Disney’s animated The Little Mermaid (1989) is based on the fairytale of the same name by famed storyteller Hans Christian Anderson, but there are several plot points of the original story that were left out that the 2023 live-action remake could adapt. Of course, some of the darker themes, such as the titular mermaid ending up as sea foam at the end of the story, would be unlikely to feature in a Disney remake. However, other The Little Mermaid details could easily inspire fun changes in the new adaptation.
The live-action remake of The Little Mermaid is expected to release in May 2023, and it’s anticipated to have significant differences from its 1989 animated counterpart. This has a lot to do with the classic The Little Mermaid‘s themes and how many of them would be considered problematic through a modern lens. So, things like Ariel’s overall motivation and the nature of her love for Prince Eric are sure to be adjusted. These kinds of changes can often be divisive, but if details from Anderson’s fairytale are incorporated to support these changes, they might just be better received.
6 The Little Mermaid Was Looked After By Her Grandmother In The Fairytale
Though Disney’s original The Little Mermaid saw Ariel and her sisters raised by their father, King Triton, this wasn’t entirely the case in the fairytale. Instead, the little mermaid and her many sisters spent a great deal of time with their grandmother, who would tell them stories of the world above. This would make a great addition to the 2023 remake of The Little Mermaid since the animated movie was short on female characters both in the sea and out. By adding a character from the canon fairytale, the remake can remedy without an outcry over unfounded additions.
Given the cast list of the Little Mermaid remake, it seems likely that something like this will be a reality. Actress Noma Dumezweni is credited for playing a part that has yet to be fully clarified. All that is known is that her role is one that wasn’t present in Disney’s original animated version. Therefore, it could very well be that Ariel’s fairytale grandma will be brought to the big screen.
5 Mermaids Don’t Have Souls In The Little Mermaid Fairytale
In The Little Mermaid fairytale, merpeople can live for up to 300 years, at which point they turn into sea foam. Ariel learns from her grandmother that humans, on the other hand, have souls that will carry on even after they die. This detail meant that it wasn’t so much the ocean that separated the princess from her human prince but her lack of a soul. She, therefore, became fascinated with gaining one for herself, and it ended up being the defining detail of her deal with the sea witch.
Of course, Disney’s animated The Little Mermaid had no talk or souls, and a far more simplified version of Princess Ariel’s dilemma was included instead. However, audiences might prefer a more complex storyline in the modern age. The acquisition of a soul makes for an exciting motivation for Ariel, and it allows for ample opportunity for surprises. She could discover that mermaids don’t have precisely the kind of soul humans do but that she has unique value. This would be similar to her fairytale ending where she discovers after turning to sea foam that mermaids do have a unique sort of spirit (but assumedly, she wouldn’t have to die first).
4 The Little Mermaid’s Sisters Were All Fascinated By The Surface
In the animated The Little Mermaid, Ariel was considered strange by her family and people. Everyone else was perfectly happy with their life “under the sea,” but Ariel’s longing for the world above and her collection of knickknacks made her different from the “other girls.” This was a popular trend for female protagonists, with Beauty and the Beast‘s character, Belle, behaving similarly in 1991. However, today, this trope seems far less sympathetic than it once did.
Thankfully, this wasn’t the case in Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid. In this version, the youngest of the mermaid princesses was very close to her older sisters, and they all shared a passion for artifacts they would find from the human world. In fact, each had their own garden that they decorated with these foreign objects. Of course, Ariel’s cavern of goodies is a must for the live-action The Little Mermaid, but it would be neat to see her sisters accept her and share in her curiosity and passion.
3 The Only Way A Mermaid Can Gain A Soul In The Fairytale Is Love
With the discussion of souls left out of Disney’s The Little Mermaid, the reasoning for Ariel’s need to be kissed by Prince Eric was also simplified. In the fairytale, Ariel learned that a mermaid could gain a human soul if she were loved by one. The idea was that if a human loved her, his soul would then become hers, and they would live eternally together as, in a sense, soul mates. It was a very romantic thought and one that Ariel wanted so much she was willing to trade her 300 years of life to get it.
This was where the fairytale got its tragically romantic tone that the Little Mermaid animated film lacked. The idea that a short time living on earth was worth an eternity with a soul mate is a beautiful concept and one that would be fun to see adapted in some way. Of course, Ariel and Eric’s “Kiss the Girl” scene is a must for the Disney live-action remake, but coupling it with a better understanding of what is at stake would make it even more enjoyable.
2 The Little Mermaid’s Sisters Make A Deal To Save Her In the Fairytale
In the Disney animated The Little Mermaid, Ariel was entirely separated from her family while she was the prince’s guest. In the fairytale, however, the youngest princess was visited frequently by her older sisters, who begged her to come home. When these mermaids found that the prince was going to marry another woman and Ariel would turn to sea foam once he did, they made a deal with the sea witch to try and save her. Ursula’s fairytale counterpart required that each princess sacrifice their hair – something they were gladly willing to do.
Of course, this camaraderie between Ariel and her sisters was utterly absent from Disney’s story, which is a shame since it was a touching display of sisterhood in The Little Mermaid. Since Disney’s recent movies have put a lot of attention into familial relationships in movies like Frozen and Encanto, it would make sense for the remake to adopt this moving part of the original story.
1 The Little Mermaid Is Given The Chance To Live If She Kills The Prince
The Little Mermaid fairytale is far more tragic than its Disney counterpart since the mermaid princess and her human prince never end up together. It ends up being impossible for Eric to learn that the woman who had saved him wasn’t the one he was trying to marry. So, Ariel was doomed to become sea foam. However, after Ariel’s sisters sacrificed all their hair, they convinced the sea witch to give their little sister an out. The little mermaid was given a dagger with which she must murder the prince and be spared her foamy fate.
Of course, the version of Ariel in the fairytale couldn’t bring herself to do this, and she was turned to sea foam. This sort of ending would no doubt be controversial for Disney’s The Little Mermaid, but that isn’t to say that a similar choice couldn’t be given to Ariel in the 2023 remake. Ariel choosing to die herself rather than hurt her love makes for a beautifully tragic story and provides the character an opportunity for self-sacrifice. As long as some loophole meant that Ariel could live after all and be with her prince forever, the personal conflict for the titular Little Mermaidcharacter would be a welcome change.
MORE: Why Melissa McCarthy’s Little Mermaid Casting Was So Divisive