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The Little Mermaid
The Little Mermaid live-action remake logo.jpg
Official logo
Directed byRob Marshall
Screenplay by
  • Jane Goldman
  • David Magee
Based on
Produced by
Starring
CinematographyDion Beebe
Edited byWyatt Smith
Music byAlan Menken
Production
company
Distributed byWalt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Release date
May 26, 2023[1]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish

The Little Mermaid is an upcoming American musical fantasy film directed by Rob Marshall from a screenplay written by Jane Goldman and David Magee. It is a production of Walt Disney Pictures and is a live-action adaptation of the 1989 animated film of the same name, which itself is loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen's tale of the same name. It is produced by Rob Marshall, John DeLuca, Marc Platt and Lin-Manuel Miranda, the latter whom co-wrote new songs for the remake as the lyricist, Alan Menken is set to return as the composer for both the score and the songs. The film will star Halle Bailey, Jonah Hauer-King, Javier Bardem and Melissa McCarthy, with Daveed Diggs, Jacob Tremblay, and Awkwafina in voice roles.

The Little Mermaid is scheduled to be released in the United States on May 26, 2023.[1][2][3]

Premise

A young mermaid makes a deal with a sea witch: trading her beautiful voice to get human legs so she can discover the world above water and impress a prince.

Cast

  • Halle Bailey as Ariel, a mermaid princess and King Triton's youngest daughter who is fascinated with the human world.[4]
  • Jonah Hauer-King as Eric, a human prince whom Ariel falls in love with after saving him from drowning, after which he becomes determined to find and marry Ariel.[5]
  • Melissa McCarthy as Ursula, a treacherous sea witch whom Ariel makes a deal with to become a human, which is secretly part of Ursula's plan to conquer Atlantica.[6]
  • Javier Bardem as King Triton, Ariel's overprotective father and the King of Atlantica, who is prejudiced against humans.[7][8]
  • Jude Akuwudike as Grimsby, Eric's loyal butler and confidant, who sees to it that Eric finds the right girl to marry.[9]
  • Lorena Andrea as Perla, a new character for the film.[10]
  • Kajsa Mohammar as Karina, a new character for the film.[10]

Voice actors

  • Daveed Diggs as Sebastian, a loyal crab and King Triton's trusted servant and court composer who watches over Ariel.[5][11]
  • Jacob Tremblay as Flounder, an anxious yet noble tropical fish who is Ariel's best friend.[12]
  • Awkwafina as Scuttle, a dimwitted diving bird and a friend of Ariel's, to whom she provides inaccurate descriptions of any human/surface world object Ariel finds.[6] The character will be portrayed as a female diving bird instead of a male seagull as in the original in order to feature the character in underwater scenes.[13]

Additionally, Noma Dumezweni, Jessica Alexander, Russell Balogh, Adrian Christopher, Emily Coates and Simone Ashley have been cast in undisclosed roles.[14][15][16]

Production

Development

Director and co-producer Rob Marshall (left) and screenwriters Jane Goldman and David Magee

On May 25, 2016, Deadline Hollywood reported that Disney is in early development for a live-action adaptation of The Little Mermaid.[17] On August 16, 2016, it was announced that Lin-Manuel Miranda, a fan of the original film, will co-produce the film with Marc Platt.[18]

On December 6, 2017, it was reported that Rob Marshall was being courted by the Walt Disney Company to direct the film, while Jane Goldman will serve as screenwriter.[19] On December 5, 2018, Marshall revealed that he, along with John DeLuca and Marc Platt were hired to begin developing the project for film adaptation,[20] and said that "John and [Marshall] have begun our work trying to explore it and figure it out", as he felt that "it's a very complicated movie to take from animation to live-action. Live-action's a whole other world so you have to be very careful about how that's done, but so we're starting the exploration phase".[20] Later in December, Marshall was officially hired as director for the film.[21] During an interview on December 21, 2018, Marshall revealed that the film is in very early stages of development, stating that the studio is trying to explore ways to translate the original film's story into live-action.[22] On July 3, 2019, David Magee, who previously wrote the screenplay for Marshall's Mary Poppins Returns, was revealed to have written the script with Goldman.[6] On February 10, 2020, Miranda revealed that rehearsals for the film had already begun.[23]

Casting

Halle Bailey (top left), Javier Bardem, Melissa McCarthy, Daveed Diggs, Jacob Tremblay and Awkwafina (bottom right) will star in the film as Ariel, King Triton, Ursula, Sebastian, Flounder and Scuttle.

Studio veterans Lindsay Lohan and Chris Evans expressed interest in starring in the adaptation, while some fans wanted Ariana Grande to play the role of Ariel. Zendaya however, was rumored to have been offered the title role from late 2018 to early 2019 but continuously stated that it was "Just a rumor".[24][25][26][27]

On June 28, 2019, it was announced that Melissa McCarthy was in talks to play Ursula in the film.[28] Two days after, Awkwafina and Jacob Tremblay were rumored to have been cast in the film voicing a now gender bent Scuttle and Ariel's famous sidekick Flounder respectively, on July 1 this news was confirmed by Variety.[29][30]

The next month, on July 3, Halle Bailey was officially announced through Disney's official social media accounts to play the title role of Ariel, with the director stating:

“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,” - Rob Marshall,[31]

On the same month Javier Bardem joined the cast as King Triton while Harry Styles and Jack Whitehall were considering the role of Prince Eric.[32][7] However, in August 2019 it was revealed that Styles has turned down the part; he revealed in a November interview with Capital FM that there were a "few things" that they couldn't work out, he also stated "I think it's obviously going to be an amazing film, but they shoot for so long and I wanna tour next year, maybe. I haven't announced that yet, but yeah, it just didn't quite line"; however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic the tour did not happen and the role of Prince Eric eventually went to British actor Jonah Hauer-King.[33][34]

Director Rob Marshall said that "[Bailey] 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",[35] and that the film is about "[Ariel] finding her voice […] And that immediately just felt like an interesting, timely piece that resonated with [the production crew]".[6] Bailey said that she wanted to bring "freshness" to the character.[36] She also said that "[i]t's amazing that the directors have been so forward in asking [her] to show [her] true self… that's been a really fun growing experience".[36] Co-star Daveed Diggs said that the remake will give "some more power" to Ariel than the original film.[37]

In October, Daveed Diggs, who previously worked on Miranda's musical Hamilton, joined the cast as the voice of Sebastian the crab.[8] By November 2019, Jonah Hauer-King had been cast as Prince Eric.[5] Cameron Cuffe was also in the running for the role, before Hauer-King was cast; both of which had already screen tested alongside Bailey.[38]

On February 18, 2020, McCarthy confirmed her casting as Ursula during an interview on The Ellen DeGeneres Show: "I play Ursula, the sea witch. It is so fun, we're just in rehearsals. It's been an absolute blast. 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."[39]

In July 2020, it was announced that Kacey Musgraves was considered for the part of Vanessa (Ursula's human form), but she turned down the role.[40] In October 2020, actress Emily Coates joined the film in an undisclosed role.[41] In December 2020, Disney officially announced seven principal actors while also debuting the film's official logo.[42]

On January 5, 2021, Noma Dumezweni was announced to have been cast in an undisclosed role.[43] In a March 29, 2021, interview with Marie Claire Magazine, when asked about her role in the upcoming film, Dumezweni stated, "I can tell you that I'm doing it. I can tell you I'm very excited. I can tell you I had a chat with hair and makeup the other day and it was like, Yay!".[44] In May 2021, it was reported that Dumezweni would be portraying Carlotta and that Jude Akuwudike had been cast as Grimsby. Despite Dumezweni originally being reported as playing a role invented for the remake, Carlotta was, in fact, in the original animated film.[9] On December 29, 2021, during an interview on Facebook’s Talks with Mama Tina, Bailey recalled being scared and nervous while auditioning for the role of Ariel.[45]

Filming

Filming was originally scheduled to begin in London around late March or early April 2020, however, it was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[46][47][48] Set photos at Pinewood Studios in London, England leaked a few weeks after the production was shut down, it showed aerial images featuring Prince Eric's ship as well as indoor images of what seems to be his castle. On July 29, 2020, based on a social media post, Jacob Tremblay began recording his lines for the film.[49] Filming was scheduled to re-commence on August 10, 2020.[50][51][52] However, it was delayed yet again to November/early-December 2020 in order to accommodate Melissa McCarthy's production schedule for the Hulu miniseries Nine Perfect Strangers.[41]

By November 2020, Disney's new CEO Bob Chapek announced that filming on all film that had been postponed during pandemic shutdowns had resumed filming, and in some cases completed principal photography.[53]

In December 2020, McCarthy stated that she would hopefully begin filming in January 2021.[54] The following month, Daveed Diggs discussed the large amount of work he had to do when it came to preparing for and recording dialogue for the role of Sebastian.[55]

Principal photography officially began at Pinewood Studios in Iver, England on January 30, 2021.[56][57] McCarthy's scenes eventually began filming in April 2021.[58] On April 6, it was announced that additional filming would be happening in summer in Sardinia, Italy, for a total of "roughly three months."[59] In June 2021, production was temporarily halted due to multiple crew members of the film contracting COVID-19.[60][61] Filming resumed about a week later and officially wrapped on July 11, 2021.[62][63][64][65] On December 30, 2021, Halle shared some new behind-the-scenes photos of The Little Mermaid set, showing a glimpse of Halle Bailey as Ariel. The actress took to Instagram to wrap up her year and shared photos of moments of filming The Little Mermaid. The first photo showed the film's script, which was blurred to avoid spoilers, but still showed her character name "Ariel" in bold print. One photo showed her swimming in Sardinia's waters, while another showed the process of film-making using CGI.[66]

Visual effects

Visual effects will be provided by Moving Picture Company.[67]

Music

Alan Menken (left) returned as the film's composer and co-wrote new songs alongside Lin-Manuel Miranda (right).

On March 17, 2017, it was announced that Alan Menken, who previously scored and co-wrote songs for the original film, would return as the film's composer and to write new songs alongside producer Lin-Manuel Miranda.[18] Three months later, Menken stated that his work on the film's music had been put on hold due to Miranda and Marc Platt's schedules with Mary Poppins Returns.[68] On May 20, 2019, Menken stated that The Little Mermaid would be his next project, following the release of the live-action adaptation of Aladdin,[69] and on July 9, he and Miranda started working on new songs for the film.[70] On replacing the original film's lyricist, the late Howard Ashman, Miranda felt that "[he] will definitely fall short" to Ashman's work, arguing that "no one can write like him".[71] On September 17, 2019, it was reported that Menken and Miranda wrote a new song for Prince Eric,[72] which Menken confirmed on October 11, 2019, and revealed that he and Miranda wrote "like four or five new songs" for the film, including a new song for Eric and Ariel, a new song for King Triton as well as a song for Scuttle.[73] On January 16, 2020, Halle Bailey confirmed that the song "Part of Your World", from the original film, will appear in the remake.[36] On February 10, 2020, Miranda revealed that he and Menken wrote four new songs for the film.[23] On March 22, 2020, Menken revealed that the songs for the film have already been recorded.[50] On February 19, 2021, Menken said that the new songs would be a "blend" of his and Miranda's styles. He elaborated that the songs would feature "some rapping" in the vein of Miranda's previous works, as well as a closer style to his usual work.[74]

On September 22, 2021, Menken sat down with Disney's For Scores podcast and confirmed that the film will feature four new songs. He also recalled that Miranda was "daunted" by the prospect of following on in the footsteps of the late Howard Ashman, the lyricist who worked with Menken to write the original film's songs.[75] On November 24, 2021, in a recent interview with Collider, Miranda talked about his admiration for The Little Mermaid and how Ashman and Menken helped shape his childhood. He stated that working on this project was a wish fulfillment for him, but that he loves Sebastian's songs so much that he could not write anything new for his character. Miranda goes on to explain that all of the songs fans know and love will still be in the film, but that Menken and he were able to find some moments to introduce original music as well. He said:

"Oh, man. So much of my work on The Little Mermaid was that wish fulfillment. 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 musicalise. That’s really tricky."

— Lin-Manuel Miranda, [76]

On January 20, 2022, Halle spoke with Stylecater, saying "she was so emotional while filming "Part of Your World" [77] she said:

“It was really surreal to film. It was really emotional for me. It was three days of intense being all over the place. I was crying the whole time because I was just like, ‘What the heck?’ We’re all connected to that song and it means a lot to each of us.”

— Halle Bailey

On February 17, 2022, during a podcast interview with Variety, Miranda revealed that one of the new songs for the live-action film will take place when Ariel is on land in her human form. He also revealed that star Daveed Diggs might rap in the film.[78][79]

Release

The film is scheduled to be released on May 26, 2023, in the United States by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.[1][3]

Novelization

Disney will release books based on the live-action remake in April 2023.[80]

References

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