Jonah Hauer-King Has the Recipe for Building the Perfect Disney Prince

in Disney, Entertainment

jonah hauer-king of the little mermaid has the recipe for the perfect disney prince

Credit: ITM

Jonah Hauer-King has discovered the recipe for building the perfect Disney Prince, and he used it to great advantage in his recent turn as Eric in the live-action Little Mermaid, turning what was once a cardboard cutout of a guy who loves his dog into a fully formed Disney Dreamboat.

As he told Deadline:

“A big part of what Rob said to me from the beginning was that we need to have an Eric who is layered and complex and someone we understand as a human being, not just as a prince archetype.”

What Defined The Little Mermaid’s Original Eric?

prince eric
Credit: Disney

Related: ‘The Little Mermaid’ Breaks New Disney Record

Most of Disney’s original princes were nothing more than archetypes. The Beast in Beauty and the Beast was the first of the Disney Princess’ love interests to have discernable character traits that go beyond the surface level – Snow White’s prince and Prince Charming hardly have any lines in their films at all, and they look nearly identical.

Prince Philip was clearly an attempt to depart from this – they had him have charming conversations with Aurora, showed his witty banter and playful attitude with his father, established a strong relationship with his horse, and by and large made him an actual character in Sleeping Beauty, rather than the idea of one.

Eric, created a full 30 years later, seems to follow that same mold: He’s charming, he’s humble, he’s romantic, and he loves music, the ocean, and his dog. It’s a lot more character than Prince Charming ever had, but it’s still not a lot to go on, and certainly wouldn’t be enough to fill two hours and fifteen minutes of runtime, even with everything else going on.

Who Is The Live-Action Prince Eric?

halle bailey and jonah hauer-king as ariel and eric in the little mermaid
Credit: Disney

Related: The Tragic Theory About ‘Little Mermaid,’ ‘Peter Pan,’ and Ariel’s Mother

Jonah Hauer-King took this meager serving of a man and made a full meal for audiences of The Little Mermaidand Halle Bailey – to enjoy.

What he did was actually very clever – he took that lack of a telegraphed personality in the original Little Mermaid, and he translated it into an actual feeling inside of Eric – one that many people his age will probably find quite relatable.

I think when we meet him, he is quite lost. He knows that there’s something out there that he wants. And I think him being saved by this mystery girl is a catalyst for that. It sparks this journey in him wanting to break free from the four walls of the castle.

Move over Ariel, it looks like you’re not the only one in this movie who met their true love and had a personal awakening.

The way that Hauer-King uses this to establish his character is perfect, because it makes him an exact foil to Ariel: They’re both feeling lost because they’re disconnected from something that they know is out there, something calling to them. They both have parents trying to keep them in a bubble in order to protect them, but when they meet each other they finally have a face to put to that feeling they’ve been having. ‘This,’ they think, ‘is exactly what everybody is missing out on.’

It’s about so much more than the romance for both of them, but at the same time, that connection was the catalyst that sparked the realization that they didn’t want to be lost anymore.

How Do You Build the Perfect Disney Prince?

halle bailey and jonah hauer-king as ariel and eric in the little mermaid 2023
Credit: Disney

Related: Melissa McCarthy Discusses Ursula’s “Mental Health and Loneliness”

After they meet, Eric’s character begins to more clearly unfold to the audience: He’s a collector, like Ariel; he doesn’t feel like he belongs on the throne, and would rather be out at sea, exploring and making connections; he’s a little bit playful, a little bit mischievous, and, like the rest of his family, he has a huge and kind heart.

So how do you build the perfect Disney Prince? Well, if you ask Hauer-King:

“For me, the perfect Disney Prince has all the qualities that I think we’ve grown up knowing and the more traditional things like being a strong, charismatic person, but also one who hasn’t got it all worked out and is sensitive and empathetic and compassionate and curious and humble, as well,” 

What seems to be truly key, in addition, is building out what he and his princess have in common, and then using the few ways they are markedly different to bolster their relationship – like juxtaposing Eric’s tendency towards running away to avoid talking action with Ariel’s tendency to act without thinking, but making it so they’re both fighting against their parents’ close-mindedness in their own way.

Most importantly, though, giving Eric the same longing as Ariel, just reversed, gives them something to work towards together throughout the film – because ultimately, what makes a good Disney Prince is how well-matched a partner they are to their Disney Princess.

If they make a good team, they’ll make a good couple, and that’s what everybody wants to see.

What’s your idea of a perfect Disney Prince? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments.

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