The Little Mermaid is one of the most highly-anticipated movies of 2023. Fans anxiously waited for the D23 EXPO, which unveiled the first trailer for the live-action film on September 9. The footage did not disappoint.
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Halle Bailey as Ariel in the live-action film. (Walt Disney Studios)
The 1-minute teaser trailer showed Halle Bailey’s Ariel swimming under the sea. The live-action version of Ariel’s look is gorgeous. The final moments of the trailer feature Halle singing the iconic “Part of Your World.”
The original version of The Little Mermaid made a huge splash when it was released in 1989, and Ariel became one of the beloved Disney Princesses. The film’s success initiated the Disney Renaissance, a period of animated Disney classics that also included The Lion King, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast.
Halle Bailey at the 2022 Oscars. (Shutterstock)
The original Little Mermaid won two Oscars: Best Original Song for “Under the Sea” and Best Original Score. The upcoming live-action film is sure to make waves in Hollywood just like its predecessor. HollywoodLife has all the latest updates about the live-action Little Mermaid.
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Release Date & Where To Watch
The Little Mermaid will be released in theaters on May 26, 2023. The movie has not been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and is expected to release exclusively in theaters.
A scene from the animated ‘Little Mermaid.’ (Disney/Everett Collection)
As of now, Disney has not announced whether or not The Little Mermaid will also premiere simultaneously on Disney+ with Premier Access. As theaters recover in the wake of the pandemic, Disney has stopped simultaneous releases. After its initial theater run, The Little Mermaid will likely become available on Disney+ at a later date.
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The Little Mermaid Live-Action Cast & Crew
Halle Bailey will star as Ariel in the live-action Little Mermaid. Director Rob Marshall released a statement in July 2019 about Halle after her casting was announced: “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.”
Halle Bailey on her new #LittleMermaid role: “I don’t pay attention to the negativity; I just feel like this role is something bigger than me” https://t.co/pidgYYQ0lw pic.twitter.com/rmUxbFSuYY
— Variety (@Variety) August 7, 2019
Halle’s casting sparked some cruel online backlash over a Black actress playing the role, and the singer/actress broke her silence about playing Ariel in August 2019. “I feel like I’m dreaming and I’m just grateful and I don’t pay attention to the negativity,” Halle told Variety. “I just feel like this role was something bigger than me and greater and it’s going to be beautiful. I’m just so excited to be a part of it.”
In an August 2022 interview with Variety for their annual Power of Young Hollywood issue, Halle revealed that she got words of wisdom from her grandparents when dealing with casting criticism. “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,’” Halle said.
When filming wrapped in July 2021, Halle posted a long message about how “grateful” she was to be a part of this movie. She also shared a photo of herself as Ariel on the ocean shore.
“And just like that..that’s a wrap after auditioning for this film when i was 18 just about to turn 19 , to now finishing filming through a pandemic when i turned 21 ..we have finally made it… i feel so grateful to have experienced this film in all of its glory..it has been the toughest experience being away from everything and everyone i’ve ever known, to feeling self doubt/ loneliness, but also feeling such freedom and perseverance as i’ve reached the end,” Halle wrote. “This experience has made me so much stronger than i ever thought i could be. i’m so grateful to have such lovely and talented people in the cast like @jonahhauerking that will be my friend for infinite lifetimes, @jacobtremblay who i’m so proud of and legends like @bardemantarctic @melissamccarthy @awkwafina @daveeddiggs who are masters of their craft but are so welcoming and open to little old me..as well as to the rest of the beautiful cast and crew. i cannot wait for time to speed up so you all can watch this film because it was made with so much love (plus blood sweat and tears) lol thank you sardinia for a wonderful ending!!!”
Prior to The Little Mermaid, Halle starred in the Freeform series grown-ish alongside her sister, Chloe Bailey. The sisters are also a musical duo called Chloe x Halle. They have 5 Grammy nominations under their belt since 2018.
Jonah Hauer-King will play the role of Prince Eric. (Shutterstock)
Jonah Hauer-King will play Prince Eric, the human prince whom Ariel falls in love with after she makes a deal with Ursula to become human. Jonah is a British actor known for his roles in films like The Last Photograph and A Dog’s Way Home, as well as the TV miniseries Howards End and Little Women.
Melissa McCarthy will play Ursula, the evil sea witch. Melissa rose to fame on Gilmore Girls and earned Oscar nominations for Can You Ever Forgive Me? and Bridesmaids. “I play Ursula, the sea witch. It is so fun, we’re just in rehearsals. It’s been an absolute blast,” Melissa said on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in 2020. “Stepping into the world of Rob Marshall, it’s like a fever dream, I just went to London for a week, I was like, ‘I don’t get to go to dance camp for a week.’ All day he’s like, ‘Do you want to slide down this 40-foot clam shell?’ I’m like, ‘Yes! Of course I do. What are you, crazy?’ It’s been wildly creative.”
Javier Bardem is starring as King Triton, Ariel’s father and the King of Atlantica. Javier was recently nominated for his role as Desi Arnaz in Being the Ricardos.
Daveed Diggs will voice Sebastian, the worrisome crab who watches over Ariel. Daveed spoke EXCLUSIVELY with HollywoodLife about Halle’s portrayal of Ariel. “I just think that Halle is just the perfect choice for Ariel…everyone is going to fall in love with her immediately,” the actor said. “She is so, so good. Her voice is not of this world. The things she can do vocally is something — I have never heard anything like it.”
Room star Jacob Tremblay voices the role of Flounder, Ariel’s best friend who is a tropical fish. Awkwafina will voice Scuttle, the diving bird who is a friend to Ariel. For the live-action Little Mermaid, Scuttle will be a female diving bird instead of a male seagull.
Additional cast members include Jude Akuwudike as Grimsby, Lorena Andrea as Perla, and Kajsa Mohammar as Karina, along with Noma Dumezweni, Jessica Alexander, Russell Balogh, Adrian Christopher, Emily Coates, and Bridgerton breakout Simone Ashley in undisclosed roles.
Rob Marshall is directing The Little Mermaid. Rob had nothing but praise for Halle as soon as he saw her audition. “Halle had this incredible facility to be able to dig deep, find the truth of Ariel’s passion and her heart,” he told Variety. “It was like watching a great film actor being born.”
Rob is also producing the film with John DeLuca, Marc Platt, and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Lin-Manuel is the lyricist for the film and co-wrote original songs for The Little Mermaid remake. Alan Menken, who was the composer of the original Little Mermaid, is returning for the live-action film as the composer for the score and songs. The screenplay was penned by Jane Goldman and David Magee.
Will There Be Changes From The Original?
The new Little Mermaid is loosely based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale of the same name. The movie is a remake of the animated Disney classic which follows Ariel, a mermaid princess who strikes a deal with a sea witch to become human so she can be with the human prince she’s fallen in love with.
Ariel in the animated ‘Little Mermaid.’ (Disney/Everett Collection)
Many of your favorite Little Mermaid songs from the original movie will be a part of the remake. Halle admitted during an Oscars pre-show that “Part of Your World” was her “number one” song.
Rob revealed that the live-action version of “Part of Your World” won’t be an exact recreation of the original. “[Halle] sings that moment up an octave from the original,” Rob revealed to Variety. “It’s the most chilling, and the most thrilling, film moment because it crystallizes not just her incredible vocal ability but the emotional passion she has in singing it.”
The director also noted that Halle’s Ariel will have red hair. Halle will have her signature locs with some looser tresses. “She looks stunning in red hair; not everybody does,” he said.
However, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Alan Menken are teaming up to also write new songs for the film’s soundtrack. “I actually didn’t write any new songs for Sebastian the Crab because I love his songs so much. I was like, ‘I can’t. Nope, not me. I can’t do it.’ I did get to write for some of the other characters in that movie. Every song you love in The Little Mermaid is still in The Little Mermaid, we just found some new moments to musicalize,” Lin-Manuel told Collider.
Director Rob Marshall made his feature directorial debut with Chicago in 2002. He’s no stranger to the Disney universe. Rob has directed Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Into The Woods, and Mary Poppins Returns.
Development on the live-action Little Mermaid goes back all the way to 2016. Filming was supposed to begin in early 2020 but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Principal photography at Pinewood Studios in England began in January 2021.
The movie was also filmed in Sardinia, Italy, for around three months. Production was halted in June 2021 after crew members tested positive for COVID-19. Filming eventually resumed and wrapped on July 11, 2021.
Harry Styles turned down the role of Prince Eric. (Shutterstock)
There were several notable names in talks for roles in The Little Mermaid. Harry Styles was in discussions for the role of Prince Eric, but he ultimately turned down the role. “I want to put music out and focus on that for a while,” he told The Face. “But everyone involved in it was amazing. So I think it’s going to be great… I’ll enjoy watching it, I’m sure.”
Singer Kacey Musgraves was reportedly in talks for the role of Vanessa, Ursula in her human form. However, the casting never came to fruition.