The Hardest Scene to Shoot in ‘The Little Mermaid’ Is Its Most Iconic

in Disney, Entertainment

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

Credit: Disney

It’s no secret that filming the live-action version of Disney’s 1989 classic The Little Mermaid was no easy task. Half of the shots were underwater, and Hollywood has sadly not yet developed the technology to allow actors to breathe down there.

No scene done underwater will ever be simple. Movements underwater are different; gravity doesn’t function the same way, and some of the actors you’re talking to will be turned into crabs or fish in the movie’s final cut, so playing off of them is going to be nearly impossible.

Not to mention some of the crabs and fish and snails you’re supposed to be interacting with aren’t there at all – they’re being played by dancers doing wild and crazy movements meant to represent them. (Sometimes, even dancers hang around the actors you’re talking to, playing their eight legs.)

“In “Part of Your World,” Halle would sing two lines, and we’d say, ‘Cut,’ and then she’d be back on another piece of equipment or apparatus,” director Rob Marshall explained in an interview.

If you were to ask Little Mermaid producer John DeLuca what the hardest scene in the movie to get right was, he would say, “Every scene.” However, for Director Rob Marshall, one scene stood out above all the rest.

Under The Sea “Cracked Any Fear” They Had About The Other ‘Little Mermaid’ Scenes

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

Related: Fans Complain About Daveed Diggs’ Accent In First Look at “Under The Sea”

The most difficult underwater scene in the film, by far, would always be “Under The Sea.” More than any other song in the film, that song needs to feel alive, as the original featured scores of fish playing instruments as a full band.

It would appear that the CGI technology to have that many fish play many instruments isn’t quite there yet. However, the sequence was still quite impressive: A whole host of invertebrate creatures perform a fun ballet to the music as Ariel and Sebastian splash around, singing.

According to Rob Marshall, the inspiration for this was another Disney film: 1940’s Fantasia.

Because we are with one live actor in a massive production number, the first thing we thought was that we needed something to work from, and I thought about Walt Disney and remembered that in Fantasia, he had worked with the Ballet Russes Company, a ballet company, to use as a template for his animators to create the sequence. And I thought, we should work with a company.

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

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

The team brought the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater to London, where we were filming, and – much like the modeling done for Disney’s original animators, the dancers used their bodies and movements to imitate different sea creatures for the CGI animators to work with.

“It was one of the most challenging things,” Marshall recalled. “And we’ve done a few production numbers, but this was the craziest one.”

DeLuca said, “That one cracked any fear we had, though.”

After “Under the Sea” was filmed, Marshall and DeLuca were confident they could easily do any other scene in the film – but that didn’t prevent other Cast Members from feeling the struggle.

Halle Bailey and Jonah Hauer-King Felt Silly Filming Ariel and Eric Scenes

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

Related: Did Halle Bailey Break Up With Rapper DDG To Join Prince Eric on Land?

If you think directing those start-and-stop underwater scenes sounds difficult, imagine having to act in them – somehow having to stay in character when every two minutes, another silly, ridiculous thing has to happen to get you into position so that you look underwater.

Halle Bailey and Jonah Hauer-King know all about this. Because she would often have to break through the surface in these scenes, they couldn’t be filmed without water, so they were done in a large tank. As Bailey tells it, the most challenging scene to stay in character was any scene where she and Eric were supposed to be in the water together.

“Whenever I think of fun and hilarious, I think of all the tank work Jonah and I had to do together,” Bailey said. “We had to be very serious in the middle of a thunderstorm, but it was quite hard to be serious…and then I had to lift Jonah up. And if anyone has seen us stand next to each other, he towers over me. So, we were laughing at that.”

And, Hauer-King added, they would often have to do these scenes for a long time because Rob Marshall had very specific expectations as a director.

“It was a great bonding experience. And also Rob, he’s a visionary and a perfectionist, so he knows what he wants. And we’d be in that tank for a long time. We’d be like, ‘So that take was pretty good, right? We could probably go now.’ And he’s like, ‘Do it again, get back in, we haven’t got it yet.’ It might have taken hours, weeks, months, years.”

You can see if all this hard work, perfectionism, and silliness paid off now – The Little Mermaid is playing in theaters everywhere.

Which scenes in The Little Mermaid do you think may have been particularly difficult to film? Sound off in the comments below.

in Disney, Entertainment

View Comment (1)