This article contains spoilers
We return under the sea with Ariel, Flounder and Sebastián in ‘The Little Mermaid’, a new version of the Disney animated classic, released in 1989, directed by Rob Marshall and starring Halle Bailey. The remake, as usual in the House of Mouse, presents a mixture of fidelity and renewal that meets the need both to preserve the essence of the original, and to adapt it to the new generations, with all that this entails.
In its transfer to live-action, the film comes with numerous changes compared to the original, whether they are deleted scenes and musical numbers, additional plots to deepen the characters, new secondary characters or modifications to the lyrics to make them more in line with the sensibility. of 2023 and polish some controversial and outdated details of the reference film, one of the most beloved in the history of Disney.
Beyond the exorbitant and unpleasant commotion caused by the choice of a black actress to give life to Ariel (an issue that we will ignore from here on because not only does the story not change, but Bailey takes it upon herself to justify the choice of casting with his interpretation and his voice), Let’s analyze the main differences between the animated ‘The Little Mermaid’ and the live action onealso including some explanations from its director, who reveals the reasoning behind the changes.
As everyone knows, ‘The Little Mermaid’ is based on the story by Hans Christian Andersen, although the 1989 film is a very loose adaptation of it, and therefore its remake as well. Even so, Marshall wanted to start his version by recalling the source material with a lovely quote from the 1837 account: “But a mermaid has no tears, and therefore suffers much more”. The director’s intention, as he reveals in an interview with indiewirewas to bring the film closer to reality and create expectations about the issues that are going to be dealt with in it: “I wanted to reread the original story. The opportunity you have with a live action movie is […] that you can add more breadth, more depth and more emotion to the work”.
One small but important change that takes place in the remake is the fact that Ariel is no longer 16, making her relationship with Eric less problematic. In the new version, Triton’s daughter is 18 years old. (although it is not mentioned in the film, but has been confirmed in the press releases), while the prince is 21 (this information is given in the dialogues).
And here comes one of the most substantial changes with respect to the animated one. The soundtrack of ‘The Little Mermaid’ is one of the most iconic in the history of cinema, but not all songs composed by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman are heard in the remake. Marshall has removed the song of the sailors, the one of the daughters of King Triton and the one of Chef Louis. In reference to the latter, the director reasons his omission to eCartelera as follows: “This film has a different genre and there are things that did not fit well when adapted. The whole part of Chef Louis’s kitchen would never have worked in this film for two reasons : the first is that all that scene of the crab running to avoid being cut up is from an animation typical of comedy cartoons, it would never have worked in a live action; also, it is a break in the middle of the film and what we wanted is that the story will move forward. It works in the animation, but not here.”
Instead, there are three new songs, composed by Alan Menken and Lin-Manuel Miranda. The first is ‘Wild Uncharted Waters’, a ballad for Prince Eric, who did not sing in the original, and which delves into the character and his motivations, functioning as “his own ‘Part of him'”, according to Marshall. to indiewire. The second is ‘For the First Time’, a song that Halle Bailey sings when Ariel reaches the mainland and begins to explore the human world. And the third and final is ‘The Suttlebutt’, an unmistakably Lin-Manuel Miranda comedic rap performed by Awkwafina (Scuttle) and Daveed Diggs (Sebastián), who previously worked with Miranda on ‘Hamilton’.
Changes in the letters
The rest of the songs were completely unthinkable to be left out, but they come with new musical arrangements and minor lyrical modifications to remove problematic elements. As previously announced, in ‘Kiss her’ a line is changed to add the notion of consent (“Possibly she wants to, use your words, boy, and ask her”), keeping the rest pretty much the same. However, the one that has changed the most is ‘Poor souls in disgrace’, Úrsula’s song. Although it is clear that she is the villain and her words cannot be taken literally, Alan Menken has explained that it was decided to remove the part where the sea witch tells Ariel to get out of the sea, men don’t like women who talk. In addition, the part in which Ursula pressures the mermaid to accept her deal has also been changed, to eliminate the idea that Ariel is leaving the sea for a man (although we all know that she already dreamed of doing so before meeting Eric ).
The most important improvement in terms of characters has to do with Eric, who, along with his song, is given a more complete personality and story. In the 2023 version, the prince and the mermaid live parallel lives, sharing a passion for adventure and exploration, she for the land and he for the sea. One of the nicest details is that Eric has his own souvenir cave (in his case a room in the castle), where he keeps memorabilia from the sea. This adds context and makes the reaction to Ariel less superficial.
“We created that whole scene in the library, where they find out that both are interested in other cultures“, says Marshall. “They both want to explore and are adventurous. So they learn to connect that way.”
And in relation to Eric, his plot is also enriched by the presence of his mother, who does not appear in the original. In the remake, Noma Dumezweni plays the queen, revealing that she is the adoptive mother of Eric, whom she precisely rescued from the sea. A nice parallel that, again, adds layers to the character and his relationship with Ariel.
But Eric’s is not the only novelty in terms of family relationships in the film. In the remake we discover that Ariel’s mother was killed by humans, which is why Triton developed such an exacerbated hatred for them, and consequently, the overprotectiveness with which he treats Ariel, which he forbids from coming to the surface. That is to say, with this small detail, it also delves into the king’s motivations and the parent-child relationship that marks a large part of Ariel’s history. And that is not the only novelty, in this rereading a ‘The Lion King’ and they make Ursula and Triton siblings, making the witch move primarily for revenge after being banishedthus making her the marine analogue of Scar.
The contract with Ursula
Returning to the scene of ‘Poor souls in disgrace’, in her pact with Úrsula, Ariel does not sign any contract. But here comes the most striking change, which considerably modifies one aspect of the story: in the remake, Ariel doesn’t remember that she has to kiss the prince in three days to remain human as usual.which adds to the tension and, incidentally, removes that motivation in Ariel, turning her crush on Eric into something more pure.
More scenes on dry land
In general, the biggest news comes in the part outside the sea, which, as we said, has been considerably expanded with previously unpublished scenes to further explore the relationship and, furthermore, add nuances about the rivalry between the marine and human worldsomething that was not in the animated one.
Besides being deprived of the opening concert (which is traded for a bland family reunion), King Triton’s daughters don’t have much of a presence in the film. Of course, they provide a greater diversity compared to the original, since they have different ethnic groups. In addition, they have also changed their names. In the animated one, they were called Attina, Alana, Adella, Aquata, Arista and Andrina (all starting with A, like Ariel). In the new one, they have been renamed as Karina, Tameka, Mala, Caspia, Pearl and India.
Scuttle is not a seagull
If you were surprised to see Scuttle hang out with Ariel and Flounder under the sea, where they have a full conversation, it’s because in the remake, the bird is not a seagull. For the new version, the deliberate decision was made to change the species of the character, who now It is a gannet, a bird with waterproof feathers that can spend long periods under water.. With this change, Marshall wanted Ariel to never have risen to the surface: “She’s never broken that rule, so that adds more tension to the moment when she finally does,” reasons the filmmaker.
Finally, the outcome of ‘The Little Mermaid’ remains broadly faithful to the 1989 film, but there are also variations: instead of getting married, Ariel and Eric go on a trip to explore the world together, leaving the kingdoms of the sea and land on good terms. On the other hand, although the scene in which Triton returns Ariel’s legs is almost the same as in the animated one, in this version, the protagonist does not emerge from the water in a shiny dress. And finally, although Úrsula dies in the same way, impaled by the mast of a ship, who turns to kill him is not Eric, but Ariel.