The Little Mermaid Remake's Controversial Lyric Changes Explained by Director

By Klein Felt Posted:
Little Mermaid Animation vs live-action movies

The director of the upcoming The Little Mermaid reboot has revealed why the creative team made some pretty major changes to the original animated source text. 

Disney's latest live-action remake is looming close on the horizon as director Rob Marshall brings this classic story to life for a whole new generation of fans. 

The movie is already expected not to be a one-for-one retelling of the 1989 original, sporting a reported runtime that is nearly an hour longer than the film it is remaking

It has already been hinted that some major changes are set to hit the screen in this Halle Bailey-starring remake, with the big-screen blockbuster being teased as "much bigger" than the animated classic. 

Why The Little Mermaid's Lyrics Are Changing

The Little Mermaid Kiss the Girl
Disney

Speaking to Disney in a recent press release for The Little Mermaid remake, director Rob Marshall shared why some musical changes - which some fans have found to be controversial - were made to the upcoming film. 

In a deviation from the source material, the live-action remake will feature some altered lyrics to the classic "Kiss the Girl" musical number. Marshall noted that these changes are because "the culture and sensitivities have changed over the last 34 years" and they need to be "respectful to those changes:"

“We asked Lin-Manuel to make some slight adjustments to the original lyrics for 'Kiss the Girl,' because it’s important to remember that the culture and sensitivities have changed over the last 34 years, and it’s vital that we are respectful to those changes.”

These new "Kiss the Girl" lyrics will do away with the character of Prince Eric forcing himself upon Ariel in the film to include consent and reflect more modern social attitudes. 

The original lyrics sung by Samuel E. Wright's animated crab Sebastian, saw the charismatic crustacean sing:

"Yes, you want her. Look at her, you know you do. Possible she wants you, too. There is one way to ask her. It don’t take a word. Not a single word. Go on and kiss the girl.”

The original films composer (and collaborator with Lin Manuel Miranda on the remake) recently told Vanity Fair (via CNN) that "people have gotten very sensitive about the idea that [Prince Eric] would, in any way, force himself on [Ariel],” so a rewrite was a must. 

Additional changes are also being made to Melissa McCarthy's version of "Poor Unfortunate Souls," doing away with lyrics like, "It’s she who holds her tongue who gets a man.”

The production brief also detailed three new musical numbers set to make an appearance in the upcoming film. These songs include a Prince Eric-focused number titled "Wild Uncharted Waters," "For the First Time" which details Ariels first time experiences being on land, and "The Scuttlebutt" performed by Akwafina's Scuttle the Gull and Daveed Diggs's Sebastian.

Marshall's Little Mermaid will also sport an additional reprise of Ariel's show-stopper "Part of Your World."

Why Update a Certified Disney Classic?

While every Disney live-action remake has made small changes here and there, nothing of this magnitude has come to pass for the Hollywood giant. 

However, the world in which Rob Marshall's Little Mermaid is being released is not the same one the 1989 animated original was.

So, it should be celebrated that the upcoming film's creative team is not just hitting cut and paste on what originally worked, and is really thinking about what they can to do modernize a certified classic. 

Do these lyrical changes ultimately change the narrative of The Little Mermaid? No, they do not. The story still remains intact and these rewrites are not hurting anyone.

And with all the positive buzz around the film out of test screenings, it seems like these changes do not detract from the overall experience of the film.

You can watch Disney's official lyric video for the original Little Mermaid's "Kiss the Girl" below:

The Little Mermaid comes to theaters on Friday, May 26. 

- About The Author: Klein Felt
Klein Felt is a Senior Editor at The Direct. Joining the website back in 2020, he helped jumpstart video game content on The Direct. Klein plays a vital role as a part of the site's content team, demonstrating expertise in all things PlayStation, Marvel, and the greater entertainment industry.