Rob Marshall is Disney's top pick to direct the live-action version of The Little Mermaid that is currently in early development. The project is essentially a live-action reimagining of the Mouse House's 1989 animated film of the same name, itself adapted from Han Christian Andersen's fairy tale about a young mermaid who wants to become a human and falls in love with a human prince. Alan Menken, who cowrote the animated Little Mermaid's Oscar-winning songs and score, is working on the music for the live-action version with Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator and former star of the Broadway smash hit stage musical Hamilton.
The Little Mermaid is one of several live-action remakes/updates of classic Disney animated films that are actively moving forward without a specific release date target, at the moment. Whereas similar projects like director Niki Caro's Mulan have now entered the casting stage of their development process, The Little Mermaid has yet to secure a director, much less begin considering candidates to play the flesh and blood version of Ariel. However, now that the project has found a potential helmsman, it may start to pickup speed on its way through pre-production.
Deadline is reporting that Rob Marshall is not only Disney's top pick to direct The Little Mermaid, but that he's already been offered the job and will make a final decision on the matter after the winter holidays are over. Marshall is fresh off having worked on the Mouse House's live-action sequel Mary Poppins Returns, which Miranda costars in along with Emily Blunt as the Practically Perfect nanny herself.
Marshall made his feature-length directorial debut on the Best Picture Oscar-winning musical Chicago in 2002. He eventually went on to direct Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (the fourth installment in the Pirates franchise) for Disney in 2011, before then reuniting with the Mouse House on the Stephen Sondheim musical adaptation Into the Woods in 2014. Clearly, Marshall's efforts on Disney's belated Mary Poppins sequel have impressed the studio enough to want to keep him around for another one of the studio's major productions.
The fact that Disney is looking at Marshall to call the shots on The Little Mermaid further suggests that the film will be a proper musical affair, much like its animated predecessor was. Whereas this year's Beauty and the Beast live-action retelling was likewise a song and dance extravaganza, several of Disney's upcoming live-action remakes are going to fall into a different genre altogether. Mulan, for example, is expected to have musical elements but is already being compared to a Ridley Scott war epic more than a traditional musical. Similarly, Guy Ritchie's upcoming Aladdin retelling will include songs from its animated predecessor, but is otherwise expected to feel more like, well, a Guy Ritchie fantasy adventure.
It remains to be seen if Marshall actually signs on to helm The Little Mermaid, but the odds seem in favor of that happening, based on his history with Disney. On the whole, this particular director/studio pairing has proven to be both commercially and creatively rewarding (assuming that Mary Poppins Returns lives up to expectations, anyway), so here is to hoping that it continues as such.