Disney’s live-action reimagining of “The Little Mermaid” has ignited anticipation across the globe, as fans eagerly await the fresh take on this beloved animation. We were privileged to be part of a global press conference, where the talented cast and filmmakers behind this new adaptation shared their unique experiences and insights. Join us as we unravel the highlights from this captivating underwater journey into the hearts and minds of the individuals who breathed life into your favorite characters.
Journey into the Production
Halle Bailey as Ariel
Halle, breathes new life into Ariel, portraying her vivacity and curiosity with sincere passion, spoke passionately about her role. Ariel had helped her find her “young woman version.” Given that she was 18 when she started this journey and now, five years later, she finds herself transformed through the themes of the film and Ariel’s character. “From 18 to now being 23, so those are like very intense like transformative years as you’re developing as a young woman. But I feel like especially these themes of the film and what she had to go through with her passions and drive and speaking up for herself, and even though it may be scary, she went for it. I feel like those things I really try to adopt and give to Halle now. So, she’s taught me so much, for sure.” Ariel’s determination, self-expression, and bravery, despite the odds, have instilled in her qualities that she now carries in her everyday life.
Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric
Jonah Hauer-King, the charming actor portraying Prince Eric, brings a fresh and relatable take on Prince Eric, capturing his adventurous spirit and longing for something more. Despite the pressure that comes with assuming such an adored role, Hauer-King expressed the exhilaration of stepping into such a cherished role. He mentioned a moving moment where Art Malik’s grandson was completely absorbed in the film during a viewing, underlining the profound influence of the story on young viewers. His remarks underscored the extraordinary responsibility resting on the actors’ shoulders as they introduce these ageless characters to a new generation. “So, the Disney prince and the Disney princess aspect is amazing and it’s fun and exciting, but I think watching it last night made me realize that for all of us, even though we’re living in this fantasy space, it just feels really connected to the world and to the real world.”
In a lighthearted twist, Hauer-King playfully contrasted his previous works with The Little Mermaid, expressing joy that his children can now appreciate one of his films. His depiction of Prince Eric reflects a transformative journey, navigated with heartfelt warmth and sincerity.
Melissa McCarthy as Ursula
Melissa McCarthy, renowned for her comedic prowess, embraced the role of Ursula, the film’s iconic villain, with open arms. She kicked off the conversation at the press conference by expressing her delight at the grandeur of the movie’s premiere. Hollywood Boulevard, she noted, had transformed into a shimmering sea of blue, a spectacle that rekindled her deep-rooted love for making movies. The transformation wasn’t just physical; it symbolized the climax of years of dedication and hard work invested in the project. For McCarthy, the anticipation of unveiling their work was comparable to sending a child off to school, filled with a mix of nervousness and excitement.
Daveed Diggs as Sebastian
Daveed Diggs, who voices the lovable and charismatic Sebastian, highlighted his remarkable experience with “The Little Mermaid.” Despite his rich portfolio including “Hamilton” and “Blindspotting,” Diggs found the journey with this project uniquely profound. Balancing grandeur with intimacy, the cast built a world from scratch during rehearsals, culminating into a larger-than-life spectacle on screen. “And so to just sit there and be struck by it, it’s just… it is really cool, to see a thing that, like, you thought only existed in your imagination” Diggs reflected. Diggs described being part of “The Little Mermaid” as one of the coolest experiences he has ever had.
He highlighted the scale of the movie’s production, comparing it to creating a small piece of art that later manifested into a larger-than-life spectacle. The cast, in their rehearsals, worked as if they were part of a small community theater—pushing boxes around to create makeshift sets, and immersing themselves in their characters and the world they were building.
Javier Bardem as King Triton
Javier Bardem, who stepped into the role of Ariel’s stern yet loving father, King Triton, shared his experiences during the conference. A question was raised about his feelings toward Bailey, mirroring their on-screen father-daughter dynamic. Bardem confessed that from their very first meeting, he was absolutely enchanted by Bailey. “I feel it was easy for us just to connect and [dance?] together. And I was always mesmerized by the quality of her as a performer, let alone the singing that I knew.” Bardem expressed admiration for her prowess as a performer, and the courage she displayed, contributing to a natural and fruitful collaboration.
Further, Bardem was deeply moved by the audience’s palpable and heartfelt connection with the film. The cheers, support, and visible appreciation from the crowd served as a testament to the cast and crew’s diligent work on the movie. This, in turn, made the premiere night an unforgettable experience for Bardem.
Jacob Tremblay as Flounder
In his role as Flounder, Ariel’s loyal fish friend, Jacob Tremblay shared his thoughts and experiences. He mentioned the strong camaraderie that developed among the cast while working together in the recording studio in England. This sense of togetherness significantly improved their voice work and the ability to perform scenes in the same physical space, despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, was a cherished opportunity. “I will say that it was really fun, and I was really nervous at the start, obviously. But everyone was there kind of cheering me on, so, after a while, I felt really comfortable and just had fun with it.” Although he jokingly admitted that he can’t sing his character’s parts anymore without his voice cracking, Tremblay’s affection for the family-like environment on set shone through clearly.
Awkwafina as Scuttle
Awkwafina, voicing Ariel’s eccentric seagull friend Scuttle, shared her unique approach to embodying this beloved character. She expressed agreement with Tremblay’s observations about the unorthodox rehearsal process, which had all the actors reading scenes together — a strategy seldom utilized in animated or live-action productions. For Awkwafina, this marked a first in her career and resulted in an invaluable experience. She depicted the ambiance as “crazy,” attributing the majority of their performances to the collaborative environment fostered on that special day.
Adding to the discussion on the film’s diverse cast, Awkwafina stated, “I think it reflects the world we live in. And I think that everyone deserves to see themselves on screen,” underscoring the significance of on-screen representation. When questioned about her affinity with Scuttle, she humorously concurred, confessing that after a few margaritas on a Tuesday, she finds herself sharing Scuttle’s neurotic traits.
Noma Dumezweni as Queen Selina
Noma Dumezweni, playing the newly introduced Queen Selina, shared her journey with the character. She expressed her trust in the creative team, saying, “In the loveliest way, no challenges… I was very lucky. All I do is just trust the people I’m working with.” She acknowledged the directors’ skill in fostering a positive and collaborative environment, which she attributed to their strong theatrical roots. Dumezweni also appreciated their commitment to rehearsals and their knack for making every cast member feel significant.
Unforgettable Filming Experiences
When it comes to unforgettable experiences during filming, Halle Bailey had a great story to tell. Shooting a storm scene with Jonah Hauer-King in a tank at Pinewood, she remembered the hilarious trouble they had trying to keep afloat because of Jonah’s boots, which kept making him sink and step on her toes. Despite the physical challenges, the experience strengthened their bond and added to the authenticity of their performances.
Melissa McCarthy shared her experiences during filming. For her, the best part encompassed every single moment, from rehearsals to scenes in a massive 60-foot clam shell. She found the entire process personal, intimate, and heartwarming, largely thanks to director Rob Marshall, who she described as a soft, gentle cheerleader appreciating everyone’s contribution. The most challenging part for Melissa was living up to the high standards set by the director and her talented co-stars. Interestingly, she shared that during the filming, she never physically touched the ground due to various rigs and supports used for her character, Ursula. She expressed her admiration for the amazing team of dancers and stunt people who acted as her ‘fins’ or ‘feet’ during the scenes. The entire production, according to Melissa, was a magnificent ensemble effort. The camaraderie among the cast and crew was evident, fostering a collaborative and energetic atmosphere that transcended into their performances. That said, the most challenging part was meeting the high standards set by Marshall and her fellow cast members. The team’s collective commitment to excellence fueled her to bring out her best, embodying the cunning and charismatic Ursula that audiences will love to hate.
One of the highlights of the discussion revolved around the unique rehearsal process. Directors Rob Marshall and John DeLuca implemented a system heavily influenced by their theater backgrounds, encouraging collaboration and improvisation. This was a novel experience for many of the cast, allowing them to form a genuine familial bond.
Anticipation and Expectations
The anticipation surrounding Disney’s live-action “The Little Mermaid” is massive. With a story that’s enchanted audiences for decades, the expectations are high. But from the insights shared by the cast at the global press conference, it’s evident that they’ve embraced their roles with an understanding of the characters’ significance and a commitment to making the story resonate with a new generation.
In the transformation “From Animation to Live-Action,” the panel agreed on one crucial element – humanity. The live-action adaptation brought an added layer of realism to these beloved characters, grounding them in relatable emotions and situations. This humanizing aspect offers a fresh perspective to the classic tale, allowing audiences to connect with the narrative on a deeper level.
Disney’s live-action “The Little Mermaid” is set to be a remarkable blend of nostalgia and novelty, carrying forward the spirit of the original while introducing new elements to enchant today’s audiences. The global press conference offered a tantalizing glimpse into the world under the sea that awaits us, filled with beloved characters, memorable music, and a timeless tale of adventure and love.
The Little Mermaid is now showing in cinemas nationwide. Check out screening times and get tickets here.