The Little Mermaid Has 2 Tricks To Beat Live-Action Disney Flaws

2023's The Little Mermaid is among many Disney live-action remakes that have been produced in recent years, but it has two tricks up its sleeves that will likely elevate it over previous Disney live-action movies. A live-action remake of the 1989 animated movie of the same name, The Little Mermaid is set to reach the big screen on May 26, 2023 in the United States. D23 Expo 2022 released a teaser trailer for The Little Mermaid on September 10 that raised the hype for the 2023 live-action and also showed both its similarities to the original and the differences that could possibly grant The Little Mermaid the upper hand over previous live-action remakes of Disney animated movies.


The Little Mermaid is the twelfth Disney self-adaptation since the House of Mouse started remaking its animated classics into live-action movies with 2015's Cinderella. Halle Bailey will lead The Little Mermaid as Ariel, and the cast will also include Melissa McCarthy as Ursula, Daveed Diggs as the iconic crab Sebastian, Awkwafina as Scuttle, and Jacob Tremblay as Flounder. The live-action musical fantasy film is directed by Rob Marshall with a screenplay by David Magee, and it's produced, among many, by Marc Platt and Lin-Manuel Miranda. The composer of 1989's The Little Mermaid, Alan Menken, returns for 2023's The Little Mermaid. Along with Miranda, Menken composed and wrote four new songs for the live-action remake, which will include the original's emblematic "Part of Your World," as it could be seen from The Little Mermaid's teaser trailer.

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While not all Disney live-action movies released after 2015 were remakes of the original animated ones but only focused on their original characters, like Alice Through the Looking Glass, Christopher Robin, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, and Cruella can attest, many weren't as well-received as the originals. Although 2022's Pinocchio might have avoided one popular live-action mistake, most Disney live-action movies tended not to live up to the originals and have often been described as lacking a reason for their existence, as they were seen as sub-par, flat-out copies of the animated classics. 2023's The Little Mermaid seemingly distances itself from previous Disney self-adaptations, as it seems to include everything that made 1989's classic iconic, along with new additions in the form of songs, characters, and focus, which are particularly exemplified by two tricks 2023's The Little Mermaid has up its sleeve.

Halle Bailey Proves The Little Mermaid Can Do More

Halle Bailey as Skylar in Grown-ish and as Ariel in The Little Mermaid

Despite Disney and Pixar exploring more culturally diverse stories whose diversity was also reflected in their cast and protagonists recently, it was always warranted by the type of story being told, like 2021's Encanto and 2022's Turning Red proved. On the contrary, The Little Mermaid's story wouldn't have needed a diverse cast, making it even more important that it does. Unfortunately, just like Marvel's She-Hulk was review-bombed before the premiere aired, and the same happened with Ms. Marvel and Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power, which also were subjected to racist backlashes from vocal portions of the franchises' fans, The Little Mermaid wasn't exempt from the vicious and unfair treatment. Like all the other recent backlashes show, it doesn't really make any sense to complain about how unrealistic a mythical creature like a mermaid being portrayed by a black actress is because the original story was by a Danish author, and it also highlights how these flimsy objections to a diverse cast often arise in adaptations of the fantasy genre. As a genre, fantasy could offer even more diversity because of its particularly imaginative nature, but these recurring and vocal oppositions to it not-so-subtly hide racist points of view rather than a presumed attachment to a faithful adaptation.

Halle Bailey being cast as Ariel sets a relevant precedent because of Ariel's unique stance as one of the most popular Disney princesses and the effect such a casting would have on representation. After all, thanks to 2023's The Little Mermaid, black and brown little girls can finally see themselves as princesses in a story where the protagonist's skin color isn't as instrumental to the story as the princesses' heritage was in 1998's Mulan, 2009's The Princess and the Frog, and 1992's Aladdin, making that choice all the more relevant and potentially influential. Wanting to represent her community onscreen was also the reason that pushed Bailey to pursue the role, as she admitted that such representation "would have changed her confidence, her belief in herself, everything" had she been able to see it growing up.

Lin-Manuel Miranda Gives The Little Mermaid A Disney Advantage

Lin-Manuel Miranda and a still from The Little Mermaid teaser trailer

Among the most common critiques of Disney's live-action remakes is the widespread perception that they don't really add anything new to the originals. The Little Mermaid avoids this by adding Lin-Manuel Miranda's work as a songwriter. While The Little Mermaid is set to retain all the iconic songs that made the 1989 classic popular and award-winning when it came to songs and original score, it will also add four songs, co-written by original composer Alan Menken and producer/songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda. Miranda's songwriting work for Disney in both 2014's Moana and Encanto already proved revitalizing, which is precisely what Disney self-adaptations need. Indeed, when Disney live-action adaptations included musical numbers, their leads weren't also singers, except for 2019's The Lion King. At the same time, two of the most famous adaptations, 2015's Cinderella and 2020's Mulan, didn't include musical numbers at all, despite Disney Classics being celebrated for their scores and songs. Considering its cast's musical background, the singing career of Halle Bailey herself, and Lin-Manuel Miranda's contribution, The Little Mermaid shapes up to be one of Disney's most appealing live-action adaptations.

Key Release Dates

  • The Little Mermaid Temp Poster
    The Little Mermaid
    Release Date: 2023-05-26