Live-Action ‘The Little Mermaid’ Makes a Splash


Jaxxon Sanchez, Staff Writer

Ever since its 2016 announcement, ‘The Little Mermaid’ live-action remake has been tied to a multitude of controversies, a general consensus being that Disney should keep its hands off of the classics and focus on the creation of new stories and fantasy worlds. Despite the media storm caused by this movie’s controversial casting and changes, many people’s minds have been changed upon seeing it. Being one of the people to see it on its opening night, here are my thoughts on this new addition to the ‘Little Mermaid’ franchise. Potential spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen the original 1989 classic or want the changes to remain a surprise. 

Going in to see the movie, I felt a sense of apprehension; the animated ‘Little Mermaid’ was a large part of my childhood, and still stands as one of my favorite Disney movies to this day. However, the movie started off strong; with its spectacular under the sea visuals and Halle Bailey’s amazing adaptation of Ariel, it quickly won me over. Many people have been critical of Disney’s casting of Ariel due to the changing of her race from white to African American. These complaints have never felt sound to me, but nevertheless I want to take a moment to acknowledge how important this diversity is. Kids who don’t often see themselves on screen in roles that are fun and magical are now able to see themselves in the shoes (or fins) of Ariel. 

Along with excellent casting, the movie adds to the original storyline with an addition of more chemistry between Ariel and her love interest Prince Eric. The pair now share similar struggles between royalty and their own personal aspirations. Not only are these struggles similar, but they are also inverses of each other; Prince Eric now being fascinated by the sea and Ariel being fascinated by land. This added chemistry makes the relationship between the two easier to root for, as in the original, the combination of Ariel being voiceless in nearly all the scenes the two shared and Prince Eric feeling slightly underdeveloped as a character made it difficult. 

The adaptation also adds four new songs along with almost all of the originals, sparing “Les Poissons” (in which the chef attempts to slaughter Sebastian the crab) which may have been too gnarly to transfer into live action. The new music is written by Alan Menken and Lin-Manuel Miranda: famous for Hamilton and some of the music in Encanto and Moana. These new songs include “Wild Uncharted Waters” an emotional ballad sung by Prince Eric detailing how the Mystery Girl he’s searching for is the key to his ultimate happiness. While it feels mildly stiff and lacks the emotion found in Ariel’s classic “Part of Your World” it is interesting to hear a song that dives into the Prince’s personal struggles in a way never heard before. Ariel is given two new songs “For the First Time” detailing her first day with legs and “Part of Your World (Reprise II)” which is a slowed down and hurting version of her original ballad following her discovery of the Prince’s overnight engagement. These two new songs are spectacular devices for giving the audience a window into Ariel’s internal thoughts while she is voiceless, while also giving Halle Bailey further opportunity to showcase more of her outstanding vocal talent. The fourth and final new song is named “Scuttlebutt” and is sung and rapped by Scuttle the seagull. It has the widest mix of opinions compared to the previously mentioned songs due to its fun nature and lean away from the sound of the original movie. Although some of this pushback is justified, I feel that the song is fun, and no issue considering the main audience for this movie is children. 

Since this movie is a remake, it of course has some changes that don’t hold up. The biggest one for me was the removal of Sebastian’s dream of being a composer. His overall focus on music in the original movie gave context to his song “Under the Sea” in which he details all of the underwater creatures using different instruments in an orchestra “The newt play the flute, The carp play the harp, The plaice play the bass”. His aspiration also allowed the song “Kiss the Girl” to work better, considering he describes his setup of the song by mentioning what aspects are needed to create a romantic atmosphere throughout it (percussion, strings, winds, and finally words). This is just a small change, but with it I feel that an integral part of Sebastian’s character was lost. 

Overall, if you are a fan of the original “The Little Mermaid”, this fun and lighthearted movie experience complete with stunning ocean visuals is perfect for the upcoming summer season. This may just be a movie for you to catch. “The Little Mermaid” is in theaters everywhere starting May 26, 2023.