We’re going under the sea! Disney animated classic The Little Mermaid is getting the live-action treatment, and it’s arriving in theaters sooner than you think.
The original film, released in 1989, is a musical loosely based on a fairy tale of the same name written by the father of fairy tales Hans Christian Andersen. The beloved musical follows teenage mermaid Ariel, the youngest daughter of King Triton and the princess of the underwater kingdom of Atlantica. Ariel’s fascination with humans leads her down a path of adventure, love, and magic — and a deal with the devil. Okay, maybe not the devil, but the evil sea witch Ursula is close enough.
The film will star Halle Bailey and be directed by Rob Marshall, who is popularly known for directing the movie musical version of Broadway’s Chicago. The Little Mermaid‘s original composer Alan Menken is set to return to score and will write new songs in collaboration with one of the film’s producers, Lin-Manuel Miranda.
The live-action adaptation of the movie has been polarizing, receiving just as much backlash as it has praise — just like any live-action remake of treasured childhood nostalgia. In case you’re not too convinced yet, keep scrolling to find out everything we know so far about the new take on the movie. Below, we’ve collected everything you need to know about The Little Mermaid, including cast info, new songs, a release date, trailer and first looks, and so much more.
Is there a trailer for The Little Mermaid?
Yes! Multiple trailers, at this point. During Oscars 2023, The Little Mermaid dropped its first full theatrical trailer, so we can finally see more of the plot and characters of the forthcoming film. In the new trailer, Halle Bailey’s Ariel rescues Prince Eric from a shipwreck a la the original Disney film. “This obsession with humans has to stop,” King Triton counsels her after she wants to learn more. “Part of Your World” plays as we get full glimpses at all of Ariel’s costuming and glam looks, as well as a better look at Ursula and life on land.
Watch the full trailer below:
The second teaser trailer for The Little Mermaid dropped on February 15, 2023, in celebration of Disney’s 100th anniversary and to mark exactly 100 days until the film’s release. In the 30-second trailer, we see Halle as Ariel, adorably blowing kisses to a pufferfish and swimming amongst jellyfish, as well as first looks at five additional mermaids (could these be Ariel’s sisters!?) and Ariel and Prince Eric’s almost-kiss from the iconic “Kiss the Girl” scene. Near the end of the trailer, we also get a sneak peek of Ursula’s eyes and tentacles, and hear her villainous laugh for the very first time.
The very first teaser trailer for The Little Mermaid was released in September 2022. In the clip, which is just over a minute long, we’re taken on a breathtaking journey through the ocean as sea life flits through the water. Soon enough, we see a familiar scaly fin swim through a sunken ship. Our first look at Halle as Ariel arrives in the final seconds of the trailer, as she looks upward towards land singing a snippet of the film’s classic song, “Part of Your World.”
The teaser quickly went viral online, with folks sharing videos of young Black girls and children of all races reacting with excitement and wonder at Halle’s Ariel — debunking the racist idea that children would not accept a Black version of the Disney princess.
Who is playing Ariel in The Little Mermaid?
It was first announced back in July 2019 that the role of live-action Ariel would go to singer Halle Bailey. “After an extensive search, it was abundantly clear that Halle possesses that rare combination of spirit, heart, youth, innocence and substance — plus a glorious singing voice — all intrinsic qualities necessary to play this iconic role,” director Rob Marshall said in a statement at the time, per The Hollywood Reporter.
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Ariel will be the first lead feature film role for Halle, who is famously one-half of the singing duo Chloe x Halle with her sister, Chlöe Bailey. When she was a child, Halle had previously acted in small parts in movies like Last Holiday and Disney Channel’s Let It Shine. Though the 23-year-old performer currently has a few more major films currently in post-production — she will play Young Nettie in the 2023 movie musical The Color Purple — Halle is best known as an actress for her role as Sky Forster in Freeform’s Grown-ish.
Soon after Halle’s casting was announced, however, the young star was met with immense racial backlash online. Social media users started the viral hashtag #NotMyAriel and shared racist memes and hateful comments, promising to boycott the film upon its release.
Halle did not explicitly address the backlash she received until summer 2022, telling Variety that she looked to her grandparents who lived through years of discrimination for advice on how to overcome such hate. “It was an inspiring and beautiful thing to hear their words of encouragement, telling me, ‘You don’t understand what this is doing for us, for our community, for all the little Black and brown girls who are going to see themselves in you,’” she said.
“What that would have done for me, how that would have changed my confidence, my belief in myself, everything. Things that seem so small to everyone else, it’s so big to us,” added Halle. “I want the little girl in me and the little girls just like me who are watching to know that they’re special, and that they should be a princess in every single way. There’s no reason that they shouldn’t be.” Period. Despite having to endure such online vitriol, Halle’s time spent as Princess Ariel has certainly been life-changing — during filming, she paid homage to the movie by becoming a cat mom and naming her kitty Poseidon. We truly love to see it.
Who else is in the cast of The Little Mermaid?
While the specific character details of some members of The Little Mermaid cast are still under wraps, the main cast has been announced and it’s a star-studded list.
Despite many a rumor back in 2019 that Harry Styles was being considered for the role of Prince Eric, the part ultimately went to British actor Jonah Hauer-King. (Harry actually turned down the part to pursue “darker” film roles.) After the film wrapped, Halle Bailey wrote a heartfelt note to her cast and crew on Instagram, and called Jonah her “friend for infinite lifetimes.”
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Ariel’s overprotective father, King Triton, will be portrayed by Dune‘s Javier Bardem, and the iconic role of Ursula will be played by Melissa McCarthy. (In 2020, Kacey Musgraves turned down the role of Vanessa, Ursula’s human form.) Homeland‘s Art Malik has also been cast as Prince Eric’s loyal butler Grimsby.
Ariel’s sea life squad has also officially been cast. Hamilton and Blindspotting star Daveed Diggs will voice Sebastian the crab, Jacob Tremblay will voice Flounder the fish, and Awkwafina will voice a gender-swapped version of Scuttle. In the original animated film, Scuttle was depicted as a male seagull. In the new adaptation, Scuttle will be a female diving bird, a change that reportedly allows the character to be featured in more underwater scenes.
A new character for the film will be Queen Selina, played by Noma Dumezweni. Actors Jessica Alexander, Emily Coates, Russell Balogh, and Adrian Christopher were also cast in the film, but in undisclosed roles.
But who’s playing Ariel’s six sisters, you ask? Well, thanks to some eagle-eyed fans, we seem to have an answer. Actors Lorena Andrea and Kajsa Mohammar were previously announced to be playing two brand-new characters, Perla and Karina, respectively. However, no description for those two characters has been provided by Disney. It was also previously announced that Bridgerton star Simone Ashley had been cast in the film, but with no information about the character she’ll be playing.
Many fans began to speculate whether Simone would be playing one of Ariel’s sisters, and this seemed to become even more of a possibility after we were given a peek at five other mermaids in the full-length trailer. On April 21, DigitalSpy reported that Disney confirmed the actors playing the sisters in an announcement for the film’s UK premiere.
What kind of new music will be in The Little Mermaid?
In 2021, composer Alan Menken confirmed to Disney’s For Scores podcast that the live-action version of The Little Mermaid will feature four brand-new, original songs. Menken had previously shared with other outlets that there would be a new song for Eric and Ariel, King Triton, and Scuttle, and that they would be a “blend” of his and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical styles. (Yes, this is exactly what you think it means — Lin-Manuel has already teased that Sebastian the Crab voice actor Daveed Diggs “might rap” in the film.)
In March 2023, Menken shared even more details about the new songs while speaking to Vanity Fair. He revealed that Prince Eric’s new song would be titled “Wild Unchartered Waters” and Scuttle’s is named “Scuttlebutt” and features Sebastian. Menken also dished that Ariel’s new song will be performed while she has her legs on land and doesn’t have a voice, with the princess “singing her thoughts about all the firsts she is noticing for the first time.” Menken added that King Triton’s new song, titled “Impossible Child,” unfortunately didn’t make the final cut of the movie, but would hopefully be released in a longer edition of the film or as a “DVD outtake.”
Menken went on to share that there are also some major lyric changes in a few of the songs from the original film, including “Kiss the Girl,” in efforts to be more progressive and inclusive. Menken told VF: “There are some lyric changes in ‘Kiss the Girl’ because people have gotten very sensitive about the idea that [Prince Eric] would, in any way, force himself on [Ariel].”
We’re assuming the lyrics Menken is referencing are the pre-chorus lines: “Yes, you want her / Look at her, you know you do / Possible she wants you too / There is one way to ask her / It don’t take a word / Not a single word / Go on and kiss the girl.” It could be argued that these lyrics suggest Prince Eric doesn’t need Ariel’s verbal consent to kiss her.
“We have some revisions in ‘Poor Unfortunate Souls’ regarding lines that might make young girls somehow feel that they shouldn’t speak out of turn,” continued Menken, “Even though Ursula is clearly manipulating Ariel to give up her voice.” The lyrics Menken is referencing could be near the end of “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” when Ursula tries to convince Ariel that having a voice is unimportant, explaining that human women are expected to be submissive and “withdrawn” to find love.
It’s important to note that both “Kiss the Girl” and “Poor Unfortunate Souls” were written for The Little Mermaid soundtrack between 1987 and 1989 — it makes sense that lyrics over 30 years old might need a little updating to reflect the times of a new audience.
The film’s star Halle Bailey has previously shared that recording both new and original music for the movie was her “number one” exciting experience from filming. Halle’s voice has been praised by co-stars Javier Bardem and Melissa McCarthy, with Javier calling Halle’s vocal abilities “out of this world” and Melissa revealing that Halle’s singing made several co-stars cry on set.
— Halle (@HalleBailey) June 10, 2022
“That girl has got roots down and she sings from her heart,” Melissa said back in June while appearing on Watch What Happens Live. “When I heard [her singing the song], there were like seven of us that just burst out crying.” TBH, we’re already crying just thinking about it.
When will The Little Mermaid be released?
The Little Mermaid is currently expected to release in theaters across the United States on May 26, 2023. Mark your calendars now!
On April 19, the runtime of The Little Mermaid was seemingly revealed, making it Disney’s longest live-action remake ever with a runtime that’s nearly twice as long as the original movie. According to the film’s listing on the AMC Theaters website, the new film clocks in at 2 hours and 15 minutes. (For context, the original Little Mermaid is 1 hour and 24 minutes long.) It makes sense that the live-action version would be longer, with new stories, songs, and scenes to flesh out and explore. Collider notes that the live-action remakes of Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin sit at 2 hours and 9 minutes and 2 hours and 8 minutes, respectively. Let’s hope that those extra 6-7 minutes of The Little Mermaid will contain a new song that’ll become a fan-favorite or an instant classic!
Are there any first-look photos or a poster for The Little Mermaid?
While first-look photos have yet to be released by Disney, in mid-October 2022, the studio shared the official poster for The Little Mermaid, writing on social media: “Halle Bailey is Ariel.” Halle shared the poster to her own social pages soon after, with a message of gratitude: “Words can’t describe how immensely honored I feel to play the mermaid of my dreams.”
Halle’s red hair majestically floats behind her in the magical poster. The star opened up to Entertainment Weekly about the personal significance of including her own natural hair, which is styled in locs, in Ariel’s look.
“With Rob [Marshall, the film’s director], he’s so amazing and just saying, ‘I see you and I want to bring you into the character,'” Halle said to EW. “So it was a beautiful thing. My hair, for example — incorporating my locs into the red hair was something that was really special to me. The outfit, the fins, everything. It’s just amazing. I’m just grateful that I’ve been able to take the essence of me and mix the two.”
Originally published in Teenvogue.com