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Disney is Remaking The Little Mermaid with Real Humans

While we won’t be getting a The Little Mermaid adaptation by the director of The Virgin Suicides (for which I would personally give up a kidney), Disney made clear last week that they are moving ahead with their own live-action remake of the iconic 1989 animated film. And the music will be created by incomparable greats Lin-Manuel Miranda and Alan Menken.

Considering that The Little Mermaid‘s score is just about the best thing in existence, it’s nothing short of a relief to have Menken, the original composer himself, on board for the new project. This time he’ll be working his magic alongside the man who is possibly the peak of talent in the current musical stratosphere, Lin-Manuel Miranda. If Disney has done one thing right, it’s starting the crew and casting announcements for this latest project off with an absolute bang.

Now, not to burst that beautiful bubble, but have we already received the best news this new film will have to offer? I re-watched the original this weekend, and it was just SO GOOD. A live-action remake seems kind of redundant when you consider that 90% of the characters are talking animals and will have to be digitally animated anyway. And those that can be played by actual real humans will mostly have animated fish tails. So why make a live-action version at all? I know, I know, the answer is money. Shh.

The film is the latest announcement in a slew of upcoming live-action remakes Disney has in the works, following on from its latest, The Jungle Book. As unbearable as it is to think about Disney trying to live up to its own iconic Little Mermaid standards such as “Under the Sea” with a live-action counterpart, there are most definitely some things that will be different about the remake. Here’s an assumption, a prediction, and a hope-against-odds about the new film:

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Assumption: Ursula will not be impaled by the bow of a ship

Spoiler alert for anyone who somehow didn’t see the original 1989 film, but Ursula the Sea Witch dies after Eric steers the bow of his ship right through her belly. Director of the live-action Pete’s Dragon remake David Lowery spoke recently about a few things that Disney has banned from their films in writing; and since The Little Mermaid, impalement is one of them. Not really surprising since that scene is quite horrifying regardless of your age. I think it’s safe to assume that rather than leave the bow impalement to audience’s imaginations, Disney will rework the ending entirely and have Ursula’s end brought about some other way.

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Prediction: Disney will shy away from the Dark and Gritty

As much as I’d like to see Disney embrace some of the darker elements of Hans Christian Andersen’s original fairy tale, such as the little mermaid’s struggle to walk due to the jagged pain she feels with each step, I don’t think that Disney will be straying too far from their own version. The fact is, Disney will already be competing with Working Title and Universal’s version of the Andersen story. As I mentioned previously it won’t be directed by Sofia Coppola, but a script by Richard Curtis has been penned, Chloe Grace Moretz cast, and director Rebecca Thomas slated. It’s likely that this film will get cosier with the source material, so I imagine Disney will want to stick to their own guns and stay true to their magical fairy tale image. Which isn’t entirely a bad thing; if you’ve seen the original film or perhaps visited the Little Mermaid theme park ride at California Adventure Park, you’ll know just how beautiful, colorful and simply delightful The Little Mermaid can be. Striving to recapture their own magic is probably the best decision that Disney can make at this point. And if this original Beauty and the Beast trailer recut to match the upcoming film anything to go by, that’s exactly what they’ll do.

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Hope: The remake includes more positive female interactions

Despite having six sisters, Ariel all but doesn’t interact with them. All of her friends are male — Flounder, Scuttle, Sebastian — and that’s not even counting the relationships with her father and Eric. The only woman she really spends any time with Ursula, the Class A Villain. I’m not asking for any gender-bending (although now that I mention it a female version of Flounder might be nice), but with the runtime likely to stretch in the live-action version, more screen time for some female characters would be a welcome addition. The fairy tale love story might be sweet (I’ll never get over that Kiss the Girl scene I tell ya), strengthening the feminine agency of the story would strengthen the film overall. That’s what we love about our little mermaid after all — her independence, curiosity, ambitiousness and sense of adventure. More of that, please.

There’s no news yet on casting or who will claim the director’s chair, but that leaves us plenty of time for more predictions. Share your hopes and dreams for this adaptation in the comments.


Images courtesy of Disney

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Erin Latimer is writer whose specialties include film analysis, television and gaming reviews, and re-examining movies from her childhood through a lens of feminist fan practices and queer theory.

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