Disney’s The Little Mermaid is finally getting a live-action adaptation decades after the original version was released by the production company. The movie is in itself a recognizable and famous movie, spanning generations after generations. But what made the live-action become viral is the racial representation, as shown in the short trailer that Disney dropped a few days ago.
Across social media, videos of Black girls and children positively reacting to the tan-skinned Ariel went viral.
“Mommy! … She’s brown like me!” said a girl in a TikTok video.
After Disney released the teaser, similar videos made rounds on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok. Users posted the videos along with the hashtags #representationmatters and #Blackgirlmagic. To date, the Little Mermaid trailer now has over 12 million views.
The trailer was first seen during the D23 Expo hosted by Disney. Along with it are other slated films for release, like the sequel of Enchanted. Fans went into a frenzy after the video showed Halle Bailey take on the main protagonist’s role as she sang a part of the iconic song, “Part of Your World.” Bailey is a singer from Chloe x Halle, an R&B duo.
Other casts for the film include Daveed Diggs voicing Sebastian, Melissa McCarthy as Ursula, Jacob Tremblay as Flounder, Javier Bardem as Triton, and Awkwafina as Scuttle.
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Some people disapproved
While many were delighted to see a dark-skinned girl taking on the role of a character who was perceived to be white, others did not like the idea. The Little Mermaid is based on a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen that features Ariel as a white girl. Because of this, others think Disney’s live adaptation went against the original author. Some have used the hashtag #NotMyAriel to express their disappointment.
However, Bailey said that while it affected her in some ways, she had her grandparents who gave her several pieces of advice on how to cope with criticisms.
“It was an inspiring and beautiful thing to hear their words of encouragement, telling me, ‘You don’t understand what this is doing for us, for our community, for all the little Black and brown girls who are going to see themselves in you,'” she said.
“I want the little girl in me and the little girls just like me who are watching to know that they’re special and that they should be a princess in every single way,” added Bailey.
Bailey is perfect for the role
Rob Marshall, the movie director, said that Bailey was a natural in front of the camera.
“Halle had this incredible facility to be able to dig deep, find the truth of Ariel’s passion and her heart. It was like watching a great film actor being born,” he recalled.
Marshall first scouted Bailey during the Grammy coverage in 2019 when she performed “Where Is The Love” with her duo Chloe. According to Marshall, Bailey had a pure voice, and he wondered whether the young woman could act. She then approached Bailey and asked her if she could audition for the Little Mermaid and sing Ariel’s “Part of Your World.”
“When she finished, I was in tears because she’s so soulful. You could tell right away that she was able to harness Ariel’s passion, her fire, her soul, her joy and her heart,” he said.
Bailey, on the other hand, said she’s honored to be portraying the role. It is both a challenging and fun task to be playing the protagonist of an animated film that everyone has come to love.
“I find myself learning things from these characters and trying to adopt them and keep them with me as I go about my life. It’s like the universe is trying to give these themes to me, like ‘Here, do it! We’re putting it in through the characters,'” she said.
The Little Mermaid will drop to the theaters this coming May 26, 2023.