Disney's The Little Mermaid (Live-Action Remake)

Jake Lipson

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It looks like Disney is getting closer to starting on the remake of The Little Mermaid. They've offered the director's chair to Rob Marshall, who has made four musicals for Disney already: the TV version of Annie from the late '90s, Chicago (for then-Disney-owned Mirimax), Into the Woods and, most recently, Mary Poppins Returns, which opens next Christmas. He also made Nine for TWC and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides for Disney. And, while it is probably least relevant to this discussion of all of his films, there's also Memoirs of a Geisha, which I liked.

Following the success of Beauty and the Beast, I suspected that this would be offered to either Bill Condon (who has since committed to The Bride of Frankenstein at Universal) or Marshall,

Deadline says he will take until after the holidays to decide, which is reasonable, but I really hope he takes it. This also would seem to indicate that Disney is happy with what they've seen roll in from Mary Poppins, which is good, too.

http://deadline.com/2017/12/the-lit...hoice-disney-mary-poppins-returns-1202220650/

The other big add for this film of someone who wasn't there before is that Lin-Manuel Miranda (of Moana and, of course, Hamilton) will be the lyricist for new songs, succeeding the dearly departed Howard Ashman. Glenn Slater, who was the lyricist for new material in the Broadway show, does not appear to be involved, so the new songs he worked on are probably not being used. Lin is a huge Little Mermaid fanboy, for lack of a better term, and even named his son Sebastian after the crab, so his involvement is a plus to me, because as a fan of the original he will advocate for it to be protected and respected. And of course Alan Menken is providing the score again.

My feeling on this remake is the same as the other ones we've recently been discussing. They don't need to do it, but there's no point in getting argumentative about that, since they are going to do it. As long as it's happening, I'm choosing to get excited, and I am glad that, so far, they are assembling a group of top talent to do it.

No release date has yet been set for the remake, but given that Disney's slate is pretty full until then, I would guess 2020 or 2021, which also gives them plenty of time to work on it.
 
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Jake Lipson

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Deadline originally reported the Marshall news, but Variety's story on same adds that "Jane Goldman wrote the script."

http://variety.com/2017/film/news/little-mermaid-reboot-disney-rob-marshall-1202632266/

I wasn't aware that there was a script yet, but I like Jane Goldman's name being attached to it. She is a frequent writing partner with Matthew Vaughn, including X-Men: Fist Class, Kick-Ass and Kingsman. But most relevant to The Little Mermaid, I think, is that she co-wrote Vaughn's fantasy adventure romance film, Stardust, which unfortunately bombed ten years ago. But it is one of my favorite films and, if Goldman is going to tap into that sensibility again, we could be in for a treat with her doing Mermaid.

If you haven't seen Stardust, you really should -- it's streaming on Prime for anyone curious, or of course the Blu-ray is cheap now since it's a catalog title. Here's the link: https://www.amazon.com/Stardust-Cha...=UTF8&qid=1512596776&sr=8-2&keywords=stardust
 
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TJPC

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We recently saw the live action touring company and really did not like it at all. (Why am I so negative lately?!). Well to be fair really, two adults in their 60s is not the target audience.

The little girls, especially those dressed as Ariel, seemed to love it. Unlike the live musical of Beauty and The Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, and Shrek however, there was very little to appeal to adults at all.
 

Jake Lipson

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We recently saw the live action touring company and really did not like it at all..
I saw the tour recently as well. Diana Huey as Ariel is an absolute boss. They would be smart to consider hr for the movie role, but they probably won't because they'll want someone who is a big name. That being said, I think the staging and especially the book of the musical are deeply flawed.

Like Beauty and the Beast, I also don't think the film remake is going to use anything from the stage production at all, which won't be a huge loss in my opinion. "If Only" is the best of the added songs for the show, but they'll nix it and have Ariel silent for the whole second part of the film, as they should. (For those who don't know, in the stage production, Ariel sings in multiple parts of the second half after she traded her voice away to Ursula, but they are her internal thoughts which only she and the audience can hear.)

The new film will have the advantage of CGI and multiple takes, so it won't have to deal with the stagebound question of how to make a live-action of mermaids and sea animals that doesn't look ridiculous.
 

Jake Lipson

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I'd feel a little better about this pointless endeavor if Bill Condon were directing it instead.
I figured that Disney would offer it to either Bill Condon or Rob Marshall, but Bill Condon signed to direct Bride of Frankenstein for Universal, so he's busy.

He also may not have wanted to go directly from Beauty and the Beast into another Disney live-action remake.

I think Marshall is equally talented, especially with musicals, and he has done several of those for Disney very successfully, so I think he's the right choice. I just hope he says yes, as I don't think his deal is officially closed.
 
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MatthewA

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I disagree about Marshall. I find his films dull as dishwater and I recall reading Steven Spielberg now regrets hiring him for Memoirs of a Geisha. I've never seen anything of his I liked besides Chicago, and Condon's smart adaptation had a lot to do with it. With this he will have remade two of my favorite films along with enabling Angela Lansbury to waste her talents in something that's beneath her or anyone with talent.

And with Iger extending his contract yet again to 2021, we can expect more of the same, especially with the remakes. If you make exceptions for one, you enable all the others. There have been modestly-budgeted original films such as Queen of Katwe and Million Dollar Arm but they get minimal publicity. Those are the kinds of movies they should be making more of.

Condon doing Bride of Frankenstein is his way of bringing Gods and Monsters full circle. So he will accept another remake, it's just that that particular one was more personal to him.
 
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Jake Lipson

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Condon doing Bride of Frankenstein is his way of bringing Gods and Monsters full circle. So he will accept another remake, it's just that that particular one was more personal to him.
Yes, but it's not in the Disney remake machine, and it won't have to be as close to the original, unless he wants it to be. There's a world of stylistic differences between Beauty and the Beast and Bride of Frankenstein. Had Condon chosen to do The Little Mermaid next, it would have been very similar in tone and style to what he did on Beauty and the Beast. Even though Bride of Frankenstein is another remake, it will require him to use a different set of muscles than Beauty and the Beast did.

I find his films dull as dishwater and I recall reading Steven Spielberg now regrets hiring him for Memoirs of a Geisha.
Your feelings about Marshall's films are yours, and that's fine. I disagree, but that's fine. That being said, I think Memoirs of a Geisha is the least relevant of all of his films to this particular discussion, because it is neither a musical nor a Disney film. Marshall has demonstrated his natural ability to make film musicals, and to make a product that Disney likes. He is a much more conventional and safe choice for The Little Mermaid than Guy Ritchie is for Aladdin. This isn't meant as a criticism of him at all -- just that The Little Mermaid is very much in his wheelhouse, and I at least am confident and comfortable with him being the director of the remake.

But again: Disney has yet to officially confirm that Marshall has accepted the job. Deadline's earlier report said only that they made him an offer. He could still say no, although I hope he says yes.

On another note, Facebook reminded me of this video from two years ago (during Lin-Manuel Miranda's run with the original cast of Hamilton), in which Lin and Alan Menken performed some Little Mermaid stuff together. Considering that Lin is now the new lyricist for the remake, it puts this video in something of a different context. It's a very pleasant watch, and I'm delighted to know that Lin, who is such a passionate fan of the original, is going to be the one creating new lyrics, because I'm sure he will hold himself and the production to as high of a standard as I would.

 
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Jake Lipson

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Conventional and safe. I rest my case.
Sometimes conventional and safe is exactly what you need. I'm not sure I would want some avant-garde approach to The Little Mermaid. Certainly, Condon did a fairly traditional take on Beauty and the Beast, and that worked.

Guy Ritchie has me a little bit concerned about Aladdin -- he would not have been my choice for it -- but I'm still looking forward to the movie. The Little Mermaid being in conventional, safe hands is fine by me, because I know Rob Marshall will do a good job and be respectful of the source material and do a movie I think is good. Guy Ritchie could be interesting, but it could also go a lot of other ways, and Marshall would bring a sense of traditional security to this project that I don't think Aladdin can necessarily be guaranteed with Ritchie.
 

MatthewA

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I was not that impressed with what I saw of Beauty and the Beast. It looked too slavishly devoted to the original 1991 film to breathe, and what looked charming with traditional animation looked creepy in CGI. And autotune makes everything it touches musically worthless with no exceptions. I will not watch Glee for that reason (and others).
 
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Jake Lipson

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I was not that impressed with what I saw of Beauty and the Beast. It looked too slavishly devoted to the original to breathe
Okay, so if you didn't like that movie, which was directed by Bill Condon, then why would you prefer him to Marshall for Mermaid?

The Disney remakes are never going to stray too far from the original. nor would most audiences want them to. These films walk a tightrope, because new elements, especially new music, are to be expected, but if they stray too far from the structure of the original, it risks alienating fans. This goes back to what I was saying with Bride of Frankenstein. Because that movie is significantly older and from another era, Condon has more license to do whatever he wants with it. Because Beauty and the Beast is much more recent, and beloved to a generation of younger people, it comes with a set of expectations that are not quite as stringent when you're remaking something from 1935.
 

MatthewA

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Okay, so if you didn't like that movie, which was directed by Bill Condon, then why would you prefer him to Marshall for Mermaid?
I'd rather have John Waters direct it. He won't, since he never directs anyone else's screenplay, but he should. It would bring the Ursula/Divine thing full circle.

I honestly think Condon is a much, much, much, better director overall, and what was wrong with the new BatB would probably have been wrong under any director. I doubt he acted alone in this case. Outside of Disney, Dreamgirls is in some ways better than Chicago because some of its musical numbers are less reliant on quick-cut editing. Twilight has its fans, though I'm not among them, and if he can make a commercial success out of that while Marshall made a shambles out of Nine and Into the Woods, then he can spin straw into gold while Marshall does the opposite. And it was Marshall whose TV debut almost made me hate one of my favorite musicals…almost. Around that same time, Gods and Monsters came out and I was really impressed with it.
 

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Twilight has its fans, though I'm not among them, and if he can make a commercial success out of that while Marshall made a shambles out of Nine and Into the Woods, then he can spin straw into gold while Marshall does the opposite.
The final two Twilight films would have been a commercial success no matter who directed them. I'm not a fan of them either, but Condon's direction of them is almost irrelevant to their box office success.

Again, we just disagree on the merits of Marshall's films. I think Nine was hurt by Marshall's insistence that the musicals had to have a framing device, which he finally thankfully ditched when he got to Into the Woods, but I still think that more of Nine worked than it didn't.

I also think that the first half of the Into the Woods movie (adapting act 1) is basically perfect. Act 2 has some issues because it doesn't follow through on some things that it should have, but I honestly blame more of that on Disney being unwilling to embrace the darker elements, and that would have been the case with any director. It was beautifully visualized, and the cast was fantastic, so I really enjoyed the movie overall. If The Little Mermaid is as good as Into the Woods was, I would be very happy with that result.

Also, from a box office perspective, Into the Woods hardly qualifies as in "shambles." $213 million worldwide on a very strict $50 million budget seems like a good result to me. It wasn't anywhere near as big as Disney's remakes of its own stuff, but they knew it wouldn't be, and I believe it performed within their expectations.

Do you think Disney would ever consider hiring John Waters for The Little Mermaid, even if he would do it? Not in a million years.
 
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MatthewA

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Do you think Disney would ever consider hiring John Waters for The Little Mermaid, even if he would do it? Not in a million years.
No, but it would make a more interesting film than the L7 dullsville bourgeois asimilationist pablum we usually get from Marshall.
 

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No, but it would make a more interesting film
Marshall will make, at the very least, a technically polished, impressively visualized film that will be respectful of the original and of which Disney will easily approve. I'd consider that a win, and that's pretty much what I want. I'll be happy to have new music and added character momnts, but I don't really want the arc to change. I'm not in the mood to see something riskier than that with this material, personally.

The Broadway musical adaptation had a couple nice new songs but overall was a failure, with a terrible book, which made additions like Flounder having a completely gross crush on Ariel which ruined their friendship dynamic, and, oh yeah, Ursula murdering Ariel's mother for some reason thrown in as an underdeveloped "twist" at the end for shock value. After seeing that not work, I'm good with a traditional approach.
 

MatthewA

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The movie took plenty of liberties with Hans Christian Anderson, at least as many as that Danny Kaye movie took with his life. Let's just say Ariel doesn't live happily after at the end.

Marshall is form over substance. With Bill Condon, you get both.
 

Jake Lipson

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Let's just say Ariel doesn't live happily after at the end.
I know that. I also expect the remake film to follow the 1989 film in structure, not Anderson's text.

Marshall is form over substance. With Bill Condon, you get both.
Once again, we just disagree, as I happen to like almost all of Marshall's films, with the possible exception of On Stranger Tides, and even that I didn't aggressively dislike. In any case, Condon's attachment to Bride of Frankenstein makes him unavailable to direct this film, even if Disney did prefer him to Marshall.
 

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