‘The Little Mermaid’ Remake Changes Key Plot Point From the Original

in Disney, Movies

'The Little Mermaid'; Ariel closeup on the front and Ariel and Eric in Disney's 'The Little Mermaid' (2023) on the left

Credit: Inside the Magic

Are you ready to go “Under the Sea” with the upcoming live-action remake of Disney’s The Little Mermaid (2023)? If so, be prepared to see some major changes from the original story—specifically, when it comes to the romance between Ariel and Prince Eric.

Littler Mermaid
Credit: Disney

Director Rob Marshall’s remake of the 1989 animated classic is primed and ready for its theatrical debut later this month, and will tell an updated version of the timeless tale made for a whole new generation.

Watch the official trailer for Walt Disney Studios’ The Little Mermaid below:

Along with a star-studded new cast led by Halle Bailey as Ariel, Javier Bardem as King Triton, Melissa McCarthy as Ursula, and Jonah Hauer-King as Eric, among others, The Little Mermaid will also feature new original songs penned by Hamilton playwright Lin Manuel-Miranda.

Similarly to other Disney live-action remakes, not all will be the same when moviegoers sit down to watch this aquatic adventure. This time around, some notable alterations have been made to the story’s central romance, as the filmmakers set out to be “respectful to” societal changes of “culture and sensitivities.”

melissa mccarthy as ursula in ‘the little mermaid’
Credit: Disney

Speaking with SFX Magazine (via The Direct), Marshall revealed that he and the other filmmakers made a change to fix the romantic plot between Ariel and Eric, which has garnered a bit of controversy over the years because Ariel gave up her voice purely for love in the animated original.

The director made it a point to address these concerns in the new movie, telling the publication that he “felt the same way,” and has put in the work to make the live-action reboot “a modern story:”

We felt the same way. What makes it a very modern story is that [Ariel]’s not giving up her voice for a man, that’s not what’s happening here.

Ariel and Eric "Kiss the Girl" scene, leaning in on boat, from The Little Mermaid 2023 remake
Credit: Disney

Rather than giving up her voice to Ursula to be with Eric on land, Ariel will do so for her fellow sea inhabitants, who she thinks are closing themselves off from the surface world for unfair reasons. Marshall explained that this “not be afraid of the ‘other’” message was more relevant to current times, saying:

That idea was very modern, to not be afraid of the ‘other’. When we were making this, walls were being put up and divisions were being created, and people were getting more insular. This is a character who’s reaching through fear. They are building a bridge as opposed to a wall. It was an antidote to what was happening in the world and to the divisions that were and are happening in the world. It is a reminder that we’re all one.

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

In lieu of Eric and Ariel’s romance taking center stage in the narrative, the upcoming Little Mermaid remake will see the pair “building that bridge” between their two very different communities:

This young, naive, headstrong girl finds this kindred spirit, because Eric has a different trajectory. He is not afraid of the ‘other’. They find each other from these different worlds, not being afraid to be with each other against all odds, and they build that bridge. She’s not just falling for the cute guy.

While some might disagree with the new live-action adaptation’s choice to deviate from the original, these slight narrative alterations might actually fix the issues of its predecessor and its legacy.

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

Plus, these minor tweaks to Ariel’s motivation behind surrendering her voice won’t drastically impact the narrative core—the story will be there, full of the same charm and iconic characters that made the animated classic so memorable.

So far, 2023’s The Little Mermaid has yet to earn any backlash for its narrative alterations, based on largely positive reviews from early viewers. Perhaps, Disney’s latest live-action remake is finally striking a balance between preserving the nostalgic charm of original childhood classics, while also modernizing the story in a way that’s both fun and refreshing to audiences.

What do you think of Rob Marshall’s comments on changing Ariel’s motivation for giving up her voice in the new movie? Chime off in the comments below.

in Disney, Movies

View Comments (5)