Hans Christian Andersen did the world a favor when he fashioned “The Little Mermaid,” and the fairytale has been told time and time again through a variety of animated movie remakes. Before Disney took on the task of creating underwater fun in their own image, “The Little Mermaid” was already a classic—but the redheaded Ariel and the island drawl of the smart-mouthed Sebastian delivered an unforgettable performance that audiences could not help but fall in love with.
Disney’s “Little Mermaid” spawned a television series, several movie sequels, a whimsical Broadway production and a multitude of video games (including a playable game world in Square Enix’s popular series Kingdom Hearts). As live-action remakes are becoming a trend, it is only natural for Disney to give fans “The Little Mermaid” once again; and I am excited to see how they’ll bring “The Little Mermaid” to life.
However, Disney is not the only production team wanting to go under the sea and bring up this marvelous gem. In March 2017, a trailer for a live-action version of “The Little Mermaid” appeared suddenly, causing fans to stir and wonder if it was the rumored Disney remake they heard about in 2016. To the dismay of many fans, Disney was not behind the live-action trailer; instead, Netflix would be the distributor of this curious remake, and the trailer does not make fans want to dance and sing. In fact, the trailer does not resemble “The Little Mermaid” that fans were expecting to see.
Based on the trailer, the plot seemingly centers around a story of a little girl and a young man, who is a reporter, and they discover a mermaid at the circus. The mermaid is apparently enslaved by a sinister sorcerer because he has her soul, and now it’s up to the little girl and her brother to rescue the mermaid. There is no Ariel who is defying her father King Triton, there is no lovable guppy Flounder to explore with and talk into embarking on dangerous adventures and there is no wise-cracking Sebastian to persuade into helping out with a foolish plan. No, this “Little Mermaid” has none of the scenes from the childhood we’ve come to relish even now.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s an interesting plot and the actors seem capable, but none of the trailer’s events follow the plot of “The Little Mermaid” known to fans, and don’t even follow the original story of “The Little Mermaid” written by Hans Christian Andersen.
“The Little Mermaid” is a fairytale about a young mermaid who falls in love with a human male and gives up her life in the sea to be with him. The story only ends happily in the Disney version, whereas in the original, the prince marries someone else because he believes the woman to be the one who saved him instead of the Little Mermaid and the protagonist’s sisters give up their hair to the Sea Witch to obtain a knife so she can kill the prince and regain her fins, but the Little Mermaid loves him too much to do so and kills herself instead. Her body dissolves into foam, but she herself becomes an earthbound spirit and gets the chance to earn a soul of her own because of her selflessness. Even this unhappily-ever-after ending would be preferred over what is currently being crafted, but what fans really want to see is a stubborn redheaded teenage girl defying her father and following her heart, all while battling a purple, voluptuous sea witch who has the knowledge of body language and the ability to turn into a manipulative, man-stealing heartbreaker.
While Disney has borrowed material here and there, they’ve managed to repackage old stories and make them anew, and this magic touch of theirs dates back to “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” and continues onward, even to today. Thus, if there is going to be a live-action remake of “The Little Mermaid,” then Disney should be the sole contender to step up for the job.
For many, Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” is the first telling of the tale they’ve ever heard, myself included. There are people who do not know about Hans Christian Andersen writing “The Little Mermaid” or have seen the many other animated adaptations, such as the Japanese film “Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid,” which came out in 1975, fourteen years before Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” in 1989—and in “Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid,” there was no Ariel and Flounder, but Princess Marina and her dolphin pal Fritz, and Princess Marina’s story follows the original story of not getting the prince and killing herself.
While depressing, the producers of the Netflix remake could have chosen to pull from this story instead of coming up with a new concept. If they wanted a new concept, they should have at least chosen to title the film by another name; and that would have caused fans less dissatisfaction overall. How can Disney go about pleasing fans of the movie and avoiding an uprising?
Music would be appropriate. In several of the Disney remakes thus far, the musical aspect has been diminished, but “The Little Mermaid” flourishes because of its musical scenes, and to have “The Little Mermaid” without music would be a mistake. While the trailer showed a brief moment of Netflix’s little mermaid singing a sweet tune, nothing can rival Sebastian crooning life into the songs “Under the Sea” and “Kiss the Girl,” or Ariel’s desperate longing found in “Part of Your World.” Only Disney can provide fans with these festive songs and tender moments, and honestly, fans would be disappointed if Disney skimped out on those vibrant melodious performances.
Though neither Netflix nor Disney have released their live-action remakes, fans are eagerly waiting, whether it be to criticize one and praise the other or criticize both and praise neither. Personally, I think the former is more likely, and the one to be praised will be Disney, but only time will tell if either remake was worth the effort.