For the past decade or so, Disney has been invested in adapting their animated classics. Excluding early outliers such as 101 Dalmations and its sequel 102 Damations from my childhood, the new trend began with Alice in Wonderland in the early 2010s. Since then, many of the Disney classics have received live-action versions, to varying degrees of success and praise. The Little Mermaid is the latest adaptation making its way to the silver screen, with the promise of big splashes at the box office.
The film arrives in theaters on May 26, but promotion for The Little Mermaid has been scarce so far. Fans have been scrambling for any crumbs or footage of the film and finally, the wait is over. Last night during the Oscars on ABC, the full trailer from The Little Mermaid debuted, with better looks of Halle Bailey as Ariel, Jonah Hauer-King as Eric, and Javier Bardem as King Triton. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the trailer was the debut of live-action Ursula played by Melissa McCarthy.
Let’s break down The Little Mermaid trailer and see how it measures up to the original.
A little mermaid saves a shipwrecked prince
In a scene easily recognizable from the animated film, the trailer begins with the sinking of Prince Eric’s ship and his rescue by Ariel. The intense storm and raging sea seem to be making quick work of the large wooden vessel, but truly it’s the large rock formation that does the ship in. Eric sinks below the surface of the sea, dead if it weren’t for the brave mermaid that scoops him up, taking him back to the shore.
She stays a minute to gaze over Eric, but when guards from the land kingdom are heard shouting and rushing toward the unconscious body of the prince, Ariel disappears into the water once again.
Ariel is still the dreamer that I remember from my childhood, wanting nothing more than to be human. She collects objects from the mortal world, much to the annoyance of her father. Bardem is intense in his worry and anger, bringing the same energy to King Triton that Kenneth Mars did in the animated film. His looming presence is almost scary compared to the playful and childish energy of Bailey’s Ariel. Though not even her large and intense father can stop Ariel from going after what she wants, which will definitely get in her in trouble.
Melissa McCarthy slays as Ursula in The Little Mermaid trailer
In a similar fashion as all Little Mermaid stories, Ariel finds herself in the lair of Ursula, the sea witch. Ursula’s plan is to trick Ariel out of her singing voice, as well as screw over King Triton, by giving the princess what she wants – legs. Easily my favorite part of this trailer was the appearance of McCarthy as the sea witch. The CGI on her tentacles was impressive and I love how they added a glow to her suction cups.
While I am thoroughly impressed with her appearance, I had the voice of writer Drew Reeds running through my head that VFX looks better in darker scenes. McCarthy has transformed for this role in just the small bits I’ve seen of her so far. From her looks to her voice, she seems to be embracing the role, creating something I feel like I haven’t seen in many of her past roles.
Excitingly, we did get to see part of the scene in which Ariel trades her fin in for legs, followed by her ascent to the surface. Fans are graced with the iconic hair flip as Ariel comes above the ocean, as the shining sun puts Bailey in silhouette. This is followed by a scene with Ariel admiring her new legs as Awkwafina’s Scuttle tries to figure out what’s different about her. An exasperated Sebastion (Daveed Diggs) has to spell it out.
Above land and under the sea
Throughout the rest of the trailer, there are flashes of Ariel’s life both as a mermaid and after she gains legs. Many of the clips shown from her time as a mermaid appear to be during the musical number Under the Sea, with Ariel swimming and playing with plenty of sea creatures. The underwater life is vibrantly colorful, with brilliant blues, impressive reds, and surprisingly a lot of purples.
There’s also a glimpse of King Triton appearing out of a school of fish, blowing a conch shell. Perhaps this is a call to arms, beginning his search for Ariel or his war against Ursula. There are a few shots of Ariel singing “Part of Your World,” which Bailey sings beautifully. From just the small taste we’ve had of her as the little mermaid, I already know audiences are going to be in for a treat with her version of it.
On land, we see Ariel and Prince Eric on a carriage ride, as Ariel looks back at whatever’s behind her. Fans will recognize the almost kiss between the two, as their in the small row boat during “Kiss the Girl.” There’s also a shot of Eric holding into a swinging rope from a bucking ship. It definitely seems to be a scene from the final battle with Ursula, after she takes Triton’s trident. Speaking of which, there’s also a shot of the trident glowing, as it’s diving into the water. I think it’s also from the last big fight, although it’s hard to tell where it fits into the narrative of the story.
One aspect of this film that I’m hesitant about is the appearance of the animals and sea creatures. In many of the live-action adaptations, Disney has gone for a hyper-realistic appearance to their CGI characters. My mind drifts back to Cogsworth, Lumiere, and Mrs. Potts from Beauty and the Beast. Their looks aren’t modeled after the animated film, but instead of the real-world object. I initially had the same concern with Beauty and the Beast, however, after seeing the film, I was able to embrace the difference. I think that the same will happen with The Little Mermaid, I just first have to get over how different Sebastian and Flounder look.
Regardless of my one hesitation, The Little Mermaid looks to be a fantastic addition to the live-action remakes of the House of Mouse. Dare I say it looks to be one of the best from the most recent adaptations, though the jury is still out until the film officially comes out.
The Little Mermaid arrives in theaters on May 26. Are you excited to see it? Let us know your thoughts on the trailer on Twitter or in The Cosmic Circus Discord. And if you haven’t already, check out our review on Almost There: A Twisted Tale!