Beyoncé was a huge help to actor Halle Bailey when it came to dealing with the racist criticism of The Little Mermaid. Bailey was cast as Ariel in the live-action adaptation of The Little Mermaid in July 2019. Although the original Ariel voice actor approved Bailey’s selection, several racist statements were made in response to a Black actor replacing Ariel. Bailey previously addressed the casting reaction, emphasizing the importance of representation for the Black community. Yet, her casting remains a talking point as the film nears its May 2023 release date.
In an interview with The Face, Bailey elaborated on the Ariel casting reaction, revealing that superstar Beyoncé taught her to disregard the criticism. Here’s a quote from her:
“As a Black person, you just expect it and it’s not really a shock anymore. When [Chlöe and I] first signed to Parkwood, [Beyoncé] was always like: ‘I never read my comments. Don’t ever read the comments.’ Honestly, when the teaser came out, I was at the D23 Expo [the biggest Disney fan event] and I was so happy. I didn’t see any of the negativity.”
The live-action remake of The Little Mermaid is set to hit theaters on May 26 and will tell the complete narrative of Bailey’s Ariel. Together with Bailey, Jonah Hauer-King from Little Women will portray Prince Eric, Melissa McCarthy from Bridesmaids will play Ursula, Javier Bardem from Skyfall will play King Triton, and Daveed Diggs from Hamilton will play Sebastian. Flounder will be voiced by Jacob Tremblay (Harley Quinn). According to the latest developments on The Little Mermaid film, its star-studded ensemble will offer the same emotional mood as the original The Little Mermaid delivered.
The plot of The Little Mermaid will be altered in order to give Ariel greater autonomy. Though Disney has not specified what those alterations would be, some known improvements include bringing a more progressive Ariel, who will discover freedom on the surface and make a difference in the larger world rather than searching for love. Given Ariel’s youth, it’s possible that there were public worries regarding how Ariel and Eric’s relationship would be presented. If Ariel is to be a role model for young girls, she must be updated with a modern image representing current feminism.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of Hamilton, who previously collaborated with Disney to produce music for Moana, will write new songs for the live-action adaptation. While Beyoncé is unlikely to appear in Bailey’s The Little Mermaid, her impact on Bailey ensures that her presence is felt.