Making a splash, “The Little Mermaid” hits the big screens


Beaming with smiles, Ariel is full of happiness with her new life on land. (Photo courtesy of IMDb)

Gabriella Rouas

Layered with discussion and controversy, the 2023 live action movie, “The Little Mermaid”, released on May 26, has strayed from the original Disney animated film. Along with these differences, the original mermaid fairytale is still a core aspect of the film. A nostalgic trip back to childhood movies, the live action Little Mermaid is filled with beautiful songs, stunning visuals and a diverse cast that breaks the mold of the traditional “white” Disney princess.

Actress Halle Bailey perfectly embodies every aspect of Ariel’s character. Her beautiful locks of red hair flowing through the water, along with the dreamy costumes and shiny fins, perfectly fit anyone’s childhood memory of “The Little Mermaid”. Bailey also has the ideal voice to encapsulate Ariel, with her gentle and charming tone flawlessly executing the songs featured in the original movie such as “Part of Your World” and “Under the Sea”. The movie also introduces new songs like, “Wild Uncharted Waters”, sung by Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King). The movie contains a new musical number every five or so minutes throughout its 135 minute duration, which can be tiring to hear in short periods of time but caters towards its younger demographic.
Equally as important, the 2023 “The Little Mermaid” has differences from the original without straying too far away from its origins. There is an increased focus on Prince Eric’s backstory, which gives a new perspective to the characters and overarching story. The original version’s song, “Kiss the Girl” has lyric changes to make it more consensual. The original lyrics read, “There is one way to ask her, it don’t take a single word, not a single word, go on and kiss the girl”. The lyrics from the 2023 version say, “Possible she want you too, use your words, boy, and ask her”, which leaves a positive impression on younger children watching.

Gazing at a map, Ariel and Prince Eric’s spark continues to grow. (Photo courtesy of IMDb)

With different additions to the plot and concepts of the film, the ending of the movie is satisfying and checks all the boxes for a happily ever after.
As a black actor, Bailey’s race was pushed to the forefront of the movie’s debut, and the casting choice led to extreme amounts of racist backlash. A tweet by one user @GerardMannequin read, “Thanks for ruining my favorite Disney Classic, not fair…she does not look physically like ARIEL! Please don’t mess with the most beautiful classic”. Another tweet by another profile @manulazar read, “The mermaid is white, period”. Even with this criticism, Bailey’s casting lets children see a Black Disney Princess on the big screen. Bailey expressed this revolutionary aspect, saying, “What truly strikes my heart and makes me just cry are seeing the reactions of the babies and the children and the beautiful Black, brown boys and girls who see themselves in this character, in this new version of Ariel,” Bailey says. “And that honestly, is what I focus on, what makes me the happiest”. The cast’s diverse demographic creates the hope of a set precedent for further inclusion in future Disney films.
The beautiful underwater visuals combined with excellent casting will allow this movie to leave an enduring impact on younger audiences. Disney’s new inclusivity should be celebrated, and audiences should hold them accountable to continue this pattern with future films.