Disney’s live-action “The Little Mermaid” is both a faithful and expanded adaptation of the studio’s 1989 animated classic, which featured an iconic voice performance from Jodie Benson as princess Ariel. News broke in April that director Rob Marshall and his “Little Mermaid” team changed lyrics to classic songs such as “Kiss the Girl” and “Poor Unfortunate Souls” to address matters of consent and more. The love story between Ariel and Prince Eric was also overhauled so that Ariel isn’t simply giving up her voice for the love of a man, which is perhaps the biggest criticism made these days against the 1989 original.
“We’re talking about starting our [voiceover] sessions in ’86 [for the original film],” Benson recently told Entertainment Weekly, defending the new film’s decision to update “The Little Mermaid” to contemporary times. “It’s 2023, so we have to grow, we have to learn, we have to be aware of our surroundings.”
“We’ve got to be aware of our growth as humans and what’s important now and what maybe isn’t as important,” Benson added. “Things change. We’ve got to roll with that… But you’ve got to have growth. It’s very important to stay relevant with where we are, what’s going on around us. We need to be aware. So the adjustments and the fine-tuning that they needed to do, it was a must, but it was done in a beautiful way, and I’m very, very thrilled with it.”
Alan Menken, who wrote the music for the 1989 animated movie and returned to work on new songs for the 2023 live-action remake, told Vanity Fair in April that updates were needed on some of the existing songs’ lyrics.
“There are some lyric changes in ‘Kiss the Girl’ because people have gotten very sensitive about the idea that [Prince Eric] would, in any way, force himself on [Ariel],” Menken said. “We have some revisions in ‘Poor Unfortunate Souls’ regarding lines that might make young girls somehow feel that they shouldn’t speak out of turn, even though Ursula is clearly manipulating Ariel to give up her voice.”
Halle Bailey, who is taking over the role of Ariel from Benson, also revealed in April that the film “definitely changed its perspective of just her wanting to leave the ocean for a boy. It’s way bigger than that. It’s about herself, her purpose, her freedom, her life and what she wants.”
“The Little Mermaid” remake has earned strong reviews, with Variety film critic Peter Debruge raving, “Halle Bailey is all the reason that any audience should need to justify Disney revisiting this classic. Director Rob Marshall found his Ariel, and together, they’ve made a keeper. Just wait till you hear her sing ‘Part of Your World,’ delivered with all the conviction of Jennifer Hudson’s career-making rendition of ‘And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.’”
“The Little Mermaid” opens in theaters May 26 from Disney.