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The Little Mermaid - What We Know So Far

The plight of any Disney princess is always one that is appealing on a universal level. Though Ariel is but a sea creature that makes a magical pact in exchange for legs, the themes at the center of the story transcend the plot. "The Little Mermaid" at its core is about the pursuit of love, however unrealistic it may seem. It appears unlikely that a human prince and a mermaid would have a lot of shared life experiences, but love knows no bounds. Despite the very dark history of "The Little Mermaid," the movie's heroine has become one of the flagship characters of the Disney brand, making it a prime time for a resurgence.

After a brief Broadway run as well as the continuing trend of live-action adaptations, "The Little Mermaid" is just one on a long list of many fan favorites to get the reboot treatment (via The New York Times). And while we may not know if the new film will go the way of Hans Christian Andersen's treatment of death and sacrifice, here is what we do know about the upcoming movie.

What is the plot of The Little Mermaid?

There have been many incarnations of the sea-dwelling character, though not all are the same. From Hans Christian Andersen's mature story to Disney's more upbeat interpretation, there are clearly many different directions that the story could go. But judging by Lin-Manuel Miranda's involvement as well as Disney's popularity, it is safe to say that the newest version of "The Little Mermaid" will stick close to the animated film (per Playbill). Plot details have not been explicitly stated, but Miranda has let some interesting tidbits slip in his role as a producer. In the "Award's Circuit" podcast for Variety, the composer indicated that the main beats of the Disney film will remain.

"We wrote three or four original tunes, replacing none of the ones you like. All of those are in," Miranda stated. With the music remaining intact, it's safe to say that the story will still revolve around Ariel's yearning for life on land and the love of a prince. Miranda also went on to say that Ariel trading her voice for legs is a large part of the story. "We wrote some music [for] her time on land. She experiences a lot of firsts, as someone with legs for the first time, so we got to lean into all of that musically."

Who is starring in The Little Mermaid?

The acting and singing pedigree for any movie musical should be unparalleled, and it looks like "The Little Mermaid" has struck gold. Ariel will certainly be able to sing as she will be portrayed by Grammy winner Halle Bailey. Part of the duo known as Chloe x Halle, Bailey has exploded in recent years for her singing and starting her foray into acting. In addition to her new role as a siren of the sea, Vanity Fair announced she has also joined the on-screen adaptation of the Broadway production "The Color Purple."

Bailey shared with Variety the seriousness she is taking to her new duties as Ariel. "I want the little girl in me and the little girls just like me who are watching to know that they're special, and that they should be a princess in every single way," Bailey acknowledged. "There's no reason that they shouldn't be."

Bailey will not be the only actor of note in the cast. The rest of the performers in significant roles are just as impressive, such as Oscar winner Javier Bardem as King Triton, who Bailey commended. "When I had scenes with Javier, I just pulled from my experience with my own father: how deep that love is, and how strong and protective they get," she told Variety. Additional actors include Melissa McCarthy as Ursula, Daveed Diggs as Sebastian, and Awkwafina as Scuttle (via The Hollywood Reporter).

What's the release date of The Little Mermaid?

Like many highly anticipated films of the past few years, "The Little Mermaid" has had some obstacles along the way. Film and television schedules have been interrupted due to COVID-19 concerns — and the upcoming Disney adaptation is no different. Casting first occurred in 2019 and went into production in the subsequent year. In 2020, Entertainment Weekly reported that the film was just one of many that were interrupted. "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings," "Nightmare Alley," and "The Last Duel" were also impacted by the pandemic. Luckily, all of these films have been released, and it looks like "The Little Mermaid" is up next.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the musical is currently set to be released on May 26, 2023. After just three short years of filming in London, Ariel will be part of her fans' world when the film is finally released — barring any further disasters, that is.

Who is directing The Little Mermaid?

Where Lin-Manuel Miranda goes, it seems that Rob Marshall follows. Or the other way around. The two collaborated on the 2018 sequel "Mary Poppins Returns" when Marshall cast Miranda in the role of Jack, seemingly a no-brainer. "It was actually John DeLuca's idea," Marshall told Deadline. "He said, 'What about Lin-Manuel?' I thought, 'Oh, what a great idea!' I mean, it was the height of the 'Hamilton' craze. I sat with him in between shows. As soon as you sit with Lin, there's such an infectiousness about his enthusiasm and his very pure childlike spirit." The spirit is continuing in "The Little Mermaid," with Marshall naturally in the director's chair and Miranda in a producing role (via Playbill).

Marshall's connection to the composer is not the only thing he has going for him. His experience in the musical sphere should prove instrumental for the upcoming film. He has been behind many musical adaptations such as "Into the Woods," "Nine," and — most significantly — "Chicago" (via IMDb). Starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renée Zellweger at the height of their fame, "Chicago" took the Broadway stage show and transformed it into a seamless film. Full of dazzling visuals and set pieces, the musical swept the Oscars that year and has become a definitive film for the director. After proving himself as an accomplished musical director, there is no telling what he will bring to "The Little Mermaid."

Where to watch other movies in The Little Mermaid universe

"The Little Mermaid" adaptations started out with the famous 1989 animated film, but there may be more iterations of the franchise than some of us remember. The love story between Ariel and Prince Eric remains a classic for many reasons, and songs like "Part of Your World," "Kiss the Girl," and "Poor Unfortunate Souls" are pieces that will stick in our minds forever. But after reliving the nostalgia, you may also want to peruse the rest of the catalog. After the success of the first film, Disney released a sequel, "The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea." The animated film revolves around Ariel and Eric's daughter Melody who comes to terms with her mermaid heritage. Other tangential animated films in the universe include "The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning," an obvious prequel to the original film. And for those who don't know all the words to the songs, they can always watch "The Little Mermaid Sing-Along."

There is also an option for a live-action adventure, for those who forgot about the 2019 stage adaptation. "The Little Mermaid Live!" was a stage production filmed for ABC that garnered a dismal 36% on Rotten Tomatoes. Stars Queen Latifah and John Stamos brought some cachet to the production, but not many were impressed (via USA Today). If you are a die-hard "The Little Mermaid" fan, all of these films are available on Disney+ for your viewing pleasure.