A Guide to Disney’s ‘The Little Mermaid’ Live-Action Remake

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Halle Bailey as Ariel in 'The Little Mermaid' live-action remake

Credit: Disney

In just a few months, The Walt Disney Company will release its next live-action adaptation — The Little Mermaid (2023). Following the success of other adaptations like Beauty and the Beast (2017), Aladdin (2019), and The Lion King (2019), The Little Mermaid will take audiences under the sea into the world of one of the most famous animated characters of all time.

Halle Bailey peers over a rock as Ariel in 'The Little Mermaid.'
Credit: Disney

The Little Mermaid and Disney

What is The Little Mermaid based on?

The live-action adaptation of The Little Mermaid is based on the 1989 animated Disney classic of the same name. With Jodi Benson as King Triton’s daughter Ariel, The Little Mermaid is loosely based on the 1837 fairytale, also titled “The Little Mermaid”, by author Hans Christian Andersen. The tale sees a young mermaid give up her life in the sea in exchange for a human soul.

Ariel in 'The Little Mermaid' singing "Part of Your World"
Credit: Disney

When did the animated The Little Mermaid release?

Disney’s 28th animated film, The Little Mermaid released in 1989. Classed as the beginning of the Disney Renaissance era, the time when Disney movie musicals like Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992), and The Lion King (1994) all became cultural phenomenons, The Little Mermaid opened to critical acclaim and scored The Walt Disney Company two Academy Awards — Best Original Score and Best Original Song for “Under the Sea.”

Jodi Benson stars as Ariel, and Ursula’s evil human counterpart Vanessa; Christopher Daniel Barnes joins her as Prince Eric, with Pat Carroll as Sea Witch Ursula and Samuel E. Wright as Sebastian.

Sebastian the crab in 'The Little Mermaid'
Credit: Disney

The Little Mermaid Live-Action Remake

Who is in the cast of The Little Mermaid?

The live-action adaptation of The Little Mermaid stars singer Halle Bailey as the eponymous mermaid, the Disney Princess Ariel, Jonah Hauer-King as Eric, Daveed Diggs as Sebastian, Javier Bardem as King Triton, Jacob Tremblay as Flounder, Noma Dumezweni as Queen Selina, Awkwafina as Scuttle, and Melissa McCarthy as Ursula. Art Malik as Grimsby, and Lorena Andrea, Simone Ashley, Kajsa Mohammar, Nathalie Sorrell, Karolina Conchet, Sienna King as daughters of Triton and Ariel’s sisters, the mermaids Perla, Indira, Karina, Caspia, Mala, and Tameka, respectively.

Sebastian in live-action 'The Little Mermaid'
Credit: Disney

Related: PETA Issues Urgent Plea to the Set of ‘The Little Mermaid’

In undisclosed roles, also appearing is Jessica Alexander, Russel Balogh, and Adrian Christopher.

Halle Bailey was announced as Ariel almost four years ago in July 2019, shortly after other cast members like Awkwafina and Tremblay were announced in June. At one time, music superstar Harry Styles was tapped for Prince Eric, but in August 2019, the former One Direction band member revealed he had turned down the part.

Who is directing The Little Mermaid Live-Action?

The Little Mermaid is directed by Rob Marshall. The director of another Disney live-action movie, Mary Poppins Returns (2018), revealed in 2018 that he would be helming the underwater musical adventure.

Working alongside screenwriter David Magee, the live-action adaptation is produced jointly by Walt Disney Pictures and Marc Platt Productions.

When will The Little Mermaid (2023) release?

The Little Mermaid is scheduled for an exclusive movie theater release on May 26, 2023. Distribution will be handled by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

Halle Bailey as Ariel in live-action 'The Little Mermaid'
Credit: Disney

Is The Little Mermaid remake coming to Disney+?

Amid a time when Disney+ is going through changes, and the former theatrical exclusivity window is more fluid than when it was first conceived, there is no telling when The Little Mermaid will swim onto the streaming service.

Is The Little Mermaid live-action a musical?

The Little Mermaid, like its animated predecessor, is a musical. Much-decorated composer Alan Menken returns under the sea to score the film, with Hamilton and Encanto‘s Lin-Manuel Miranda joining Menken to write additional songs for the movie musical.

In 2021, Menken said there would be an additional four new songs in the Disney film and that Miranda felt the pressure of filling the footsteps left by the late Howard Ashman, the animated movie’s lyricist. In 2020, Bailey revealed that the iconic “I Want” song “Part of Your World” would feature in the live-action adaptation; elements of the song, made famous by Jodi Benson, can be heard in the teaser and first official trailer of The Little Mermaid. Many fans will also expect the classic villain song, “Poor Unfortunate Souls.”

Halle Bailey as Ariel in 'The Little Mermaid'
Credit: Disney

Those at D23 Expo 2022 in Anaheim, Southern California, those who saw the movie studio showcase panel in person were treated to the full “Part of Your World” sequence to rapturous applause.

Most recently, Miranda shared that one of the new songs in The Little Mermaid would be called “For the First Time,” and would be the song Ariel sings when she first makes it to land.

The Little Mermaid Live-Action Controversy

Why was Halle Bailey’s casting controversial?

When Halle Bailey, of Chloe x Halle fame, was announced as the lead in The Little Mermaid, the actress and Disney were the victims of major backlash rooted in racism — Bailey being Black and the animated incarnation being white. Many people condemned the casting of a Black mermaid as not in keeping with the original animated movie, even going so far as to state it was not historically accurate to even have a Black mermaid.

Halle Bailey as Ariel talking to Scuttle (Awkwafina) in live-action 'The Little Mermaid'
Credit: Disney

Related: Another ‘Little Mermaid’ Character Changed Amid Backlash

Members of the movie community, including The Little Mermaid‘s own musician and lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda, and actresses like Rachel Zegler (West Side Story, Snow White) and Anika Noni Rose (The Princess and the Frog) showed support for Bailey’s casting.

In February 2023, Bailey — who previously said she aimed to ignore the racist trolls — told The Face:

“‘It’s not about race.’ But now that I’m her…People don’t understand that when you’re Black there’s this whole other community. It’s so important for us to see ourselves.”

Melissa McCarthy cast as Ursula in 'The Little Mermaid' (2023) live-action
Credit: Disney

Is Halle Bailey’s Ariel coming to Disney Parks?

Over the last few months, Disney Parks have been putting out casting calls for Halle Bailey’s version of Ariel. At the time of publication, the live-action Ariel has not yet debuted in any theme parks, including Disneyland Resort or Walt Disney World Resort. Still, it can be expected characters from the upcoming movie will appear in tandem with the film’s release in May.

Are you looking forward to The Little Mermaid live-action remake? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!

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