Disney’s The Little Mermaid is onto big things


Image courtesy of Disney.

The live action version of Disney’s The Little Mermaid (2023) brings all of the magic from the original movie to real life, with additional elements that bring this movie to another level of moviemaking. 

Drawing exactly from the original cartoon, Ariel, played by Halle Bailey, embodies the beauty, strength, and wonder that has inspired generations of Disney princess lovers. Bailey left every viewer speechless with her vocals in the iconic song “Part of Your World,” and brought every emotion to the screen throughout her performance.

Opposing Ariel was her aunt, Ursula. The infamous sea witch was played by Melissa McCarthy and was a wicked combination of sinister and satire. McCarthy’s performance strayed from her usual heartwarming, goofy roles such as in Gilmore Girls (2000-2007) and The Heat (2013). Similar to her vocals in “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” McCarthy’s acting range was proven unparalleled.

The live-action mermaids and talking seagulls were only a piece of what made this movie so magical. The majority of the original songs were included, such as “Under the Sea,” and “Kiss the Girl.” They brought not only beautiful cinematography, but were fun sing-alongs.

One song and character that was, unfortunately, cut out completely was Chef Louis’ song “Les Poissons,” which was supposed to take place on Eric and Vanessa’s wedding boat, which also did not exist. However, there were new surprises throughout the movie that attempted to fill in gaps from the original and helped make this live-action its own, innovative, masterpiece. 

There were three new songs created for the live-action. With lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, each song brought new characters and emotions to life throughout the film. 

Scuttle, voiced by Awkwafina, performed “The Scuttlebutt,” with Sebastian, voiced by Daveed Diggs. Any “Hamilton,” fan would instantly recognize this as Miranda’s work, as the rap verse brought a different vibe than the rest of the movie. 

“For the First Time,” performed by Bailey as Ariel, was a clever way of letting the audience hear Ariel’s thoughts even though she wasn’t supposed to speak. While the song itself wasn’t anything special, the more Bailey’s singing was featured, the better.

One of the biggest and best surprises in the live-action was Prince Eric, played by Jonah Hauer-King, getting his own solo. “Wild Unchartered Waters,” was not merely a powerful production, but Hauer-King’s vocals were completely unexpected, compared to his basic lines in “Fathoms Below,” which he sang earlier in the movie. 

Not only was Hauer-King’s solo extraordinary but it added depth to Eric’s character. In the original cartoon, Eric was simply the shiny-teethed, basic love interest. However, through the lyrics of his song, the audience gets more content and insight about Eric and his true passions, which was refreshing. 

The entire on-land storyline was developed beautifully from the cartoon. The coastal castle scenes were filmed off of the island of Sardinia, which perfectly captured the aesthetic of The Little Mermaid, and represented exactly why Ariel wanted to go to land so badly.

The carefully placed details in the castle were delightful to the eye and would excite any history buff or hopeless romantic. Examining maps in the drawing room or hiding from guards behind pillars were original scenes in the live-action that really added to the relationship between Eric and Ariel, and developed both of their characters in a heartwarming way.

Just outside the castle was the village, which exposes Ariel to different music, food, and more human devices (including the real use for a ‘dinglehopper’). Ariel’s carriage ride with Eric was a fun addition to the movie that emphasized the delights of being human, to both Ariel and the audience. 

With all of this excitement on land, disappointments were left under the sea. Flounder was the lovable sidekick in the 1989 original cartoon, however, between then and now Flounder has become discolored and starved. Not only this but he wasn’t featured nearly as much as he should have been, as he was essential to Ariel’s plotline. 

However, Daveed Diggs as Sebastian created a sensational performance throughout the film. While voicing a small crab, Diggs knew how to make himself heard and kept classic songs such as “Under the Sea,” and “Kiss the Girl,” true to their original essence while bringing new excitement to the screen. 

The casting was overall exceptional. Jessica Alexander as Vanessa, Ursula’s human form, was practically a mirror to the original, and her performance was perfectly evil. 

Ariel’s sisters, each represented one of the seven seas, which was a creative addition to the plot that brought significance to the Coral Moon event and the royal family as a whole. 

Compared to the on-land scenes, the underwater scenes with Ariel were equally as beautiful. From the action-packed shark escape in the abandoned ship to Ariel’s collection room of human objects, each location underwater was structured beautifully and fit the tone of each scene with corresponding colors. 

The Little Mermaid (2023) hit every important component that an iconic Disney movie needed to make. Beautiful cinematography, spot-on casting, and powerful musical moments made this movie an unforgettable experience, and a perfect movie to start the summer.