BEVERLY HILLS — "The Little Mermaid" will swim again.
ABC Monday is announcing plans for a live musical version of the 1989 Disney film, set to air Nov. 5 with Auli'l Cravalho ("Moana") as Ariel, Queen Latifah as Ursula the sea witch and Shaggy as Sebastian the crab. It's entirely separate from a live-action remake due in theaters with Halle Bailey and – possibly – Melissa McCarthy, part of the Disney studio's plan to remake many animated classics. ABC Entertainment chief Karey Burke unveiled the plans at the Television Critics Association press tour.
But if this all sounds familiar, it's because ABC announced plans for this project in May 2017, only to cancel it that August due to high costs, then said to be $25 million. That decision followed diminishing returns for musicals on NBC, which started the recent trend in 2013 with "The Sound of Music" but has since canceled plans for "Bye Bye Birdie" and, earlier this year, "Hair."
The network has trimmed the fins (and budget) of this "Mermaid," originally based on a Hans Christian Andersen story, on the 30th anniversary of its release. The two-hour "hybrid" special will feature musical performances from both the movie and the Broadway stage version on new sets (and with puppets!) that will be "interwoven into the broadcast of the original feature film." Extended versions of about 10 songs will be performed live against a projection backdrop of the movie.
That, presumably, will lessen the need for special underwater effects. And it will become part of Disney's promotional machine to resurface the beloved characters for theme parks, merchandise, its Disney+ streaming service –which launches a week later – and the upcoming feature film, for which no release date has been set.
Cravalho "shares the curiosity and the joy that Ariel has," she says, while Shaggy has watched the movie "over and over and over and over again" with his three daughters. "After a while I felt Sebastian is me. You have to join in, because that's the only way you score points as a dad." (He recorded "Under the Sea," Sebastian's signature song, in 1996 for a Disney album.)
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Little Mermaid': Queen Latifah to play Ursula in ABC event