Disney historians know it well: after the crisis of the 1980s, it was The Little Mermaid that marked the rebirth of the Mickey Mouse House, then definitively sanctioned by Beauty and the Beast .


Transposing this classic into live action is equivalent to taking on a great responsibility, and in fact the studio relied on the experience of Rob Marshall , with whom he had already worked on Mary Poppins Returns , Pirates of the Caribbean – On Stranger Tides and Into the Woods . The American director has put together a top-level cast, led by the formidable voice of Halle Bailey . His Of her Ariel of her found inJonah Hauer-King ( Prince Eric ) an excellent companion in adventures, and the two are surrounded by a prestigious ensemble: Jacob Tremblay ( Flounder ), Awkwafina ( Scuttle ), Daveed Diggs ( Sebastian ), Melissa McCarthy ( Ursula ), Javier Bardem ( King Triton ) and Noma Dumezweni ( Queen Charlotte ).

The actors and the director presented the film to the press, together with the producer John DeLuca and the famous composer Alan Menken , winner of the Oscar for Best Score and Best Original Song with The Little Mermaid (not to mention the other six statuettes, always conquered with Disney classics ). It was he who also composed the new songs on this release, to lyrics written by Lin-Manuel Miranda .

Learn from Ariel

Several years have passed since Halle Bailey was cast in the film: it means that Ariel is now part of her, and the Atlanta actress feels she has a lot in common with the young mermaid.

I always tell everyone that Ariel has helped me find myself, she is a version of me. I have now dedicated five years of my life to her, from when I was 18 until today, when I am 23. And those are very intense and transformative years, in which you develop into a young woman… but I feel that, especially if we think about the themes of the film, what he has to deal with with his passion and determination, speaking out, as scary as it is… all of these things, I really tried to take and instill in Halle. She taught me a lot, no doubt.

Bailey also tells an anecdote about when Rob Marshall announced to her that he had gotten the part:

We had celebrated my sister’s birthday the day before so had just returned from an airbnb and were unpacking. At one point I get a call from Rob, but I never answer unknown numbers, so I let it go. But my little brother comes running up to me, and yells, “Pick up the phone, pick up the phone!” [Laughs] So I answer, and Rob says, “Hello, I’m looking for Ariel.” At that moment I started crying, and I cried all day.

A great privilege

For his part, Jonah Hauer-King was in awe working (and singing) alongside a Grammy-nominated female artist, but he also fared just fine when it came to chanting his original track, Uncharted Waters . The English actor says that being part of such a project “is a privilege”, and underlines how this version of The Little Mermaid combines fairy-tale sides and real nuances.

What’s special is that the whole movie, the whole story, seems rooted in reality. The Disney Princess and Prince aspect is great and fun and exciting, but seeing it last night [at the world premiere] made me realize that for all of us, even though we live in this fantastical space, the film is deeply connected with the real world, his themes are deeply connected to the present.

If the film leaves this “earthly” sensation, it is also thanks to the work of the actors: Daveed Diggs explains that, despite the size of the production, the cast was able to collaborate in a very intimate atmosphere, like a community theatre .

[The movie] is big, and at the same time it’s not… well at least for us, I think. The way we’ve worked on it, in general, hasn’t been “great.” We worked on it like it was something small. At least in those work sessions, it really felt like community theatre. We moved boxes around, built sets, you know what I mean? And we got into that atmosphere where, like, this is how art is made. We made something that we ourselves understood, and that everyone could welcome, and that we really believed in, that we knew in every aspect. Then, arriving at the preview with the street closed to us, posters everywhere, and seeing the movie on that giant screen…it’s a whole world I’ve never seen.

Melissa McCarthy echoes him, explaining what she loved most about this experience:

I think the best part of filming was every single minute. It was rehearsing, trying desperately not to cry every time you sing a tune, because I don’t want her to think I’m crazy as tears stream down my face. The whole process. I think we all agree that Rob Marshall… the way he creates this world is the reason I fell in love with plays. It seems like such a small thing, yet you know it’s huge. And then it gets so personal, and everyone is giving their best shot, and he’s there wrapped up in cashmere cheering us on. [Laughs] He stands there and supports us all, quietly. That’s the way it is for the actors, but let’s not forget the amazing camera movements, the sound department does an amazing job, and the costumes… it’s an appreciation for every single person, and all the parts that make a movie work. To have someone support us like that, I can’t even explain how lucky I feel, and I’m sure we all feel that way.

Like in the family

In short, it was like working in the family: Halle Bailey says it very clearly.

These people are… they’re like my family, and they’re so talented, they’ve inspired me for so long. So the feeling is mutual for each of us. I am happy to be surrounded by them.

Jacob Tremblay agrees : not only did sharing the studio in England ( The Little Mermaid was filmed at Pinewood Studios in London) cement a sense of familiarity between the actors, it helped him with his vocal performance.

I mean, we were all together for quite some time in a studio in England. We got to know each other very well. And that definitely helped with my vocal delivery, because I much prefer that to being in a recording booth, especially because of Covid. Under other circumstances it would have been on Zoom, but it was a privilege to be able to all be together and do our scenes together.

Returning to the characters of the film, Javier Bardem plays Triton , father of Ariel and King of the seas. Triton is overprotective of his daughter, and does not want her to venture into the world of humans, which he considers barbaric and dangerous. He explains the Spanish actor:

He is a man who loves his daughter deeply, but is confused, feels fear and insecurity in that love. He is preventing her from being free. So I had to create that kind of relationship, I had to play that kind of role, for the story to make sense. One of the beautiful themes of this story is that mother and father, adults learn to give children. It is a very important lesson in what love means. They thought they knew, but no, they had no idea what true love was until they see their children leave.

Bardem refers to the fact that Eric ‘s mother, Queen Charlotte , is also overprotective of her son and doesn’t want to allow him to explore unfamiliar places.

Unforgettable songs

Being a musical with several underwater choreographies, the difficulties were considerable. Specifically, the most complex sequence was the famous Under the Sea , as revealed by producer John DeLuca .

[It was complex] to conceive and to shoot. If only to get an idea of ​​what we were going to do, and then how we were going to do it. The logistics of the scene. I remember me and Rob putting it aside for a long time. It was like, “We’ll think about it,” and it ended up being the last thing.

Rob Marshall adds:

I know, it was scary. Because there is only one actress in the flesh. An actress in the flesh in this gigantic musical number.

Alan Menken intervened to rework his unforgettable songs (for example by adding Ariel ‘s vocalsto the aforementioned Under the sea ), and tells how he reacted when he heard Halle Bailey sing Part of Your World : an emotion also due to the memory of Howard Ashman , co-writer of the songs, passed away in 1991.

We had our recording sessions, then you let me see the film when the editing was still very rough. And Wyatt [Smith], the editor, kept passing me the tissue box. Because when we got to Part of Your World , I was just in tears. It was partly a reaction to missing Howard, and partly to the memory of innocence that we originally put [into those songs], listening to them now.

Marshall was also moved when he auditioned for Halle Bailey .

The first actress we met for this role was Halle. The first thing she did was come to us and sing. And she sang that song. She closed her eyes and started singing the song. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It seemed to me that she was deeply connected to the theme of the song. It was very emotional, beautiful. And I was like, [laughs] ‘Damn, we’ve only started five minutes… but have we found Ariel yet?’ And we had found her.