Live-Action ‘Little Mermaid’ Creative Team Saw 1989 Original Together In Theaters

in Disney, Entertainment

Rob Marshall and John DeLuca saw The Little Mermaid 1989 together

Credit: ITM

The live-action version of The Little Mermaid, which releases in theaters across the country tomorrow, is a huge moment in the lives of many 20-and-30-somethings who were kids when the movie came out. This is one of those Disney films that has a fandom all its own.

The Little Mermaid sparked a love of musicals in children everywhere back in 1989 – but some people may be surprised to know that even back then, it wasn’t just kids who were excited about it.

The entire Broadway community was buzzing, because The Little Mermaid was the return of the movie musical – something that had fallen severely out of vogue in the previous of decades. (Not only that, but this musical was written by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, the composers behind the popular Little Shop of Horrors.)

The Little Mermaid
Credit: Disney

Related: ‘Little Mermaid’ Soundtrack Criticism Prompts a Question: Why Forget Broadway?

Two of those excited members of the Broadway theatre community at the time were Rob Marshall and John DeLuca – who were partners in life before they became partners in producing film. In a sweet twist of fate, the pair actually saw The Little Mermaid together in theaters back in 1989.

As director Rob Marshall told The Hollywood Reporter, if you had told them back then that one day they would direct the live-action version of The Little Mermaid, they never would have believed it.

Yeah, we wouldn’t believe it, mostly because we weren’t in film in any way, shape or form. We were doing theater at the time…There hadn’t been movies with music or musicals in that era at all, and it ushered in that incredible era of animated musicals.

‘The Little Mermaid’ Paved The Way For Rob Marshall’s Career

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

Related: Which ‘Little Mermaid’ Songs Were Hardest To Cut – And Which One Never Made It?

It’s true – in the years that followed the release of The Little Mermaid, not only did Disney begin to lean into the Broadway musical format in all of its animated films, they also began producing actual Broadway musicals, an effort that helped turn around the reputation of Times Square, which used to be considered a very run-down and dangerous part of Manhattan.

Not only that, however – it also ushered in an era of other, non-animated movie musicals, which was exactly how Rob Marshall and John DeLuca got into film in the first place.

And, in a way, it opened the door to Chicago for us years later, because people were starting to accept the idea of people singing and breaking into song, even though it was animated.

renee zelwiger chicago 2002 directed by rob marshall
Credit: Paramount

Related: Disney Is Officially Planning a ‘Tangled’ Musical

Chicago (2002), starring Renée Zellweger, was more or less the pair’s big break into Hollywood movies – Marshall was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director for the project.

In a way, The Little Mermaid launched both his and John DeLuca’s careers in the industry – so it’s incredibly poetic that they get to come full circle and direct the very film that sparked their era of success.

We can see the results of all their hard work tomorrow, May 26, when The Little Mermaid finally hits theaters.

What’s the first Disney musical you remember seeing in theaters? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments.

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