The Little Mermaid Live-Action Remake Is Changing Ursula’s Backstory


Dating back to Stephen Sommers’ forgotten 1994 adaptation of The Jungle Book, Disney’s live-action remakes have brought in over $9 billion at the box office, the overwhelming majority of which has come in the decade since Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland led to the Mouse House cannibalizing their animated back catalogue on an almost annual basis.

Between theatrical releases and streaming exclusives, there are currently seventeen remakes in various stages of development, with Emma Stone’s Cruella next out of the gate in May. Originally scheduled to begin production in April 2020, the Coronavirus pandemic set The Little Mermaid back by almost a year, but cameras started rolling on the project at the end of January.

Disney favorite Rob Marshall, who previously helmed Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Into the Woods and Mary Poppins Returns, is calling the shots, with singer Halle Bailey as Ariel. The supporting cast, meanwhile, is filled out by the usual mix of big stars and established character actors including Javier Bardem, Awkwafina, Jacob Tremblay, Daveed Diggs and Melissa McCarthy.

McCarthy will chew on the scenery as villain Ursula, and it’s been revealed that the movie is making a big change to the relatively unexplored backstory she was given in the 1989 animation. A recent report states that in the live-action Little Mermaid, Ursula will be positioned as Ariel’s aunt, giving her a stronger tie to both the protagonist and Bardem’s King Triton.

It’s hardly a game-changer by any stretch of the imagination, and adding the subplot will also allow Marshall to stretch out the running time a little longer, given that his version of The Little Mermaid will be expected to run for a whole lot longer than the 83-minute original.