Disney Infuriates ‘The Little Mermaid’ Fans, Makes Racist Change

in Disney, Movies

Actress Halle Bailey playing Ariel in 'The Little Mermaid' (2023) (closeup and movie moment collage)

Credit: Inside the Magic

Walt Disney Studios is under fire for a recent change to The Little Mermaid (2023) live-action, which premieres on May 26. Many feel the company caved to months of racist backlash to the film, which stars a Black woman, Halle Bailey, as the white animated Disney Princess Ariel.

Related: Watch LEAKED D23 Expo Sneak Peek of Halle Bailey In ‘The Little Mermaid’

Two days ago, Walt Disney Studios revealed the official Chinese poster for The Little Mermaid, which is significantly different than its American counterpart. Though studios often change posters for international audiences, fans quickly realized that the new poster intentionally obscured Bailey’s race, making Ariel look blue instead of Black.

On the left is the Chinese poster for 'The Little Mermaid,' which features a smaller Ariel whose skin appears blue in the light. On the right is the American poster, which features Ariel more prominently and does not obscure her Black skin.
The Chinese theatrical poster vs. the American poster. Credit: Walt Disney Studios

“What’s up with this China Little Mermaid poster @Disney?” @YellowFlashGuy asked on Twitter. “? Why did you make her skin blue?”

"What is this Disney?? Why did you make her skin blue?" @YellowFlashGuy asks.
Credit: Twitter

Fans on Reddit felt similarly. “Disney really trying to cover up Halle Bailey’s skin color with this poster,” u/rattacatte wrote. “My Chinese cousin told me Chinese netizens don’t like the change to her race there, they call her the Little Black Mermaid (小黑人魚), and the new Snow White remake Coal White (黑雪公主) because the actress is tan and not as white as Nicole Kidman.”

“They’ve made her look blue so that when they actually discover she’s Black they already paid for the ticket,” u/game_over_lol agreed.

“Disney can get f**ked with their performative allyship, IMO,” said u/Nell0pe. “You can’t say #blacklivesmatter whilst simultaneously pandering to a racist country.”

Halle Bailey playing Ariel in 'The Little Mermaid' (2023)
Credit: Disney

Though the film is projected to outsell the animated The Little Mermaid (1989) in the United States, it’s predicted to flop in China. Some fans felt the change to the poster was a last-ditch attempt to encourage Chinese fans to see the movie.

This isn’t Disney’s first conflict with its large Chinese audience. The country refused to premiere many of the company’s recent films, like Strange World (2022) and Lightyear (2022), because they contained LGBTQIA+ content.

Directed by Rob Marshall, The Little Mermaid features original music by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Alan Menken. In addition to Bailey, the movie will star Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric, Melissa McCarthy as sea witch Ursula, Daveed Diggs as Sebastian the crab, Jacob Tremblay as Flounder the fish, Javier Bardem as King Triton, and Awkwafina as Scuttle the seagull. See it in theaters on May 26.

What do you think of the Chinese poster for The Little Mermaid? Share your opinion with Inside the Magic in the comments. 

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