The Little Mermaid: Cast, plot and reviews as Disney remake makes a splash
Are you ready to part of that (live action) world?
She’s ready to be a part of our world all over again, with the release of the live-action version of The Little Mermaid swimming into cinemas today.
Fans have been speculating what the latest Disney live-action remake will look like since its initial announcement back in 2016, with production officially beginning in early 2021. After being delayed due to the pandemic, the main body of filming took place at London’s famous Pinewood Studios.
Set to define our favourite fictional mermaid in a completely new way, fan opinions have already been divisive through the high-profile production process.
Read more: All the live-action Disney remakes in development
Here’s everything we know about The Little Mermaid so far.
The Little Mermaid release date
The live-action remake of The Little Mermaid is out in UK cinemas today, Friday, 26 May.
Disney fans were made to wait a little longer than expected to head back under the sea, with the film’s original filming schedule being delayed twice by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As of yet, there’s no set home release date for The Little Mermaid, but expect it to make its streaming debut on Disney+.
The Little Mermaid reviews
A couple of days ahead of its official release date, full reviews for Disney's live-action remake of The Little Mermaid began washing ashore – and the verdict is good.
With write-ups praising Halle Bailey's performance of Ariel (including our own), it looks like fans of Disney's original are in for treat.
The film has earned a 73% score on reviews aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes. Read a selection of reviews below.
Yahoo Entertainment: Halle Bailey is a powerhouse in this captivating Disney remake (4 min read)
The Independent: A luminous Halle Bailey aside, this live-action remake stinks (3 min read)
Evening Standard: Halle Bailey makes a real splash in bringing Ariel to life (3 min read)
The Telegraph: an exciting, enveloping remake that deserves to make a splash (4 min read)
Digital Spy: The Little Mermaid is Disney's best live-action remake (4 min read)
The Little Mermaid cast
If there’s one thing the live-action remake of The Little Mermaid makes clear, it’s that the film will feature a heavily star-studded cast.
Read more: Who is Halle Bailey?
In 2019, Bailey, who is best known for being a member of the R&B duo Chloe x Halle, was announced to play the leading role of Ariel.
She’s previously worked with Disney in a role on Let It Shine, with further acting credits including Grown-ish and Last Holiday.
Bridesmaids favourite Melissa McCarthy will star as Ursula, while the role of Prince Eric will be played by Little Women’s Jonah Hauer-King.
Javier Bardem of No Country For Old Men and Skyfall fame will also be appearing as King Triton. Although the film is primarily live-action, there will also be a number of notable voice roles.
Read more: Melissa McCarthy has 'fallen in love' with Ursula
Hamilton’s Daveed Diggs will be taking up the role of Sebastian, while Room star Jacob Tremblay will play opposite as Ariel’s other faithful sidekick Flounder.
Ocean’s 8 actor Awkwafina is additionally voicing the role of Scuttle, changing to a female diving bird rather than the male seagull seen in the original adaptation.
Who are the production team behind The Little Mermaid?
Spearheading the live-action remake of The Little Mermaid is director Rob Marshall.
He’s previously worked on projects including Mary Poppins Returns, Into The Woods, and Chicago, having received Academy Award, BAFTA, and Golden Globe nominations for all three films.
Read more: Original Little Mermaid defends remake casting
Marshall is joined by Hamilton and Encanto songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda, who has confirmed that none of the original hit songs — including Part Of Your World and Kiss The Girl — will be replaced.
Famed composer Alan Menken will also be returning to the project, hinting that there will be “four new songs” in addition to fan favourites.
Marshall and Miranda are also producers for The Little Mermaid, and are joined by Marc Platt and John DeLuca.
What do we know about The Little Mermaid’s plot?
Following in the footsteps of other Disney live-action remakes such as Aladdin and Mulan, fans can expect that most of the main classic elements of The Little Mermaid will remain the same. However, Halle Bailey promises Ariel is much more empowered in the live action remake.
“I’m really excited for my version of the film because we’ve definitely changed that perspective of just her wanting to leave the ocean for a boy,” Bailey told Edition magazine. “It’s way bigger than that. It’s about herself, her purpose, her freedom, her life and what she wants.
“As women we are amazing, we are independent, we are modern, we are everything and above,” she added. “And I’m glad that Disney is updating some of those themes.”
It’s likely the viewers will notice a few small changes along the way, particularly given the inclusion of multiple new songs in the film’s soundtrack. Characters have also been modified to fit the new 2023 cast.
The official Disney synopsis reads:
“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.”
The Little Mermaid early first reactions
First reactions to Disney's live-action adaptation began appearing on social media on Tuesday, 9 May after early screenings of the film, and critics were largely praiseworthy of the new take on the classic on Twitter.
Critics were keen to point out Bailey's star-making turn as Ariel, and also heaped praise on her co-stars like Bardem, McCarthy and Diggs for their performances.
Some pointed out issues with the visual effects, particularly during scenes that took place underwater, with one critic saying that it did look "weak and disjointed."
In terms of the music, meanwhile, most remarked on Bailey's success in her singing, but it was also pointed out that one of the film's new songs featured "too much autotune."
One critic wrote that The Little Mermaid "is a live-action remake that retains the heart and soul of the story we know and love, and it’s elevated even further by a note-perfect star-making performance from Halle Bailey - she was born to be on the big screen, & she’s why this new take is worth watching".
A critic added: "It may look visually rough under the sea, but The Little Mermaid eventually recreates some of the original’s magic through its timeless story & cast. Daveed Diggs & Melissa McCarthy are highlights but Halle Bailey is the one astonishes with her gorgeous singing & empathetic charm"
One person also said: "Endearing but uneven, #TheLittleMermaid doesn’t deliver the magic of the animated classic but there are plenty of creative touches from Rob Marshall to float the audience’s boats. Halle Bailey and Melissa McCarthy are great. Daveed Diggs and Awkwafina provide solid comic relief."
Another critic shared that the film "is the best Disney live-action adaptation to date. Halle Bailey IS Ariel. Major props to the sound effects team. Good changes, though one new song with too much autotune. Could watch this version’s Under the Sea all day, it was the highlight of the whole thing."
It may look visually rough under the sea, but THE LITTLE MERMAID eventually recreates some of the original’s magic through its timeless story & cast. Daveed Diggs & Melissa McCarthy are highlights but Halle Bailey is the one astonishes with her gorgeous singing & empathetic charm pic.twitter.com/DhmmtOLaLJ
— Matt Neglia (@NextBestPicture) May 9, 2023
It’s real simple. Are you excited for #TheLittleMermaid? You’ll like it. It’s exactly what you think it is. Are you skeptical and worried about it? That’s valid too. It looks weird and disjointed. Bailey is great, McCarthy rules, the songs work but it just feels so unnecessary. pic.twitter.com/n4qp7MsVFH
— Germain Lussier (@GermainLussier) May 9, 2023
#TheLittleMermaid is a live-action remake that retains the heart and soul of the story we know and love, and it’s elevated even further by a note-perfect star-making performance from Halle Bailey - she was born to be on the big screen, & she’s why this new take is worth watching. pic.twitter.com/Tcewp2L4MY
— Zoë Rose Bryant (@ZoeRoseBryant) May 9, 2023
#TheLittleMermaid is the best Disney live-action adaptation to date. Halle Bailey IS Ariel. Major props to the sound effects team. Good changes, though one new song with too much autotune. Could watch this version’s Under the Sea all day, it was the highlight of the whole thing.
— Gillian Blum (@GillianBlum) May 9, 2023
Is there a trailer for The Little Mermaid?
Yes. The main trailer for The Little Mermaid was released by Disney on 12 March during the Oscars. Watch it above. It was a huge hit online, according to The Hollywood Reporter, generating 108 million global views over 24 hours making it the biggest trailer for a live action Disney title since 2019's The Lion King.
While some trolls have been downvoting the trailer on YouTube, it also inspired many heartwarming reaction videos from young fans around the world. Talking about the response to the trailers, Bailey said: “Seeing the world’s reaction to it was definitely a shock, but seeing all the babies’ reactions, all the brown and Black young girls, really tore me up emotionally.”
Disney also released a teaser trailer for The Little Mermaid in early September.
The teaser shows a glimpse of the watery world under the sea, hinting at the quality of CGI that fans are likely to see.
Ariel is shown to be swimming through a shipwreck up to the ocean’s surface, singing a few lines from Part Of Your World.
In February 2023, a 30-second TV spot was released revealing more of Ariel's underwater world. Watch it below.
The Little Mermaid is out in UK cinemas now.
Watch: Halle Bailey is an inspiration to young girl