Home Entertainment Disney: “The Little Mermaid”, a new sanitized and self-righteous version, saved by...

Disney: “The Little Mermaid”, a new sanitized and self-righteous version, saved by singing

Inspired by the original tale by Hans Christian Andersen, published in 1836, and the Disney cartoon released in 1989, this new version of The little Mermaid directed by Rob Marshall is a live-action musical comedy brought up to date. The worldwide release is scheduled for Wednesday, May 24.

1830, off a fictional Caribbean island, Ariel (Halle Bailey), a young mermaid, is raised at the bottom of the sea with her sisters by a single father, King Triton (Javier Bardem). The youngest of the siblings, Ariel is also the boldest, most disobedient and adventurous of the seven sisters. Fascinated by humans, she secretly collects objects in a cave that she unearths from shipwrecks, at the risk of being devoured by sharks.

In the wake of his adventures, Flounder (voice of Jacob Tremblay for the original version), the cute little fish, and Eureka (voice of Awkwafina), a clumsy bird, are never far away, just like the crab Sebastian ( voice, Daveed Diggs), charged by the king to watch over her. But one day, tormented by her curiosity, the mermaid breaks Triton’s prohibition and rises to the surface of the ocean. There, as a storm rages, she saves Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King) from shipwreck. In love, Ariel is ready to do anything to find her prince…

High tech realization

Blue screen, choreographer, dancers, stuntmen, harnessed actors, shipbuilding specialists, wind machines, water cannons… Disney has pulled out all the stops to produce this new “live action” version of The little Mermaidafter the cartoon released in 1989.

“The underwater world is completely digital while on the surface everything is real and constructed like a classic period film. And since this is also a musical, we had the impression in many respects of preparing three different films at the same time”explains the director in the presentation of the film.

A large part of the work was produced upstream: the design of the sets, the recording of the voices with the participation of the actors for the human characters, and of puppets for the imaginary characters, then replaced by “photorealistic” versions in post-production. production.

“Since so much of the film – especially anything underwater – was digitally created by visual effects supervisor Tim Burke in post-production, it was crucial that these shots be drawn up in-house. advance”, specifies the production.


All this technological implementation offers a half-realistic half-magical version of the famous tale, resulting in spectacular images, flashy decors, which plunge the viewer into colorful, immersive underwater worlds, in atmospheres that transport them. at the heart of the adventure. The evil world of the character of Ursula (Melissa McCarthy) is particularly successful.

The other side of this technological medal: the sets are beautiful but sanitized, the sirens have a look of youtubers, and the “imaginary” secondary characters are nice but visually not very expressive. This realistic aesthetic, but artificialized by technology, makes us regret the animated version, which despite its luscious sirens and its slightly kitsch side, gave way to a freshness, a candor here erased by the sophistication of computer-generated images.

The debauchery of means implemented breaks the charm of this story, and it is ultimately more in the realistic sets of the mainland and especially via the sound – the very successful interpretation of the famous songs, and the vivacity of the voices of the characters – much more than by the virtuosity of the computer-generated images, that one lets oneself be moved.

A modern Little Mermaid?

This new Disney production resolutely displays its desire to offer a Little Mermaid “modern”. Post #MeToo, Ariel was born in the time of LGTBQ+ fights and in a Hollywood world now attentive to everyone’s visibility, and to ecological challenges.

Even if it is not a first – Disney had chosen in 1997 the black singer Brandy to interpret Cinderella – the choice of a mixed-race actress to embody Ariel nevertheless aroused hostile reactions, but also very enthusiastic. ATIn the United States, some parents had fun filming their children watching the first images of The little Mermaidamazed to discover a Little Mermaid that looks like them.

Halle Bailey “was simply the best for this role” assured Rob Marshall. “There was no prior intention to cast a black actress.” Beyond this choice, the scenario voluntarily blurs the tracks, with a black queen Sélina (Noma Dumezwen), mother of a white adopted son, this idea then declined in the ranks of the ship’s crew, in the markets and the popular festivals of the island (in case we had not understood), then in apotheosis in the final scene.

“Sea people are like humans. At the end of the film, during the big party, we wanted to celebrate the different people who belong to the big family of the world”, welcomes Jeffrey Silver. If the ecological question is also mentioned, it is very furtively (no plastic bags in suspension to tarnish the beauty of the seabed).

Do all these good points manage to make Ariel a contemporary Little Mermaid? Is choosing a mixed-race actress enough to break stereotypes? Of course, this news Little Mermaid lives in a diverse world, she is courageous, frees herself from patriarchal authority, assumes her choice to live in another world, but in order not to change, her emancipation depends on the seduction of her prince charming. ..

To go further with the children, before or after the session, we can go back to the original version of the tale (a very beautiful text), beautifully illustrated and enlightened by Benjamin Lacombe, published in November 2022 by Albin Michel Jeunesse editions.

The sheet

Gender : Adventure, Drama, Family, Fantasy
Rob Marshall
: Halle Bailey, Melissa McCarthy, Jonah Hauer-King, Javier Bardem
Duration: 2h15
: May 24, 2023
: The Walt Disney Company France

Synopsis : Ariel, the youngest daughter of King Triton, is a beautiful and fiery young mermaid with an adventurous temperament. Rebellious at heart, she is constantly drawn to the world that exists beyond the waves. At the turn of her escapades on the surface, she will fall under the spell of Prince Eric. While mermaids are forbidden to interact with humans, Ariel still feels she must follow her heart. She then concludes an agreement with Ursula, the terrible witch of the seas, which grants her the power to live on dry land, but without suspecting that this pact puts her life – and the crown of her father – in danger…

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