Peter King, whose skills on The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King won him an Oscar in 2003, responded to blowback over Ursula's look for director Rob Marshall's live-action re-telling of Disney's animation classic — including those who've said that a member of the LGBTQIA+ community should've been hired in his place, given historical context surrounding McCarthy's character.
"I find that very offensive," King told Insider. "Why can't I do as good a job as a queer makeup artist?"
Disney; Tom Gates/Hulton Archive/Getty Melissa McCarthy as Ursula in 'The LIttle Mermaid'; Divine
Alan Menken — who worked on the music for the 1989 Little Mermaid movie — previously confirmed to EW that the original Ursula character (voiced by the late Pat Carroll) was crafted with inspiration from drag legend Divine, who starred in numerous John Waters movies before dying in 1988. That led to many noting that a queer artist should've been involved in McCarthy's transformation — or, that a drag queen should've been cast in the role over the Oscar-nominated Bridesmaids performer.
"That's ridiculous. That's trying to claim it and that's fine, if that's what they wanna do, but don't put people down because they're not what they want it to be," King continued. "I personally don't get it. Yes, I'm very old now, so that's fine, I get that too, but you know, a makeup artist or makeup designer could design makeup, they don't have to have an attachment to the nature of what they're doing."
- absolutely why we should hire up and coming queer artists with a pulse on the present and a vision for the future more often. Yes I agree, this is that.
— Kerri Elyse Colby (@kerricolby) May 17, 2023
After Disney released a video showing off McCarthy's transformation in mid-May, the internet lambasted King's makeup.
"Absolutely why we should hire up and coming queer artists with a pulse on the present and a vision for the future more often," Kerri Colby, who competed on RuPaul's Drag Race season 14, wrote on Twitter under a video of McCarthy's transformation shared by fellow Drag Race alum Denali.
Vanessa van Cartier as Ursula for première the little mermaid!
Thank you @mamaqueen for creating thins amazing costume and @cheseaboy for doing my makeup!!! #drag #dragqueen #ursula #disney pic.twitter.com/OXj62dmS7I
— Vanessa van cartier (@Vanessavancart2) May 24, 2023
Still, Disney welcomed several drag performers to The Little Mermaid events, including Drag Race season 11 Miss Congeniality winner Nina West (who portrayed Divine in the 2022 film Weird: The Al Yankovic Story) and Drag Race Holland winner Vanessa Van Cartier.
"I'm a huge, huge fan of drag shows and the whole art of it and the entertainment of it," McCarthy previously told EW, noting that she used drag performers as inspiration for her take on Ursula. "I've been going to shows since I was not supposed to be going to shows. There's a drag queen that lives in me. I'm always right on the verge of going full time with her."
The Little Mermaid — starring Halle Bailey as Ariel — is now playing in theaters.
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