Disney Removes ‘The Little Mermaid’ From Oscar Race

in Disney

Ariel (Halle Bailey) resting on jellyfish and talking to Sebastian (Daveed Diggs)

Credit: Disney

Disney’s officially gearing up for awards season but seems to have already pulled its The Little Mermaid (2023) remake from the competition for one category.

If you can count on two things in the movie industry, it’s that Disney will remake all of its animated films and that each live-action remake will be met with overwhelming controversy.

Halle Bailey sings as Ariel
Credit: Disney

Related: Disney Permanently Removes Cartoon ‘Little Mermaid’ From Experience

This year’s remake of The Little Mermaid was even more controversial than usual. From the moment Disney cast Halle Bailey as Ariel, a very specific demographic of Disney “purists” found fault with the fact that Bailey was Black and Ariel (voiced by Jodi Benson) was depicted as white in the original 1989 animation.

While Bailey’s performance was widely praised upon the film’s release, The Little Mermaid faced criticism due to its use (or, specifically, overuse) of CGI and its decision to censor some of the original lyrics in “Poor Unfortunate Souls” and “Kiss the Girl” to avoid offending contemporary audiences.

Ariel and Eric hold hands in 'The Little Mermaid'
Credit: Disney

The film made a splash at the domestic box office in its opening weekend but floundered in some international territories. The Little Mermaid flopped in China and South Korea amid reports of racist backlash. It ended its theatrical run with $569.6 million on a budget of $250–265 million.

Regardless, some fans are still hopeful about the chances of a sequel. Some have floated the idea that Disney may adapt The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea (2000), the direct-to-video sequel to the original animated film. This focused on Ariel and Eric’s daughter, Melody (Tara Charendoff), who longs to swim in the sea despite being forbidden by her parents.

Live-action 'Little Mermaid' shot
Credit: Disney

The odds of a live-action Return to the Sea seem pretty slim. What seems slightly more realistic, however, is Disney’s current bid to enter The Little Mermaid for Oscar consideration.

Disney is only submitting one original song from The Little Mermaid for Oscar consideration this year (“For the First Time”).

As is tradition, Disney has listed the categories for which it hopes The Little Mermaid remake may be recognized by the Academy.

Until recently, this list covered Best Director (Rob Marshall), Best Actress (Halle Bailey), Best Supporting Actress (Melissa McCarthy, Awkwafina, and Noma Dumezweni), Best Supporting Actor (Jonah Hauer-King, Javier Bardem, Daveed Diggs, Jacob Tremblay, and Art Malik), and Best Original Score (“For the First Time” by Alan Menken, Lin Manuel Miranda, and Halle Bailey).

It also included suggestions for Best Film Editing, Best Picture, Best Makeup & Hairstyling, Best Original Score, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Production Design, Best Sound, Best Visual Effects, Best Costume Design, and Best Cinematography.

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

Related: Live-Action ‘Little Mermaid’ Receives Cartoon Treatment for Disney Junior

Now, however, it appears that Disney has withdrawn its For Your Consideration campaign for Best Original Song. The official website now no longer lists the category.

If a studio decides not to submit an entry to a category for the Academy Awards, then it is not eligible for the award. If Disney has, in fact, declined to push “For the First Time” – the tune sung by Ariel when she first arrives on land as a human and comes face to face with Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King) – then The Little Mermaid is no longer in the race for Best Original Song.

This is a surprising move considering the film’s previous triumph in the category. Thanks to the lyrical work of Howard Ashman, the 1989 original is often considered the first film that merged Broadway-style music with animation. Two of its tracks, “Under the Sea” and “Kiss the Girl,” made the shortlist for Best Original Song at the 1989 Academy Awards, with the former going on to win the category.

Ariel smiles at a dinglehopper in the original 'The Little Mermaid'
Credit: Disney

“For the First Time” was positively received by critics. The Little Mermaid star – who typically performs as a duo with her older sister, Chloe Bailey, under the name Chloe x Halle, and was personally mentored by Beyonce – received endless praise for her vocal performance throughout the film.

As some X (formerly Twitter) users pointed out, the decision to pull “For the First Time” but continue with the awards campaign for the likes of Awkwafina (Scuttle) as Best Supporting Actress and Javier Bardem (King Triton) as Best Supporting Actor seems like an odd move from Disney, to say the least.

I’m somewhat confused by these FYC spreads. Do they seriously think they’ll get an Awkwafina nomination?

Javier…? can they be so serious 💀

 

However, Next Best Picture’s Will Mavity stepped in to clarify that studios are “often contractually obligated to include certain cast members in the FYC listings.”

We’ll have to wait until January 24, 2024, to find out the Academy’s official nominations for each category. While “For the First Time” may seemingly be out of the running, let’s take a moment to mourn the real loss here: no Oscar for “Scuttlebutt.”

Which categories would you like to see The Little Mermaid remake nominated for? Let us know in the comments!

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