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The Little Mermaid: Release Date, Trailer, Cast & More

We break down the plot, the cast, the music, the release date, and more.

by | May 24, 2023 | Comments


In just a few short weeks, the live-action remake of Disney’s The Little Mermaid will be part of our world. Ariel has been swimming around for more than a century, ever since Danish author Hans Christian Andersen wrote the fairy tale in 1837, but the 1989 animated film is by far the most iconic and beloved iteration of the story. So it’s no surprise that Disney would once more wish to go under the sea for this highly anticipated remake. Before diving in, here’s everything we know about The Little Mermaid — every last gadget, gizmo, whozit, whatzit, and thingamabob.

We’ve Gotten Two Trailers

The first teaser trailer (shown above), which is mostly atmospheric shots of the film’s underwater setting followed by the brief reveal of actress Halle Bailey’s Ariel singing a bit of “Part of Your World,” debuted in September of last year.

The second trailer, which is much longer and shows off more of the plot and the film’s other characters, made its debut in March during the Academy Awards. (Literally during the awards, not during a commercial break. The Oscars were on ABC and Disney owns that network. Corporate synergy!)

Who’s in the Cast?

Halle Bailey in The Little Mermaid (2023)

(Photo by ©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

Halle Bailey, an actress and singer who was previously best known for her musical career as one half of Chloe x Halle along with her sister, Chloe Bailey, plays the titular little mermaid. Her casting was announced in July of 2019, and there was, sadly but seemingly inevitably, racist backlash to the news. Jonah Hauer-King, an English actor known for his role in A Dog’s Way Home, plays Ariel’s love interest Prince Eric, though the role almost went to another singer-turned-actor, Harry Styles. Melissa McCarthy plays Ursula, the half-octopus sea witch who tricks Ariel into giving up her voice, and Javier Bardem plays Ariel’s father King Triton.

Ariel’s animal friends have big-name actors behind them, too. Room and Luca star Jacob Tremblay voices Flounder, while comedian and The Farewell star Awkwafina voices Scuttle, Ariel’s bird friend. (In the ‘89 animated film, Scuttle was a seagull, but here she’s some sort of ocean diving bird instead.) Hamilton star Daveed Diggs voices Sebastian, King Triton’s right-hand-crab.

Art Malik plays Grimsby, Prince Eric’s butler, and Noma Dumezweni plays Queen Selina, a new character exclusive to the live-action film. Ariel’s sisters have all been renamed, as well. There’s Lorena Andrea as Perla; Simone Ashley as Indira; Kajsa Mohammar as Karina; Nathalie Sorrell as Caspia; Karolina Conchet as Mala; and Sienna King as Tamika. Jessica Alexander, Russell Balogh, Emily Coates, John Dagleish, and Adrian Christopher also appear in as-yet-undisclosed roles.

What’s the Story?

Halle Bailey and Jonah Hauer-King in The Little Mermaid (2023)

(Photo by ©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

The plot of The Little Mermaid should be pretty familiar to anybody who grew up in the ‘90s or later (or who had children they showed The Little Mermaid to.) It’s basically the same as the ‘89 film, which itself is only loosely inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale — which has a much darker ending than the movie.

Here’s the official synopsis, per Disney:

The Little Mermaid is the beloved story of Ariel, a beautiful and spirited young mermaid with a thirst for adventure. The youngest of King Triton’s daughters and the most defiant, Ariel longs to find out more about the world beyond the sea, and while visiting the surface, falls for the dashing Prince Eric. While mermaids are forbidden to interact with humans, Ariel must follow her heart. She makes a deal with the evil sea witch, Ursula, which gives her a chance to experience life on land, but ultimately places her life — and her father’s crown — in jeopardy.”

What’s intriguing is that despite having the same basic plot as the ‘89 movie, the ‘23 Little Mermaid is a full hour longer than the animated original. The animated Little Mermaid is a tight 83 minutes long, while the live-action is two hours and 15 minutes. Exactly what will happen in that extra hour has yet to be revealed, though chances are the new characters and an expanded role for Ariel’s sisters will pad out the runtime.

It’s Still a Musical (with Some Minor Tweaks)

The 1989 Little Mermaid is credited with kicking off the so-called “Disney Renaissance,” a decade-long period from 1989 to 1999 when the company was reinvigorated and produced some of its most critically and commercially acclaimed work. The songs, penned by composer Alan Menken for the original Little Mermaid, are a key part of what makes the film so beloved, but he won’t be solely responsible for the film’s soundtrack. Remember, a movie musical can’t get nominated for a Best Original Song Oscar if the song isn’t, well, original. That’s why most of these remakes have a brand new song or two in there somewhere.

With that in mind, the studio has enlisted the help of hitmaker and Disney veteran Lin-Manuel Miranda to collaborate with Menken on some new songs, which reportedly blend their two styles together. Miranda has been a longtime admirer of Menken, and he has previously spoken about his love specifically for The Little Mermaid, so the partnership was a bit of wish fulfillment for him. The combination of the classic Menken tunes and the new ones crafted for the live-action film should result in a bit of a box office boost.

That said, some of the lyrics to the classic songs have been altered. Speaking to Vanity Fair, Menken revealed that a few of the lyrics to Ursula’s villain song “Poor Unfortunate Souls” and “Kiss the Girl” have been changed, acknowledging that there were some problematic elements in the original lyrics that they wished to revise.

When Does It Open?

Poster art for The Little Mermaid (2023)

(Photo by ©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

The Little Mermaid, directed by Rob Marshall, will premiere in theaters on May 26. It’s the major release of the weekend, with only the A24 comedy-drama You Hurt My Feelings and Gerard Butler’s War on Terror action flick Kandahar serving as (meager) competition to Disney’s latest. Fast X and Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse open the preceding and following weekend, respectively, but The Little Mermaid will likely make a splash despite a crowded summer release calendar.

Eventually, The Little Mermaid will be available to watch on Disney+, though when exactly it will hit the streaming platform has yet to be revealed. Between 45 and 90 days after the theatrical release has tended to be the pattern in the past.

The Little Mermaid opens in theaters on May 26, 2023. Get your tickets now

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