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Disney’s live-action “The Little Mermaid” cast + filmmakers chat about bringing the tale to new depths

Disney’s live-action version of “The Little Mermaid” is getting an early positive buzz before its release, and the cast and filmmakers like to think they knew it would be received well all along.

“We’ve been working on the film for four years now, but during the entire process and even now, it already felt special,” said director Rob Marshall during the film’s virtual press conference. “No studio really invests in doing musicals anymore, but Disney with leaders like Bob Iger (CEO) and Sean Bailey (president of production) believes in us and supporting the artists who still take the risk in doing them. We needed to do this right,” he said.

Many of the stars of the live-action retelling echoed their creative leader, giving many reasons why audiences have received it well already.

“I remember hearing the reactions during the world premiere screening in Hollywood,” said producer John DeLuca. “I think the entirety of the film, even with its new elements, is connecting well with fans: past and present.”

Some of those new elements include diversity in the cast that is reflected in the characters, both new and classic, as well. “Everyone deserves to see themselves on screen. It just so happens to be that these diverse actors give great performances as well,” said Awkwafina who voices Scuttle in the film.

Added Melissa McCarthy who portrays a very villainous Ursula in the film about her fellow cast members, “You all have given more humanity to these characters and that is arguably the best part of our adaptation,” McCarthy said.

However, each of the cast members did have to highlight one among them who they feel they were following the lead of Halle Bailey. This would be Bailey’s first film role, but not her first time performing in the entertainment business. She and her sister, Chloe, were musical artists who early on got on Beyonce’s radar because of their musical talent.

Many of Bailey’s cast mates couldn’t believe how incredible her voice and acting were on set, namely Jonah Hauer-King, who played opposite of her as Prince Eric. “I was such a fan of hers before we even met, which I think only played well for our chemistry on-screen,” he said. Hauer-King also thought adding a level of depth in character for Prince Eric also added to the audience’s reception.

“What was fun [about Eric and Ariel connection in this version of the tale] was the friendship and almost kindred spirits both of them have at the beginning and how they were wired to always look outward,” he said. “That friendship sparks that romance and I think a lot of people can relate to that.”

As for Bailey herself, she still can’t believe that she got this opportunity to play Ariel, saying that she just wanted to “honor the legacy and longing that Ariel gives to so many girls to this day.”

Disney Legend and Broadway songwriter Alan Menken who, together with his late creative partner Howard Ashman, wrote the songs for The Little Mermaid animated film also worked on the music for the live-action version with Lin-Manuel Miranda. Speaking about Bailey, he could only affirm how perfect her casting was.

“She’s adorable and so incredibly talented. The emotion is right there and she shares that fullness with all of us in her performance and who she just is. She is Ariel!,” Menken said.

Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” becomes part of our world once again with the live-action film hitting theaters on May 26 and later exclusively on Disney+.


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