The Little Mermaid Live! (ABC)

Adam Lenhardt

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Despite the feature film side having announced a live action adaptation of the animated classic, ABC is movie forward with its adaptation as a live musical event, featuring live performances of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman's Oscar-winning songs.

Richard Kraft, who produced and directed the much-talked-about Hollywood Bowl production of The Little Mermaid, will executive produce.

Auli'i Cravalho, voice of Disney's Moana, will star in the title role. Queen Latifah will play Ursula, and Shaggy will co-star as Sebastian.
 
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Matt Hough

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I didn't get to see the Broadway version during its year-long run, so I'll be very interested to see this.
 

Jake Lipson

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Despite the feature film side having announced a live action adaptation of the animated classic
This is what surprises me about ABC doing this now. However, there's going to be so much CGI involved in the remake that even if they shoot net year, it might not come out until 2022, so maybe they're thinking that doing this won't diminish that because, by 2022, most people will probably have forgotten about a one-off TV special from years earlier.

I didn't get to see the Broadway version during its year-long run, so I'll be very interested to see this.
I saw the tour, and I have to say I hope they don't use much from the Broadway version. Some of the additional songs are nice but the book of it was absolutely terrible, including a weird subplot where Flounder had an unrequited crush on Ariel, which was gross and totally ruined the fun dynamic of their best friendship in the film. I would expect this to draw more from the Hollywood Bowl concerts where the film was overdubbed by new live singers.
 
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Jake Lipson

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Deadline has some more information from the TCA panel about how this will all work:

director Hamish Hamilton via Deadline said:
The Little Mermaid Live! is a celebration. We’re celebrating this incredible animated feature, and we’re gonna do it on the Disney lot, Hamilton said. “We’re going to do it live‑to‑air in front of a live audience in a room that we’ve created. So we’re going to invite anybody to come, both televisionally and real people, real fans, come to our Little Mermaid theater. In the middle of the room, we will have a giant projection surface, and on that projection surface we will play the feature. When we get to one of Alan [Merken] and Howard [Ashman’s wonderful songs, essentially we will transition beautifully and smoothly into a world of live performance.”
Deadline said:
The hybrid format will combine music from the original animated film and the Tony Award-winning Broadway stage version, composed by eight-time Oscar-winner Alan Menken. Howard Ashman’s film lyrics will also be showcased, alongside Glenn Slater’s work. There will not be any new, original songs in the special.
Glenn Slater is the lyricist for the additional material written for the Broadway version.

More at the link: https://deadline.com/2019/08/little-mermaid-interesting-hybrid-abc-1202662158/
 

Garysb

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With the exception of the Broadway Lion King, I don't think any of the various Broadway and live action remakes of the Disney animated features comes near to being as good as the originals. The live action/CGI films make a ton of money for Disney so I am sure they will continue but that doesn't mean they are better than or improve upon the originals in my opinion.
 
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TJPC

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My wife and I saw the roadshow of the Broadway production in Buffalo, and unless you are 5 and under, it is the top of our list of the stupidest thing we have ever seen. The constant shimmy the actors did to simulate being under the sea was a masterpiece of unintentioned comedy. It needed the robots from Mystery Science Theatre. We are familiar and like the movie by the way. Our daughter played her VHS copy at least 500,000 times.
 

Jake Lipson

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A new behind-the-scenes promo attempts to explain how this is all going to work.


As has already been mentioned, combining parts of the animated film with staged live performances seems...odd.

We'll see how this goes.
 

Johnny Angell

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A new behind-the-scenes promo attempts to explain how this is all going to work.


As has already been mentioned, combining parts of the animated film with staged live performances seems...odd.

We'll see how this goes.
The brief glimpses of Ariel flying, er swimming, were impressive. I love the movie and music and think this could be great.
 

Adam Lenhardt

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I'm going to have to bail at 9 PM because I've got three other things that are going to eat up all of my available TV tuners.

But so far, I've been pleasantly surprised. The transitions between the animated film and the live musical numbers have been more seamless than I expected. The wirework for the swimming effects are simple but effective.

After FOX's disastrous live Rent that was mostly just the recorded dress rehearsal after a key injury, it's refreshing to have a live show that's actually live with actors delivering like it's opening night.

Auli'i Cravalho knocked "Part of Your World" out of the park. I kind of wish she was starring in the live action feature film.
 
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Matt Hough

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I watched the first half hour and have the rest recording that I'll finish tomorrow. Yes, Auli'i is quite special, and I quite enjoyed her singing and "swimming." I would still rather have seen a complete live production, but with the live action film in the offing, Disney wasn't about to shoot itself in the foot.
 

Jake Lipson

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I thought this was about as good as it could possibly have been for what they were doing. The cast was all great. Auli'i Cravalho being phenomenal is not at all surprising. But nothing in the staging of the live performances was as good as the animation from those sequences, so it created a weird dissonance because I know the movie so well. Les Poissons, in particular, was missing all the great physical gags coming from Sebastian trying to get away from Louis. So despite the best efforts of a game live cast tonight, this just reinforced how great of a match this story was for the animation medium in the first place.

I have an older friend who recorded this because he is really into Broadway, but he did not grow up with the movie or have kids who are attached to it. He only saw the movie once when I loaned him the Blu-ray several years ago and he didn't like it very much and doesn't really remember any of it now. I think he is expecting it to be way more influenced by the Broadway version than what it ended up being. This was in the back of my mind because it seems like, in the way they went in and out of the film and edited for time the film clips they did use, it seems like they expected the majority of the audience to be familiar with the film already, so I'm curious how it will play to someone who doesn't know the movie. The revised lyrics in Poor Unfortunate Souls explaining the terms of the deal were quite odd; I assume this was done in order to prevent them from having to cut back to the animation for the dialogue portion where the deal is explained, but I think the terms of the deal are really important, and rushing through them was bizarre. I'm not sure why Auli'i and Latifah couldn't have just performed the dialogue in that song as written. Again, it assumes that you know the movie.

Her Voice and If Only are the two songs from the Broadway score that made the most sense to put in here, so I was glad they did that. If Only is a quartet in the stage version, with Sebastian and Triton also involved in it, so it was an interesting choice to remove their parts and just have it be a duet. They would have had to cast a live singer for Triton to keep his part of it, but I'm surprised they didn't have Shaggy sing the Sebastian parts. The other songs from the Broadway score are not bad, but they're not highlights either. The Poor Unfortunate Souls reprise that they gave to Latifah when she was inside the mirror was totally new and didn't seem to add anything.

As far as the staging itself, I thought Part of Your World was really weak. They kept focusing on the poorly lit background dancers and the set, when what I wanted to focus on was Auli'i singing it. And even all of her shots in it were far away wide shots. She was absolutely terrific singing it, so I'm not sure why they felt it was a good idea to pull focus from her during her big song.

Also, the multiplying crabs in Les Poissons was just weird. It felt like they thought they had to come up with something to replace the brilliant animated staging of that song but couldn't come up with anything nearly as fun. The extended reprise of it is from Broadway and didn't really add much.

Putting Ariel into Under the Sea ("I dream about going up there" instead of "You dream about going up there") also jumped me as being strange, because it doesn't seem to serve any purpose. The whole point of that song is that Sebastian is trying desperately to convince her to drop this obsession with the human world, and she's not paying attention. So if she's not supposed to be paying attention, why is she singing in that number?

Also, did anyone else notice that Queen Latifah flubbed one of her lines in Poor Unfortunate Souls? "Don't underestimate the importance of body language!" became "Don't forget to underestimate the importance of body language," which would be a nice save if "forget to" didn't negate the advice and change the point of the line. The perils of live.
 
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David Weicker

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I missed the beginning (Part Of Your World), but I watched about 3/4 of it, and thought it was very bad.

I wasn't aware that they were just doing a concert version instead of an actual performance. There were so many scenes where they could have done 'live' but kept with the animated. Why didn't we see any 'dialogue scenes' performed - just a head-scratcher.

And I don't know if it was my feed, but many of the numbers did not have a good picture. It may have been too much motion/activity (or confetti), but the pixelation completely obscured faces - especially the Under The Sea and Finale.

And the singing wasn't good. I felt like I was hearing an amusement park production (except those usually were better).


I can hear the concept meeting - 'we're going to show 80% of the animated Little Mermaid, but we will replace the good parts - the songs - with sub-par "performances".
 
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Jake Lipson

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I wasn't aware that they were just doing a concert version instead of an actual performance. There were so many scenes where they could have done 'live' but kept with the animated. Why didn't we see any 'dialogue scenes' performed - just a head-scratcher.
I'm not trying to point my finger at you for not knowing or anything, but ABC did promote it as "part animated film, part live spectacle." So I think they covered their bases on what it would be.

If they produced the fully-staged Broadway musical production rather than adapting the film in this way, that would have been a much more expensive undertaking and might not have been doable on a television budget.. Also, the movie studio is currently in pre-production on a full-fledged live-action remake as a theatrical feature, so I'm sure Disney didn't want to undercut that by doing the full thing live now.
 
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