Just weeks before the reimagining of The Lion King roars into theaters, Disney has cast the lead role for its upcoming live-action adaptation of The Little Mermaid. Actress/singer Halle Bailey will star as Ariel, the title heroine first portrayed by Jodi Benson in 1989.
19-year-old Bailey is best known as half of the singing pair Chloe x Halle, which she shares with her sister, nominated at this year’s Grammy Awards for Best New Artist.
While no official release date is announced, a live-action Little Mermaid has been in development for over three years already. The remake will be directed by Rob Marshall (Mary Poppins Returns), who will also produce alongside John DeLuca, Marc Platt, and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Alan Menken and Howard Ashman’s masterpiece songs will once again highlight the reimagining, as will new songs from Menken and Miranda. The former is a Disney Legend, no stranger to the company. The latter is on his way to building his Disney Legend resume, having written songs for Moana and starred in Mary Poppins Returns.
In a statement released by Disney, Marshall said, “After an extensive search, it was abundantly clear that Halle possesses that rare combination of spirit, heart, youth, innocence, and substance — plus a glorious singing voice — all intrinsic qualities necessary to play this iconic role.”
While additional casting has yet to be publicly cemented by Disney, Deadline reports that Awkwafina and Jacob Tremblay are in talks to play Scuttle and Flounder, respectively. The Hollywood Reporter shares that Melissa McCarthy is in similar discussions to portray Ursula.
The original 1989 animated classic single-handedly saved not only Walt Disney Animation Studios, but arguably all of theatrical feature animation, from extinction upon its release. Harking back to the grand fairytale tradition of Disney’s heritage, the film ushered in what is today known as the Disney Renaissance.
Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, the animated film re-released to digital and Blu-ray with a Walt Disney Signature Collection volume earlier this year. A documentary directed by Don Hahn chronicling the story of the film’s lyricist, Howard Ashman, is expected to release on Disney’s streaming platform, Disney+, which debuts this November.
To explore more commentary and history behind The Little Mermaid, check out our podcast episode and Canon Countdown about the film, Princess Profile of Ariel, and Villain Vignette of Ursula.
Bailey photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images.