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

Jake Lipson

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I started this thread back last December because Deadline had reported Disney offered the directing job to Rob Marshall.

As of yet -- even amidst all of the press interviews Rob Marshall has been doing about his work on Mary Poppins Returns -- I haven't actually seen anything where either he or Disney have actually confirmed whether or not he accepted the offer.

I'm happy for Disney to take their time on this project, as I want them to get it right and don't want them to rush out a bad product. But it does seem like Marshall will probably choose his next project sooner rather than later now that Mary Poppins is out. It would be nice to know if this is it or not. If I were in a position to interview Marshall for Mary Poppins, Mermaid would be one of my questions for sure. Obviously I'm not, but it's interesting to me that no one has asked this of him lately.
 

Jake Lipson

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Kris Taphley of Variety asked Rob Marshall about The Little Mermaid on his podcast:

Rob Marshall said:
"It was really lovely that Disney approached me about that, it's a big title for them obviously, and so right now myself and [Marshall's producer] John DeLuca are in sort of what I would call the exploratory process of looking at it and seeing if it could become a film, a live-action film. It's so different, and there's a lot of challenges to that film -- underwater, singing underwater, staging underwater."
That's not a no, it's satisfying to know he's considering it, and explains why it's not so cut-and-dry as a yes-or-no situation.

The whole interview is about Mary Poppins Returns, and they touch on The Little Mermaid at the very end, but the whole thing is worth a listen:

https://variety.com/2018/film/podca...rob-marshall-mary-poppins-returns-1203080070/
 
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Jake Lipson

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So, this is an off-the-wall idea. But...

Following the announcement that Steven Spielberg cast her as Maria in West Side Story, I've been exploring Rachel Zegler's YouTube channel. She's awesome.

Today, I found a video of her singing Part of Your World.


Now, obviously, we'll all have to see how West Side Story goes for her -- not only if it's good, but also how her experience filming it goes, and whether or not she decides she wants to pursue a career in acting after she's done with it. But, theoretically, let's say for the sake of this discussion that she's really terrific in West Side Story and it makes her a star.

Disney seems to be going more slowly with The Little Mermaid than some of their other remakes, so I'm pretty sure it won't be ready to start filming until after West Side Story is done. And Disney is going to end up distributing West Side Story because they will own Fox by the time that film comes out, so they'll know Rachel Zegler through that.

They could, theoretically, then offer her the role of Ariel. She would be much more age-appropriate than some of the other names that have been branded about for it; remember, Ariel is supposed to be 16.

They would have to either dye her hair or use a wig, because Ariel's red hair is iconic. But that's easy. I would certainly be excited by this (as long as West Side Story doesn't completely drop the ball, obviously.)
 

Jake Lipson

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Alan Menken did an interview with a newspaper in Phoenix, where the touring production of the Aladdin Broadway musical is about to open. The topic of the live-action Little Mermaid came up too. Here are his quotes specifically about that.

Q: What’s the status of the live-action “Little Mermaid”?

A: We’re going to be starting it up very soon. We had to wait for (director) Rob Marshall to finish up “Mary Poppins Returns,” so I imagine pretty soon we’ll be getting into the trenches.
Menken seems pretty confident that Rob Marshall is going to accept the directing job.

And in a separate question about Aladdin, he also said:

And they told me) “Also, on the ‘Mermaid’ musical you’ll be working with Lin-Manuel Miranda” — who I also knew of when he was a little boy in New York, through my sister, who was a musical-theater actress, and her daughter went to the same school as Lin. So it’s a whole generation of young talent that I’ve known about as they were coming up, the other one is Bobby Lopez, watching each of them come of age and make an impact on musical theater.
The whole interview at the link is worth a read.

https://www.azcentral.com/story/ent...n-remaking-aladdin-pasek-and-paul/2668465002/
 

Jake Lipson

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Rob Marshall talked to Entertainment Tonight about the Blu-ray of Mary Poppins Returns, and The Little Mermaid came up. This is the first time I've seen him officially confirm that he is doing it.

 
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Johnny Angell

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So, this is an off-the-wall idea. But...

Following the announcement that Steven Spielberg cast her as Maria in West Side Story, I've been exploring Rachel Zegler's YouTube channel. She's awesome.

Today, I found a video of her singing Part of Your World.


Now, obviously, we'll all have to see how West Side Story goes for her -- not only if it's good, but also how her experience filming it goes, and whether or not she decides she wants to pursue a career in acting after she's done with it. But, theoretically, let's say for the sake of this discussion that she's really terrific in West Side Story and it makes her a star.

Disney seems to be going more slowly with The Little Mermaid than some of their other remakes, so I'm pretty sure it won't be ready to start filming until after West Side Story is done. And Disney is going to end up distributing West Side Story because they will own Fox by the time that film comes out, so they'll know Rachel Zegler through that.

They could, theoretically, then offer her the role of Ariel. She would be much more age-appropriate than some of the other names that have been branded about for it; remember, Ariel is supposed to be 16.

They would have to either dye her hair or use a wig, because Ariel's red hair is iconic. But that's easy. I would certainly be excited by this (as long as West Side Story doesn't completely drop the ball, obviously.)
That video was thoroughly enjoyable. Are the videos professsionally produced or does she just setup a camera and hit start? I liked the way she sold the song (besides her fabulous voice). I wonder if she had direction or was it all her? Clearly, voice-wise, she’d be perfect for Ariel.

The idea of Lady Gaga as Ursula is very apealing to me. It’s a deliciously dramatic role and I think she’d be good in the role.

I hope we get to see Ariel’s belly button. :P
 

Jake Lipson

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McCarthy is a fantastic actress who has been in some good movies and some bad movies. The bad ones are often directed by her husband, which this is not. She is not someone I would have thought of for this role, but I think she'll do a good job. She is a fantastic actress and does great work when she is able to work with talented directors like Paul Feig and Marielle Heller.

I'm inclined to trust Rob Marshall on this. I think he is a great director, and he knows how to make a musical, and he'll be able to pull a good performance out of her.

Deadline's story on the McCarthy talks drops in the news that David Magee wrote the most recent draft of the script after Jane Goldman wrote the original draft. Of course, Magee also wrote the script for Mary Poppins Returns which Rob Marshall directed.

https://deadline.com/2019/06/melissa-mccarthy-ursula-the-little-mermaid-cast-talks-1202639646/
 
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Johnny Angell

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Let me rephrase my comment to I would like Lady Gaga in the role. She’d bring more glamour to the role and I think she’d be good with the villainy. McCarthy is a good actress, if this is a done deal, she’ll be good. Still.....
 

Jake Lipson

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More casting today as two others are in talks.

Jacob Tremblay as Flounder and Awkwafina as Scuttle (!)

https://deadline.com/2019/07/the-little-mermaid-awkwafina-jacob-tremblay-disney-reboot-1202640587/

Tremblay I think is just perfect for Flounder. Awkwafina is a big departure from Buddy Hackett, so I can't really picture in my head how she's going to interpret the role, but that doesn't mean she won't be good; it's just a bigger leap from what we're used to with that role. She's funny and talented, so it will be interesting to see her do it. Also, incidentally, this makes two gender-swapped movie musical roles in a row for her, after The Prom, where she's playing a female version of the stage musical's male publicist character.

It seems like Disney is going to fill out the supporting roles first before we get an announcement of Ariel. I wonder if perhaps the huge success of Aladdin (where Will Smith was the only famous star prior to release) might make Disney feel better about going with an unknown for Ariel. They're obviously going for promotion-friendly big names in the other roles, and Aladdin demonstrates that they don't necessarily have to have a known star in the lead. Of course, there Disney didn't really have a choice because they had to cast Aladdin in an ethnically correct way, and there aren't many well-known stars of that age who are also ethnically appropriate for the role. Here, they have no such ethnic requirement so they could very easily go for a star. But it seems like a good opportunity to make someone's career, as the success of Aladdin seems poised to do for Mena Massoud.

Can McCarthy sing?
Good question. I will assume that Marshall wouldn't cast her if he didn't think she could do it. I don't think Emily Blunt had a whole lot of singing experience before Into the Woods, but Marshall and his music team were able to work with her and get her to where she needed to be to deliver a lovely performance, and she built on that significantly in Mary Poppins Returns. There's no reason to think he wouldn't be able to do that again with McCarthy.

In the original, Ursula sings/talks. She didn't sing like Ariel did.
Are we talking about the same Ursula? Yes, there's some talking in Poor Unfortunate Souls, and she does sing in a very different manner than Ariel. But it absolutely is a singing role/song which requires a strong voice to be able to pull it off.
 
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richardburton84

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Halle Bailey is Ariel:

https://variety.com/2019/film/news/little-mermaid-halle-bailey-chloe-x-halle-1203234294/

I've never heard her sing before, but she is a series regular on Grown-ish, which I watch all the time, and she is hilarious on it. This is a great pick.
I personally don’t know how to react to this casting (nor do I care to see this remake), but I know some people are upset that she’s not a red-head. My sister is among those upset by her not being a red-head, particularly because being a red-head herself, she grew up idolizing Ariel for that very reason.
 

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I personally don’t know how to react to this casting (nor do I care to see this remake), but I know some people are upset that she’s not a red-head. My sister is among those upset by her not being a red-head, particularly because being a red-head herself, she grew up idolizing Ariel for that very reason.
From where I stand, there are two ways to look at this casting:
  1. Disney has made noise about culturally appropriate casting, with Mulan and The Lion King and Middle Eastern and South Asian actors for Aladdin. They don't have a perfect track record with any of those movies, and there isn't a definitive right answer for any of those movies, but they've made efforts in that direction. The Little Mermaid is one of Hans Christian Andersen's Danish fairy tales so under the same principle you'd expect them to go with actors of Scandinavian ancestry.

  2. After several movies criticized for being beat-by-beat remakes of the animated Disney originals, this casting is announcement that the live action Little Mermaid isn't going to be more of the same, that this filmmaking team is going to be bolder with its reinventions.
I don't really have a horse in the race. The final product is either going to be good, or it isn't. So far, Beauty and the Beast is the only one of these live action remakes to really wow me.
 

Jake Lipson

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I expect Ariel to have red hair because that is an iconic part of her design. I think they'll either dye it or use a wig. Both are easy ways to achieve this, so I have no problem with the fact that she's not a natural redhead. And, for the record, it's not an issue that her ethnicity doesn't match the animation either.

Diana Huey (an Asian-American) was cast in the lead role of the musical's recent national tour a couple years ago and she was fabulous. They used a wig, so she had red hair while she was in the role. She sang the hell out of it and more than earned the role.

I think Bailey will be terrific.
 
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