Cougar critique: “The Little Mermaid”


The original voice of Ariel in the cartoon “The Little Mermaid” film, Jodi Benson, appeared in the new film as a seller at the town market. Graphic by: Ava Mohror

Ava Mohror

The new live-action rendition of “The Little Mermaid” made a splash in theaters


Disney’s cartoon film “The Little Mermaid” was originally released in November of 1989. Over 30 years later, Disney released a live-action version of the classic fairytale on May 26, 2023. 

Following the announcement of the new live-action film, viewers were introduced to the star of the movie, Halle Bailey, who was casted to play Ariel. Upon this announcement, controversy arose about having a black actress play Ariel. Critics argued that a mermaid under the sea would have fair skin, and therefore the casting of Bailey as Ariel was unrealistic. However, critics failed to see if they were arguing over a mermaid, a fictional being, being realistic or not. Nevertheless, critics were quickly silenced through the roar of excitement fans expressed overseeing the movie, regardless of Ariel’s skin tone. 

Regardless of viewers’ thoughts on the casting of the live-action, “The Little Mermaid,” I am confident that all viewers were blown away once they saw the movie following its release in theaters. With just the right amount of nostalgia and tribute to the original cartoon film, mixed with new ideas and twists on characters and the plot, the new live-action “The Little Mermaid” was the perfect fresh take on the story. 

The first half of the movie is nearly identical to the cartoon, with the scene at the shipwreck with Ariel, Flounder and the shark, as well as King Triton and Ariel’s six older sisters. Up until Ariel makes a deal with the evil sea witch Ursula, played by Melissa McCarthy, the live-action version follows the plot and scenes from the original cartoon version. 

Past halfway through the movie, the live-action begins to make its changes. In the live-action, Ursula makes it so that Ariel does not remember that she needs to kiss Eric in order to be free from Ursula’s grasp. I think that this was a smart change, as it clarifies that Ariel does not want Eric to kiss her for her own gain but because she actually likes him. 

Ariel was the last of Disney’s classic princesses, marking the end of an era. The 2023 version of “The Little Mermaid” allows viewers to relive days of Disney classics. Graphic by: Ava Mohror

Another change is that Scuttle, the ditsy bird whom Ariel comes to for human advice, is now a woman played by Nora Lum, also known as Awkwafina. Not only is there a gender shift for Scuttle, but also a species shift. Scuttle is no longer a seagull, but a gannet, allowing for her to spend more time underwater and therefore get more screen time. I personally have no problem with this new Scuttle. The loud, annoying and know-it-all friend of Ariel is played well. 

There was also a lyric change in Sebastian’s song “Kiss the Girl.” The lines were changed from “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,” to “Yes, you want her / Look at her, you know you do / Possible she wants you too / Use your words, boy, and ask her / If the time is right and the time is tonight / Go on and kiss the girl.” This lyric change is a nod to the importance of consent and etiquette. While some argue that this small tweak was unnecessary, I see it as one of the smallest changes of the entire movie and something that does not need to be made into a bigger deal than intended. The lyric change was simply put in to encourage consent, especially in a movie many young children will now grow up watching. I see normalizing asking for permission in the next generation as nothing to be upset about. 

While the new take on “The Little Mermaid” did receive some changes and upgrades, the basic nostalgia of the storyline has stayed the same. From the classic scene where Ariel is singing “Part of Your World” on a rock at sea to her loving and emotional relationship with her father, the new “The Little Mermaid” has a nostalgic tribute to the original movie that will send chills down your spine. 

Overall, the new live-action version of “The Little Mermaid” is the perfect balance between the original cartoon version and its own incorporation of aspects unique to the live-action. It is definitely worth the watch and the re-watch. This movie will undoubtedly become the classic it deserves to be.