Disney's live-action The Little Mermaid has cast Halle Bailey to play Ariel. Following in the footsteps of fellow Disney Animation hits like Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King, the tale of Ariel the mermaid princess is getting a live-action makeover, complete with all (or, at the least, most) of the original songs from the studio's Oscar-winning 1989 animated feature. And like the Mouse House's other fairy tale re-imaginings of late, the expectation is that the film will try and tap in audience's nostalgia for its predecessor, while at the same time "fixing" and/or tweaking the elements from the animated version that haven't aged so well in the last thirty years.
The studio has entrusted this particular job to director Rob Marshall, who has become a trusted collaborator for them after his well-received efforts on the musicals Into the Woods and Mary Poppins Returns. (He also helmed Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, but, well, moving on.) Casting suddenly picked up something fierce over the last week; first, Melissa McCarthy began talks to play the sea witch Ursula, then Jacob Tremblay and Awkwafina were said to be in discussions to voice Flounder and Scuttle. Still, the question has remained: who will play the actual Little Mermaid herself?
Disney has now confirmed that Bailey is playing Ariel in the live-action Little Mermaid, with Marshall releasing a statement saying "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". The film will mark the R&B singer's feature debut, though she's recently played a supporting role on the Black-ish TV show spinoff Grown-ish.
Chloe x Halle, the musical group that Bailey founded with her sister, have also posted the following artwork to Twitter, in celebration of the news:
According to Disney's press release, additional casting announcements for The Little Mermaid will be arriving over the next few weeks, well ahead of production getting underway in early 2020. Much like Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin, the film will include brand-new songs, this time written by Alan Menken and Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda (who previously worked with the Mouse on Moana). Meanwhile, Marshall's Mary Poppins Returns writer David Magee is writing the script and drawing from an earlier draft by Jane Goldman (Stardust, Kingsman).
By this point, most people probably know if they're okay with these Disney remakes or against the idea of "re-imagining" the studio's animated features in live-action (complete with photorealistic CGI) on principle. With that said, The Little Mermaid sounds quite strong on paper right now - something that hasn't always been the case with these retellings in the past - and, if nothing else, it's encouraging to see that next year's Mulan won't be the only upcoming remake led by a non-animated Disney princess of color.