Back Under the Sea: Live Action Little Mermaid Comes To the Big Screen

The Little Mermaid, the quintessential 1989 Disney princess (in my very biased opinion), is coming to the big screen this upcoming Memorial day weekend and little girls everywhere are very excited!


For anyone who may have lived under a rock in the 1990s, Little Mermaid is about a mermaid named Ariel who wishes to be human so she can be with a handsome prince she saved from drowning. Her father, King Triton, hates humans and will not allow her to go on land, so she goes to the sea witch and exchanges her very lovely singing voice for legs. She then has three days to convince Prince Eric to fall in love with her, without being able to speak the entire time. From a feminist perspective, one might say it’s not a great image to send to young girls. However, going a bit deeper, I’ve always seen it as more of a coming-of-age story than anything else. It’s about being young and leaving the nest, so to speak, which means being quite helpless at first. And Ariel is a princess, so she comes from a very sheltered environment — hence the rude awakening on land. Plus, she doesn’t have a mother to advise her that perhaps it’s not the greatest idea to leave your entire family to be with a man you barely know (I go really into the whole motherless princess trope here).

But hey, she’s a teenager. She probably wouldn’t have listened anyway.

THE LITTLE MERMAID, from left: Ariel, Prince Eric, 1989

In the original Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale on which the Disney film was based on, the mermaid is actually motivated not by love but by a desire to have an immortal soul, which only humans can get, and not mermaids. The prince is merely an avenue to this goal. In this version, the prince marries someone else. She ends up neither human nor mermaid, but rather some ethereal earthbound spirit, because she cannot convince the prince to marry her but also won’t kill him, as is requested by the sea witch in order to become a mermaid again.

The Disney version is definitely more kid appropriate. And the music is great!

THE LITTLE MERMAID, Halle Bailey as Ariel, 2023.

In this upcoming non-animated version of The Little Mermaid, Ariel will be played by Grown-ish‘s Halle Bailey, and Melissa McCarthy will portray the sea witch Ursula, while Javier Bardem will give a slightly new look and vibe to King Tritan. With the original 1989 Little Mermaid composer Alan Menken combining forces with Hamilton and Encanto‘s Lin-Manuel Miranda on board, the soundtrack is sure to be a hit.

The Little Mermaid will premiere in theaters on Friday, May 26, and will be available on Disney+ later in summer.

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