How different is The Little Mermaid remake to the original?
Everything you need to know about the changes made from the 1989 animation – with exclusive insights from director Rob Marshall.
Disney's recent spate of live-action/CGI remakes of its animated classics can roughly be split into two categories: those that are largely faithful to the originals and those that reimagine the source material rather more loosely.
The new version of The Little Mermaid, directed by Rob Marshall, undoubtedly fits into the former category – but that doesn't mean a couple of narrative changes haven't been made along the way.
Speaking exclusively to RadioTimes.com, Marshall explained that he "went back to the Hans Christian Andersen tale" that served as the source material for the original animation to help inform some small narrative changes, while the film also includes a few brand new musical numbers.
Read on to find out what has been altered in the remake.
Prince Eric's backstory
According to Marshall, one of the ways in which the new film is "deepened" compared to the original is by further building the relationship between Ariel and Prince Eric – which the director says he was inspired to do after reading the Hans Christian Anderson tale on which the story is based.
"It was a very modern story, even back in the 1830s, you know, about a young girl who feels she doesn't fit in – she feels displaced, she wants a life in a different world," Marshall explained during an exclusive interview. "She's not afraid to go on this journey, she's not afraid of the other, you know, the different people – the humans in this case.
"And I loved how it was saying a young spirit like that can bridge the worlds, bridge from her world to that world and not be afraid of it. So it was really about tolerance and acceptance, which I felt was so timely, in our sort of divided world - increasingly divided world. So I have to say I was excited to find that immediately."
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He continued: "So thematically that can be brought out in our film, and specifically with the character of Eric – because Eric is the other, he's the human. So what's his story? So we found a song for him and his journey, and then they can connect on a deeper level not just sort of like, 'Wasn't she cute? Isn't he handsome?'
"It was deeper, like these two people feel similarly, they connect on a different level: they're both explorers, they're not afraid of reaching out past their own borders. And it was wonderful to discover how we could... right from there, you have a Romeo and Juliet-esque tale. So you can actually expand and deepen the story right then already."
Meanwhile, another change that's been made to this character is that we now see his mother – who is named Queen Selina and is played by Noma Dumezweni.
Ursula and Tritron's relationship
In the original animation, Ursula is not part of Ariel's family – but that has been changed for this version in which she is introduced as King Triton's estranged sister.
According to Melissa McCarthy, this made quite a big change to the stakes of the film, as she explained in an exclusive interview with RadioTimes.com.
"There were small changes on paper to the script, but I think they really had big effects on the story," she said. "I think making us brother and sister makes it so much more complicated. Maybe [in the original] it's a little more one dimensional, kind of good versus evil.
"Well, now it's siblings, and family, and to have your family shun you and isolate you and banish you has a lot more emotional impact than just simply good and evil... It's like they really made it modern and relevant."
New songs and changed lyrics
As well as the aforementioned new song for Prince Eric – which is titled Wild Uncharted Waters – two further new songs have been added to The Little Mermaid soundtrack for this version written by original composer Alan Menken with lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda.
These are a new number for Ariel (Halle Bailey) called For the First Time, and a rap performed by Scuttle (Awkwafina) and Sebastian (Daveed Diggs) titled The Scuttlebutt.
Speaking about writing the latter, Menken told RadioTimes.com and other press: "The Scuttlebutt... is just, that's a surprise gift for [Lin-Manuel], 'cause I gave him this Caribbean tune and Lin sort of did a rap over it that was so perfect. [He] used the music, but it had this rhythmic pulse to it. It was just pure Lin-Manuel Miranda!"
Furthermore, Miranda also made a couple of amendments to the lyrics of the existing tracks Poor Unfortunate Souls and Kiss the Girl, which are both updated to reflect more modern attitudes.
“We asked Lin-Manuel to make some slight adjustments to the original lyrics for Kiss the Girl, because it’s important to remember that the culture and sensitivities have changed over the last 34 years, and it’s vital that we are respectful to those changes," Marshall explained.
Meanwhile, although most of the songs from the original film are featured again in the remake, two numbers – Daughters of Triton and Les Poissons – have been left out.
Scuttle is no longer a seagull
While the role played by Scuttle in the new version is more or less the same as in the animation, the actual species – and gender – of the bird has changed, and she is now a black and white diving bird known as a Gannet.
According to Marshall, "This was done specifically so that Ariel would only meet Scuttle underwater because at the start of our story, Ariel has never dared go above the surface."
Meanwhile, Awkafina says of the character: "Scuttle is a diving seabird and a land bird, and because she has the ability to travel between worlds, she helps Ariel identify things that she finds and clues her in on their human words."
The Little Mermaid will arrive in cinemas on Friday 26th May 2023. Check out the best movies on Disney Plus and best shows on Disney Plus, read more of our Film coverage, or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to see what's on tonight.
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