The Little Mermaid is a fairy tale written by the Danish author Hans Christian in 1837 and first published as part of a collection of stories for children.

Walt Disney’s The Little Mermaid was an animated musical fantasy originally planned in the late 1930s as one of Disney’s earliest feature films, although it was never made until 1989.

This year’s The Little Mermaid comes to us as a live-action remake. It also breaks down some long-established barriers, especially with its diverse casting.

As the star, powerhouse vocalist Halle Bailey (one-half of the R&B sister duo Chloe x Halle) debuts as Ariel, a mermaid who until now has always been portrayed as being white.

Director Rob Marshall and the scriptwriters, happy to shatter stereotypes, also seized the opportunity to better flesh out Ariel’s love: “The role of Eric in the animated film — I’m sure the original creators will agree with this — is a wooden, classic prince character with not a lot going on,” says Marshall.

“There’s a whole story that’s developed in our film. He has a very similar trajectory in a way to Ariel: He doesn’t feel like he fits in, in his world. These two kindred spirits find each other and really teach the world about prejudice and about breaking down barriers and walls between these two worlds.”

When casting Ariel for The Little Mermaid, Marshall stresses there were no well-defined agendas controlling matters.

“We just were looking for the best actor for the role … The goal was to find someone who can be passionate, beautiful, smart, and clever, and with a great deal of fire and joy.”

Naturally, top-notch vocal skills were also a primary requirement.

“That voice is something that is so signature and so ethereal and so beautiful that it captures the heart of Eric,” explains Marshall.

In Disney’s 2023 release, we are again offered the beloved story of Ariel, the beautiful and resolute young mermaid possessing both bravado and a thirst for adventure. The youngest daughter of King Triton (Javier Bardem), headstrong Ariel longs to find out more about the world beyond her familiar sea.

In doing so, she becomes smitten with the dashing human prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King). Mermaids are forbidden to interact with humans, but Ariel chooses to follow her heart and makes a deal with the evil sea witch Ursula (Melissa McCarthy).

This gives the underwater adventurer a chance to experience life on land, but ultimately it also places Ariel’s life — and her father’s crown — in jeopardy.

The Little Mermaid opens nationwide on May 26.


Randal C. Hill enjoys getting sneak peeks of forthcoming movies from his home on the Oregon coast. He can be reached at

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