Disney fans, prepare to be transported "under the sea": the new live-action remake of The Little Mermaid is upon us.


Popstar Halle Bailey leads the cast as the titular character, Ariel, while Jonah Hauer-King also stars as Prince Eric, Melissa McCarthy as tentacled sea witch Ursula, and Javier Bardem as King Triton.

Unlike some of Disney's live-action/CGI remakes of its animated classics, The Little Mermaid stays largely faithful to the original 1989 animation of the same name, though of course a few alterations have been made along the way.

Read on for everything you need to know about The Little Mermaid, including when it's set to land in the UK.

Little Mermaid release date UK

Melissa McCarthy as Ursula in The Little Mermaid.
Melissa McCarthy as Ursula in The Little Mermaid. Disney

The Little Mermaid arrived in cinemas on Friday 26th May 2023.

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Filming wrapped in Italy in summer 2021, with fans getting a first look at Ariel with her red dreadlocks in leaked pics.

When is The Little Mermaid coming to Disney Plus?

A Disney Plus release likely to follow once the movie has had its exclusive theatrical run.

There's no official streaming release date as yet, but watch this space.

The Little Mermaid 2023 cast

Halle Bailey will star as Ariel, half of the R&B team CHLOE X HALLE.

Director Rob Marshall previously said of Bailey's casting: "After an extensive search, it was abundantly clear that Halle possesses that rare combination of spirit, heart, youth, innocence, and substance — plus a glorious singing voice — all intrinsic qualities necessary to play this iconic role."

Responding to the reaction to her casting – which included some objections from a tiresome few – a classy Bailey said (via Variety): "I don't pay attention to the negativity. I just feel like this role was something bigger than me, and greater. It's going to be beautiful. I'm just so excited to be a part of it."

Jodi Benson, who voiced Ariel in the original, said: "I think that the spirit of a character is what really matters. What you bring to the table in a character as far as their heart and their spirit is what really counts. I think the most important thing for a film is to be able to tell a story."

Meanwhile, Melissa McCarthy will play the evil octopoid sea-witch Ursula, though the choice came under fire with many hoping for a drag queen to play the witch since that's what inspired the original animation.

The seagull Scuttle will swap genders, voiced this time by Crazy Rich Asians and The Farewell star Awkwafina, and Room star Jacob Tremblay will voice Flounder.

Despite early reports suggesting Harry Styles was in talks to play Prince Eric, the role has gone to Little Women and World on Fire actor Jonah Hauer-King.

In an interview with The Face, Styles revealed that the project was "discussed", but that he decided to prioritise his music career. "I want to put music out and focus on that for a while," he said. "But everyone involved in it was amazing, so I think it's going to be great. I'll enjoy watching it, I'm sure."

Javier Bardem will star as King Triton and Hamilton star Daveed Diggs will voice Sebastian. If you recognise his name, he's also in Pixar movie Soul.

In addition, Netflix star Jessica Alexander (Get Even) will portray Vanessa, the beautiful alter-ego of Ursula the Sea Witch.

Joining her are Russell Balogh (Maleficent: Mistress of Evil), Adrian Christopher (Harry Potter and The Cursed Child) and Emily Coates (Cursed).

What has Jacob Tremblay said about The Little Mermaid? Flounder backlash explained

When individual cast posters dropped back in April, there was some backlash over the new designs, with some fans of the original claiming they are unnecessarily realistic.

The new Flounder, in particular, sparked criticism for the slimmer, more lifelike redesign. However, Little Mermaid voice actor Jacob Tremblay has defended the design change.

Responding to the backlash, Tremblay, who voices the character, recently told Variety: "I was actually shown the design when I went in for my audition. Rob [Marshall, director] had shown me. I just had complete faith in Rob.

“I thought it looked great because that is kind of like the puppet they had on set, and then, of course, when I went and saw the film – I watched it last night and I think it just all works so well.”

He added: “They were genius [Rob and creative team] – they kind of made it work so well."

The Little Mermaid songs: is it a musical?

First things first, yes it's a musical! Lin-Minuel Miranda is working on the film with the original composer Alan Menken. Miranda revealed he had written four new songs for the remake back in February 2020.

We've seen Disney is happy to make such changes with Dumbo, the darker Tim Burton remake last year as well as Mulan due out in August 2020, which won't have any music bar instrumental as it opts for a martial art movie take.

Lin-Manuel Miranda (Getty)
Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Disney would never have dropped favourites like Under the Sea, Kiss the Girl, Poor Unfortunate Souls or Part of Your World, all of which were performed at the Hollywood Bowl event for the 30th anniversary concert in honour of the original film - and indeed star Halle Bailey confirmed that Part of Your World would be included in the film.

"I've been a fan of The Little Mermaid since I was 5, so those new songs are very exciting to me, as well as the old," Bailey told PopSugar. "That's probably like, ding, ding, ding! My number one."

The Little Mermaid trailer

Yes! As detailed above, the first trailer for the remake landed in 2022 and was shown to those in attendance at Disney's D23 Expo.

The official trailer for The Little Mermaid landed in March 2023, giving fans a first look at McCarthy's Ursula and Bailey's Ariel. In the trailer, the tentacled sea witch tricks Ariel (Halle Bailey) and casts a spell to deprive her of her voice, exclaiming: "Poor child, I can help you! You can't live in that world unless you become a human yourself."

Later, we see Ariel emerging from the sea with her seabird friend Scuttle (voiced by Awkwafina) telling her: "Something about you seems different. I can't quite figure it out." Crab sidekick Sebastian (Daveed Diggs) soon cottons on to the situation, saying: "She got legs, you idiot!"

Watch below:

The Little Mermaid plot: how will the new version differ from the original?

It’s likely that the main differences will be political corrections on some of the more dated aspects of the classic film. In July 2019, Disney launched two initiatives for talent from under-represented backgrounds which includes women, people of colour and the LGBTQ+ community.

The announcement of Halle Bailey is already a big step forward, as she will be the first person of colour to play a live-action Disney princess who was white in the original animation.

We might also get a revamp of the character Sebastian – the Jamaican-sounding crab who sang about how great life is ‘under the sea’, which has since been criticised as racially insensitive.

In addition, it's possible that Disney will introduce some LGBTQ+ characters into the film, as they did in Beauty and the Beast with a one-second shot of the villain’s sidekick, LeFou, dancing with a man in the final ballroom sequence. Meanwhile, Jack Whitehall is set to play the first major gay character in a Disney film, as the brother of Emily Blunt’s character in 2020 film Jungle Cruise.

As detailed above, Disney will also delve deeper into the reasons behind Ariel’s desire to join the human world that don’t revolve around her love for Prince Eric, in line with Disney’s recent trend towards more three-dimensional female characters.

Who is directing The Little Mermaid?

Rob Marshall, who’s already worked with Disney on Mary Poppins Returns, Into the Woods, and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, will direct The Little Mermaid. He's the man behind Oscar-winning movie musical Chicago.

Lin-Manuel Miranda Marshall, Marc Platt and John DeLuca will all produce the film, whilst Jessica Virtue and Allison Erlikhman are overseeing for the studio.

Where is The Little Mermaid set?

Atlantica – the make-believe city found underneath the Atlantic Ocean featured in the 1989 original – is expected to feature, but the film was always unclear about where Prince Eric’s palace was located.

In Beauty and the Beast, Disney gave Belle’s French village home a real name – Villeneuve – and she visits Paris during the film, so we might expect Prince Eric’s kingdom to be given a real geographical location.

If so, it's quite likely that this will be somewhere in Denmark in honour of Hans Christian Andersen, where the fantasy palace is surrounded by mountains, with cliffs onto the sea. Other contenders are Switzerland or Wales, where Chillon Castle and Tintagel Castle are found, as these real-life castles are thought to be the basis upon which Prince Eric’s castle was designed.

Prince Eric may also have taken up residence on the Italian island of Sardinia, as the film is set to shoot on the Mediterranean island in summer 2021. Variety reported that the film will move from London's Pinewood Studios to the seaside village of Santa Teresa di Gallura, known for its picturesque blue waters and rocky shores.

But, as they're keeping the tropical fish Flounder and the Jamaican crab Sebastian that feature in the original, it’s still possible that Disney will avoid pinning down the exact location to avoid confusion.

The Little Mermaid is out now in cinemas. 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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