The Little Mermaid Remake Will Fix 1 Romance Issue from the Original, Says Director

By Klein Felt Updated:
The Little Mermaid, Prince Eric

According to The Little Mermaid remake's director, the upcoming film will fix one key romance issue from the 1989 original.

Director Rob Marshall's remake of the Disney classic is primed and ready for its theatrical debut as it tells the story of Ariel the Atlantean princess for a whole new generation. 

However, as is the case with these live-action remakes, not all will be the same when moviegoers sit down in theaters to take in this aquatic adventure.

Along with a new cast (including Halle Bailey as the titular mermaid), this time around, some notable alterations have been made to the core text itself, as the filmmakers aim to be "respectful to" societal changes of "culture and sensitivities." 

Fixing a Romance in The Little Mermaid

The Little Mermaid, Ariel, Eric

Speaking in the latest issue of SFX Magazine, The Little Mermaid director Rob Marshall revealed they have made a change to fix the romantic plot at the center of the story in the upcoming remake. 

In recent years, The Little Mermaid has gained a bit of a controversial reputation with many turning on the animated classic because of Ariel giving up her voice purely for love in the 1989 original. 

This has caused a number of big names, including Pirates of the Caribbean star Keira Knightley, to ban viewing of the film in their house over concerns it is sending home a problematic message. 

To these concerns, Marshall remarked that "[He] felt the same way,” and has put in the work to make the live-action remake "a [more] modern story:"

 “We felt the same way. What makes it a very modern story is that [Ariel]’s not giving up her voice for a man, that’s not what’s happening here."

The Little Mermaid, Ursula

Instead, this time around, Ariel will give up her voice because she thinks the inhabitants of the sea are closing themselves off from the surface world for unfair reasons.

Marshall added that this "not be afraid of the ‘other’” theme was a better reflection of the modern world:

“That idea was very modern, to not be afraid of the ‘other’. When we were making this, walls were being put up and divisions were being created, and people were getting more insular. This is a character who’s reaching through fear. They are building a bridge as opposed to a wall. It was an antidote to what was happening in the world and to the divisions that were and are happening in the world. It is a reminder that we’re all one.”

Ariel, The Little Mermaid

He lamented this new narrative milieu turns the romance at the center of the story (between Ariel and Prince Eric) into a bit of a Romeo and Juliet story, where the two are "afraid to be with each other against all odds, and they build that bridge" between two at-odds communities:

"This young, naive, headstrong girl finds this kindred spirit, because Eric has a different trajectory. He is not afraid of the ‘other’. They find each other from these different worlds, not being afraid to be with each other against all odds, and they build that bridge. She’s not just falling for the cute guy.” 

Marshall revealed he saw directing the remake as a sort of destiny. He reflected on how the 1989 original was "the return of the movie musical" and he "felt a deep connection" to the film riding on the shoulders of that film in his directorial debut in the movie musical, Chicago:

“In 1989, when [the animated movie] came out, it really was the return of the movie musical. When I did [directorial debut] 'Chicago,' I felt a deep connection with 'Mermaid,' because they had kicked the door open for movie musicals, and we then pushed the door even further with a live-action musical. Audiences were ready to accept actors actually moving from scene into song. So when they came and asked me to do this, it felt like fate.”

A More Modern Little Mermaid

While some will take changes to something as beloved as The Little Mermaid as sacrilege, these narrative alterations actually actively fix issues with Disney's animated original. 

One of the benefits of these Disney live-action remakes has been being able to modernize and fix anything that may not have aged as well in these originals from decades ago. 

And it is not as though these changes are drastically altering the narrative core of The Little Mermaid, the story is still there, it has just been slightly changed to better fit more modern social and societal norms. 

If there was an issue with the moves Rob Marshall and the Disney team have made, they would have been brought up by now; however, reviews for the blockbuster have been largely positive, with these fixes not being a sticking point amongst critics. 

This is one of those rare chances to correct something that may not have been right to begin with, so why not do it? 

The Little Mermaid remake is set to hit theaters on Friday, May 26. 

- In This Article: The Little Mermaid
Release Date
May 26, 2023
Halle Bailey
- 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.