Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” has enchanted families since its debut in 1989, and will make its way into hearts this summer in a new form.
The reimagined classic will be front and center on Memorial Day weekend, as its Friday release will welcome audiences back to theaters nationwide to experience the Disney magic all over again.
The live-action remake starring Halle Bailey, Jonah Hauer-King, Daveed Diggs, Awkwafina, Jacob Tremblay, Noma Dumezweni, Art Malik, Javier Bardem and Melissa McCarthy is the first major feature film of the summer, and comes complete with anticipation, jubilation and plenty of headlines.
Selecting the “perfect” cast for this reinvention, came quite naturally, says director Rob Marshall. At the film’s premiere at Walt Disney Studios last week in Burbank, California, Marshall described the collection as “the dream cast of all dream casts, from top to bottom, as they just claim the role for themselves.”
Not everyone has expressed the same sentiments regarding a “perfect” final group of actors, especially when the role of Ariel was announced to be played by a Black lead. Some responded negatively to the news because they felt as though it was not staying true to the look of the original Ariel, played in 1989 by Jodi Benson.
Raised in the business through both a singing and acting background, Bailey has routinely expressed — during Disney’s publicity tour for the film — her immense gratitude in the creative freedom she was given in embodying Ariel’s character. During Bailey’s interview with Blavity TV, in fact, she recognized the importance of her representation through the film.
“I get to reinvent this version of the Ariel that we all know,” she said, “and show these children, particularly these Brown and Black children, that they deserve to be in these spaces and that they deserve to see themselves on screen.”
Apart from the nostalgia that people who grew up on Ariel since childhood feel, the beauty and joy of this timeless piece lies in its homage to the classic story while taking on a modern twist.
At the Burbank premiere, Melissa McCarthy, who plays Ursula, expressed her excitement for fans to realize “what a love letter it is to the original.” She credited Marshall for “making it relevant to a story for today.”
The remake’s soundtrack nods to the original with the beloved songs that the world has come to know and love. Composed by Alan Menken in a partnership with Lin-Manuel Miranda, the songs blend a fresh take on memorable melodies of the past with sounds that feel very current to the modern world.
It is likely that many relate Ariel’s story to that of love through her developing forbidden relationship with Prince Eric, and though it is a major theme of the movie, it also speaks to the journey of a girl who is finding herself. Through the trial and tribulations, the audience gets to know Ariel for who she is, and what she stands for, as she envisions an imagined future for herself while she prepares to fight for it.
Through that journey, the dynamics of a father-daughter relationship also evolve, as the real lesson of love is learning how to set a loved one free to make decisions of their own. At the premiere, Javier Bardem, who plays King Triton, spoke to that evolution through the lessons learned of “listening to others beyond prejudgment.”
Whether one has grown up loving Ariel, and has found a piece of her in them, or will be taken on her journey under the sea for the first time, “The Little Mermaid” offers something for everyone to delight in.
The wait is finally over, as fans can see the feature film in theaters essentially around the clock this weekend. Some even had a head start here in South Florida, as select theaters were able to show an advance screening of the film on Wednesday.