things change. We’ve got to roll with that. I think that Rob [Marshall, director] and John [DeLuca, producer] have done a beautiful job of doing that, and still paying tribute and honor to our original film. But you’ve got to have growth. It’s very important to stay relevant with where we are, what’s going on around us. We need to be aware. So the adjustments and the fine-tuning that they needed to do, it was a must, but it was done in a beautiful way, and I’m very, very thrilled with it.”

Benson also had nothing but praise for Bailey and described how much it meant to be able to support her and see her bring Ariel to life in such a beautiful way. Meanwhile, Benson’s perspective is quite interesting considering how much backlash The Little Mermaid has received over fairly benign changes. First, it sparked a wave of racist backlash from trolls who flooded the official trailer with dislikes on YouTube and threw tantrums over the film allegedly being “politically correct.” News of the plot and song lyric changes sparked further backlash as conservatives whined about Disney going “woke.”

These complaints just look more comical when we see that even the biggest star of the 1989 film supports such changes. Benson doesn’t believe that Disney is “ruining” The Little Mermaid and instead believes the studio is doing what’s necessary to acknowledge the natural social growth that has occurred over 34 years. Still, it’s quite strange that random netizens are way more concerned about Disney changing a few things in The Little Mermaid than the people involved with the original are.

(featured image: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

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Rachel Ulatowski is an SEO writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, YA literature, celebrity news, and coming-of-age films. She has over two years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.