The Little Mermaid remake made many changes to the original classic. However, some of these changes actually improved on the 1989 animated film. With Halle Bailey’s spectacular performance and some integral changes, The Little Mermaid remake has been a success among audiences. In addition to bringing a new audience to the classic tale, The Little Mermaid has made a splash at the box office with a $117 million opening weekend.
After some less successful Disney reboots, like Mulan and Lady & The Tramp, there was some hesitation about another Disney live action reboot. With the controversy about Halle Bailey’s casting as well as some of the changes to the Disney original, some were feeling even more skeptical about this new rendition. Luckily, there were five changes that improved upon the original classic.
5 Scuttle Is Much Better In The Remake
In The Little Mermaid remake, Scuttle plays a bigger role than in the original. Instead of Scuttle being a male seagull, Scuttle is a northern gannet which is a female seabird. This allowed Scuttle to be included in the underwater scenes which ends up being an important change from the original movie. Additionally, Awkwafina brings a charm to Scuttle that elevates the seabird to more than just comic relief.
In the classic animated film, Scuttle is largely an annoying character who helps move the plot along. He serves as Ariel’s informant to the outside world. While Awkwafina’s Scuttle does also play this role in the remake, she is largely ignorant of the land, which makes sense considering she is also a seabird. Awkwafina’s Scuttle helps Ariel on land in a way that her other sidekick Flounder could not. She also clearly cares for Ariel in a way that is more evident than her male counterpart.
4 Ariel’s Characterization Is Stronger
Halle Bailey brings a fresh new perspective to Ariel in many ways. For one, she is less love-struck in The Little Mermaid remake. Ariel is curious about the human world and saving Eric just increases her curiosity. She is more levelheaded than her animated counterpart and is more interested in learning than love. Halle Bailey plays Ariel less as a bubbly teenager and more like a young woman desperate to be heard and understood.
Since Ariel’s characterization in The Little Mermaid is stronger than in the original film, when Ariel does lose her voice, the audience knows her well enough to know what she’s feeling. Part of this is because the film gives her a song when she comes to land that is inside her head, “For the First Time.” This song is one of the three new songs that appear in the remake and the only new song for Ariel, besides the second reprise of “Part of Your World.” “For the First Time” voices Ariel’s complex feelings about the decision she made. Additionally, the remake is very careful to outline how Ariel and Eric’s bond forms.
3 Ariel’s First Time Going To Surface Is Magical
In the animated film, it is implied that Ariel has gone to the surface numerous times to get information from Scuttle. However, in the remake, Scuttle is a seabird and visits Ariel in the ocean. This means that Ariel can only get information about the outside world through Scuttle when she dives in to say hello. Like in the original, Ariel’s father Triton doesn’t want her to go to the surface. However, in the remake, Ariel has obeyed him up until the moment she hears fireworks.
After Halle Bailey’s beautiful rendition of “Part of Your World,” she hears the sounds of fireworks above her. She disregards Sebastian’s warning and swims up to the surface in a magical sequence that is enhanced by Alan Menken’s powerful score. This is an important change because it makes this moment more significant. It also helps explain her fascination with Eric since she saves him the first time she visits the surface.
2 Ariel And Eric’s Relationship Makes Sense
In The Little Mermaid remake, Ariel and Eric spend more time together. This allows the audience to witness the relationship bloom before their eyes. This is different from the animated film where Eric is mainly interested in Ariel because she’s beautiful and a little eccentric. In the remake, their relationship makes more sense because they connect over common interests.
In an added scene, Ariel sneaks into Eric’s study where she sees all the trinkets from traveling the world. He finds her, and she expresses her interest in his collection. In this sequence, Eric shows her his collection and tells her stories of his travels. This scene improves on the original because it shows how they develop a connection without Ariel’s voice. It also shows that Ariel can still assert her personality without her voice. In a truly fantastic performance, Halle Bailey never loses the wild curiosity of a literal fish out of water.
1 The Kiss The Girl Sequence Is Less Problematic
There are numerous changes to the “Kiss The Girl” sequence in The Little Mermaid remake. For one, Scuttle and Flounder join the song, instead of it being a Sebastian solo. Secondly, there were changes to the lyrics of the classic song. In an interview with Variety, Alan Menken commented on the changes: “people have gotten very sensitive about the idea that [Prince Eric] would, in any way, force himself on [Ariel].” Instead, the lyrics focus on Eric using his words to ask Ariel for consent, these changes don’t take anything away from the song and reflect society’s current view of consent.
Additionally, the sequence features a brilliant scene where Ariel assists Eric in learning her name which improves upon the original. In the original animated film, Eric tries to guess Ariel’s name in the middle of the song and learns it from Sebastian. In the remake, the scene is re-imagined as Ariel and Eric stargaze. Eric explains constellations to her which Ariel later uses to help Eric learn her name. She gives him the hint “air” and moves his lips down after she points to the Aries constellation. Instead of her name coming to him from Sebastian which he somehow understands, Eric learns it from Ariel herself.
Making “Kiss the Girl” a duet with all of Ariel’s friends enhances the magic of the scene. Instead of Sebastian solely pressuring Eric to kiss Ariel through the power of suggestion, it becomes a group of friends rooting for their friend to find true love. This may seem like a minor change in The Little Mermaid remake, but it is one of the biggest changes that improved upon the original.