We Have Our Ariel!

Love them or hate them, remakes are flooding Disney's market. One of their most highly anticipated upcoming live-action remakes just happens to be my favorite movie, The Little Mermaid. There has been a great deal of speculation behind who Disney might cast to play Ariel, the passionate redheaded mermaid, especially after they announced that they were focusing mainly on actresses of color for the role. A long-standing rumor was that they had their eye on Zendaya, the talented star of Disney Channel's K.C. Undercover, which concluded last year. There were no further announcements about this casting decision until today. True to their word, Disney is sticking to their intention to cast an actress of color. The internet is now buzzing with the news that the role of Ariel has officially been granted to Grown-ish actress Halle Bailey. It appears that Zendaya was either unavailable or deemed too old with the announcement of this newcomer.

I never watched the show Grown-ish, which is a spin-off of Black-ish that Halle stars in with her sister Chloe. The girls play twin sisters named Sky and Jazz, even though they are not twins in real life. They also perform in an R&B group called Chloe x Halle, fulfilling the requirement that whoever plays Ariel must be a skilled singer. The fact that Halle shares so much of her professional career with her sister makes me wonder if Chloe will be cast as one of Ariel's six sisters in the film, giving her the opportunity for a small singing role as well in "Daughters of Triton" and possibly "She's in Love" if they incorporate music from the Broadway production. Personally, I am not eager to hear "Part of Your World" remixed as an R&B song should Disney choose to go that direction. Will Smith's hip hop renditions of "Friend Like Me" and "Prince Ali" weren't quite as distracting as I thought they would be in the recent Aladdin remake, so maybe it won't be as bad in practice as it sounds in theory. I would have preferred that they cast someone who classically trained in musical theater like they did with Jodi Benson in the original film, but I understand that times have changed since then. Even Broadway of music has been updated to more of a hip hop style with the popularity of Lin-Manuel Miranda, who is also working on the music for this remake of The Little Mermaid.

The first question everyone seemed to have about Ariel being cast as an actress who is not a natural redhead is whether or not she will change her hair for the role. The biggest issue is that a wig or a poorly done dye job could come off looking too unnatural. There were many complaints about the appearance of Mera, an underwater queen with hair nearly identical to Ariel's, in the latest Aquaman movie. The complaints revolved around the fact that her wig was too bright and fake, while arguments in favor of it pointed out that chlorine and other chemicals in the water could damage hair in underwater scenes, especially if it's been dyed, and that even professional mermaids use wigs to protect their own hair. In this case, it depends how much CGI Disney will use to create the underwater imagery. Hopefully Halle is a good swimmer! Ironically, JoAnna Garcia Swisher, who played a previous live-action version of Ariel in ABC's Once Upon a Time, didn't need to do any swimming for the role and had no underwater scenes. That's unlikely to be the case here, considering that half of the original film took place underwater.

There have been other rumors flying around about the remake as well recently. Gilmore Girls actress Melissa McCarthy is reportedly in talks to play Ursula, but that is still open to change. I am personally unfamiliar with Melissa's experience as a singer, so I can't say if she has the musical chops necessary to belt out "Poor Unfortunately Souls." However, I think the role would be better suited to someone more flamboyant since the animated character was originally inspired by the drag queen Divine. Other actors in talks for the film include Jacob Tremblay for the role of Flounder and Crazy Rich Asians star Awkwafina as Scuttle. Gender-swapping Scuttle is a little surprising, but right on par with the other bold casting decisions Disney has made with this film, causing it stand out from its animated predecessor. Awkwafina's lovable performance as ditzy best friend Peik Lin Goh in Crazy Rich Asians seems like a perfect match for Scuttle's bumbling expertise on the human world.

As much as I wish Disney would focus more on original animated movies instead of turning all their old ones into live-action, I am eager to see what new direction they might take with my favorite fairy tale. Congratulations to Halle Bailey for landing such a dream role. I hope that her sister Chloe can share the spotlight with her as one of the other daughters of Triton. Even though there is very little known about this movie right now, it is already beginning to look very different from the 1989 classic, which is a good thing in my opinion because I'd rather have something entirely new than a carbon copy that will never live up to the original. I do like the choice of Awkwafina as Scuttle, but I hope they pick someone who can act like more of a diva than Melissa McCarthy to play Ursula. Now I will leave you with a lovely video of Halle Bailey, our new Ariel, belting out the classic song "Unforgettable."


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