Disney is all about the live-action remake these days—not that we’re complaining. Beauty and the Beast, Dumbo, The Jungle Book, and Cinderella are just a few Disney classics that have gotten updates. This summer the company released a reboot of Aladdin and a new version of The Lion King, that features Beyoncé’s majestic vocals.
So what’s left for Disney to reimagine? The Little Mermaid, of course. Back in 2016 Deadline reported that a live-action version of the 1989 gem was on the way, but the only detail we knew was that Lin-Manuel Miranda was working on some of the music. But now casting is underway, with some roles having been announced. (Melissa McCarthy, Awkwafina, and Jacob Tremblay have all been referenced as potential hires.)
Most of these updates haven’t been confirmed, but here’s what we do know:
Rob Marshall is directing. He worked with Miranda on Mary Poppins Returns; his other musical adaptation credits include Chicago, Nine, and Into the Woods.
Halle Bailey will be playing Ariel. You probably know her best as one of the two members in the R&B group Chloe X Halle. Marshall said in a statement about Bailey's casting, “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.”
Haters on Twitter started using the hashtag #NotMyAriel to express their discontent about a black woman playing Ariel. But several people have come to Bailey’s defense, including Jodi Benson, the actress who voiced Ariel in the original Little Mermaid film.
“The most important thing is to tell the story. And we have, as a family, we have raised our children, and for ourselves, that we don’t see anything that’s different on the outside,” she said Saturday, July 6, at the Supercon convention in Florida, according to comicbook.com.
“I think that the spirit of a character is what really matters. What you bring to the table in a character as far as their heart, and their spirit, is what really counts,” she continued. “And the outside package—’cause, let’s face it, I’m really, really old—and so when I’m singing ‘Part of Your World,’ if you were to judge me on the way that I look on the outside, it might change the way that you interpret the song. But if you close your eyes, you can still hear the spirit of Ariel.”
Benson added, “And that’s what we want to do, we want to make a connection to the audience. So I know for Disney that they have the heart of storytelling, that’s really what they’re trying to do. They want to communicate with all of us in the audience so that we can fall in love with the film again."
At an event honoring her inclusion in Variety’s Power of Young Hollywood 2019 list, Bailey spoke out about the #NotMyAriel hashtag. “I feel like I’m dreaming,” she told a reporter. ”And I’m just grateful. I don’t pay attention to the negativity; I just feel like this role is something bigger than me. And it’s going to be beautiful. I’m just so excited to be a part of it.”
Lin-Manuel Miranda is behind the music. The award-winning Hamilton creator is a massive Little Mermaid fan—so much so that he named his son Sebastian, after the beloved crab in the original film. So it makes perfect sense that Disney tapped him to churn out some music for the film. He’s also reportedly an executive producer on the project, which might be why he’s had a hard time describing his exact role.
“I literally don’t have a title for what my job on The Little Mermaid is yet,” he previously told Vulture. “Right now it’s the guy who wears the ‘Don’t mess it up’ hat. If I could sign a contract with that job title on it, that would be great!”
Melissa McCarthy might play Ursula. At the end of June, Variety reported that Melissa McCarthy was in talks to take on Ursula. However, not everyone was feeling the potential casting decision. On Twitter many people shared that they wanted to see the role go to someone queer, particularly because the character was modeled after the late drag queen Divine. Other fans rallied around Lizzo, who has expressed wanting to play Ursula in the past. She even dressed up as her once and played one of the songs from the film on her flute.
Awkwafina and Jacob Tremblay are in the mix. Variety reported in June that Tremblay had signed on as Flounder, Ariel’s best friend, and Awkwafina will take on Scuttle the seagull.
Jonah Hauer-King is Prince Eric. On November 12, Deadline reported that the production had cast Hauer-King, who has previously been seen in A Dog’s Way Home, The Last Photograph, and the 2017 BBC miniseries of Little Women, where he played Laurie. (Earlier this year rumors were swirling that Harry Styles had nabbed the role, though that turned out to be false.)
The release date hasn’t been set. There’s no news about when the film comes out, but the project is still in early stages.
Originally Appeared on Glamour