Original ‘The Little Mermaid’ Director Blasts Disney’s Live-Action Remake in New Interview

in Disney, Entertainment

Halle Bailey as Ariel in 'The Little Mermaid'

Credit: Disney

A legendary director calls out Disney and its live-action remakes.

Ariel singing "Part of Your World" in 'The Little Mermaid' 1989
Credit: Disney

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While animation continues to be a big part of The Walt Disney Company, Disney has also leaned heavily into live-action. Over the last decade, a variety of iconic and legendary Disney animated films have received live-action upgrades, ranging from Cinderella in 2015 to Beauty and the Beast in 2017.

Disney has had great success giving its films live-action makeovers, with 2019’s The Lion King bringing in over $1.5 billion at the box office. Several more live-action retellings are in the works now, with Disney announcing a live-action Moana last year,

However, these repackaged and updated films are not popular with everybody, with a recent Disney release causing quite a lot of controversy.

Areil (Halle Bailey) looking at Sebastian (Daveed Diggs) during Under the Sea as Seahorses swim by
Credit: Disney

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In 2023, Disney released its live-action version of The Little Mermaid into the world. The film stars Halle Bailey, and while it featured several iconic songs from the original 1989 film, Disney’s live-action Ariel story marked a noticeable shift toward realism that many fans didn’t appreciate.

Disney’s collection of classic films marks the “gold standard” for animation, featuring vibrant colors, stunning backgrounds, and smooth animation. However, this new version of The Little Mermaid disappointed some fans, with the film’s atmosphere, lighting, characters, and animation style being heavily criticized shortly after the first trailer was released.

The Little Mermaid debuted on May 26, 2023, and despite this controversy, proved to be a powerhouse at the box office, grossing nearly $600 million. Most fans appreciated Disney’s approach to the film, with Ariel herself, Halle Bailey, becoming a certified Disney princess as a result.

However, the controversy surrounding The Little Mermaid continues a year later, with legendary Disney animator John Musker calling out the film.

the little mermaid live action
Credit: Disney

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Per Variety, Musker, who directed films like Aladdin (1992) and the original The Little Mermaid, thinks The Walt Disney Company is making a mistake by prioritizing politics over storytelling.

“I think they need to do a bit of course correction in terms of putting the message secondary, behind entertainment and compelling story and engaging characters,” said Musker.

“The classic Disney films didn’t start out trying to have a message. They wanted you to get involved in the characters and the story and the world, and I think that’s still the heart of it,” Musker continued. “You don’t have to exclude agendas, but you have to first create characters who you sympathize with and who are compelling.”

Musker specifically called out 2023’s The Little Mermaid, criticizing its visuals and its story, sharing his disappointment that Ariel’s relationship with her father was not a bigger part of the film.
Javier Bardem scowling as King Triton in The Little Mermaid
Credit: Disney

King Triton, Ariel’s father, was portrayed by world-renowned actor Javier Bardem, and though Bardem can be seen throughout the film, Disney’s live-action The Little Mermaid certainly takes a different approach with the character.

“They didn’t play up the father-daughter story, and that was the heart of the movie, in a way.”

Musker also criticized the animals in the film, specifically calling out Sebastian, saying, “You could look at live animals in a zoo, and they have more expression.”

Disney shows no signs of slowing down production on live-action films, with the previously mentioned live-action Moana currently in production. A prequel to 2019’s The Lion King, which focuses on Mufasa, is also in the works at Disney.

Are you a fan of Disney’s live-action remakes? What is your favorite animated Disney film?

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