Get ready for Halle Bailey to be part of your world. The first footage of the highly anticipated "Little Mermaid" live-action remake has been unveiled at Disney's D23 expo, revealing the acclaimed R&B star and actor in the iconic role of mermaid princess Ariel.
Director Rob Marshall, of "Chicago" fame, celebrated the fact that this was a live action musical. Bringing up the Oscar-winning movie from the past, he said, "When we started this journey it was very important to honor the original" but also reimagine and "bring some depth" to the new film. The director also asked "Little Mermaid" longtime Disney alum and Alan Menken to link up with the award-winning Lin-Manuel Miranda to come up with four new songs. "They'd never collaborated together before, and it's magical…. We still retain the beauty of the original score by the late great Howard Ashman."
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As for the new mermaid, Bailey "came in and claimed the role," Marshall said. Shortly after the intro, Marshall debuted the first-ever footage from "The Little Mermaid" showcasing Bailey singing the iconic "Part of Your World" song (for the D23 crowd only). The hall was silent taking in this familiar, but new, rendition. Several members of the audience were visually emotional at this heart-stopping performance. "She's so good," a crowd member yelled out, "I have chills," another said.
The actress then joined the fans to massive applause and shared details from the shoot. It took three days to film "Part of Your World." Bailey related to the little mermaid as a girl, "Swimming in the pool, imagining i was a mermaid, I never though I could see that come to life."
As for the differences between the animated movie and the live action, Bailey's fins appear to be a bit longer than the cartoon version, plus she's ditched the conical shell bra underwater look for something a bit more sophisticated.
Adapted from the 1989 film from John Musker and Ron Clements, which was based on the Hans Christian Andersen 19th century fairy tale, "The Little Mermaid" tells the story of Ariel, the youngest daughter of King Triton (Javier Bardem), the ruler of the underwater kingdom Atalantica. Ariel, already fascinated by the world of humans, falls deeply in love with the handsome Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King) after saving him during a shipwreck, and resolves to meet him in the world above water. Her quest brings her in conflict with her father and in the clutches of the scheming sea witch Ursula (Melissa McCarthy). The cast also features Jacob Tremblay, Awkwafina and Daveed Diggs as the voices of classic Disney sidekicks Flounder, Scuttle and Sebastian.
The live-action "Little Mermaid" is directed by Marshall, who previously helmed 2018's musical family film "Mary Poppins Returns" for Disney, as well as movie musicals like "Chicago" and "Into the Woods." The script was written by Jane Goldman and David Magee. Miranda and Marshall produce with John DeLuca and Marc Platt.
In an interview for Variety's 2022 Power of Young Hollywood issue, Bailey spoke about her longtime love for the original film, and addressed the racist criticism towards her casting from trolls on social media. Bailey recalled receiving support from her grandparents during the backlash, who reminded her of the impact a Black princess on the big screen would have.
"It was an inspiring and beautiful thing to hear their words of encouragement, telling me, 'You don't understand what this is doing for us, for our community, for all the little Black and brown girls who are going to see themselves in you,'" Bailey said.
"The Little Mermaid" splashes into theaters on May 26, 2023. Watch the full first look below.
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