The Little Mermaid’s live action remake just cast Halle Bailey as Ariel

Posted by
Kayleigh Dray
Halle Bailey

The singer has described it as being “a dream come true”.

From Lily JamesCinderella and Emma Watson’s Beauty and the Beast, to Naomi Scott’s Aladdin and Beyoncé’s Lion King, there’s nothing the public loves more than a Disney live-action remake. Because they don’t just push all the right buttons in terms of nostalgia; the movies also give Disney’s classic fairy-tales a much-needed update (think increasingly feminist princesses with every new film).

So you can imagine our excitement when we learned that casting has begun for Disney’s The Little Mermaid remake – and that Halle Bailey has landed the lead role of Ariel. The news comes just a day after we learned that Awkwafina, of Crazy Rich Asians fame, has also landed the plum role of Ariel’s BFF Flounder.

Director Rob Marshall said Bailey - who is one half of singing duo Chloe x Halle - was cast after an extensive search, adding: “It was abundantly clear that Halle possesses that rare combination of spirit, heart, youth, innocence, and substance -plus a glorious singing voice - all intrinsic qualities necessary to play this iconic role.”

She responded with a picture of what her animated-self would look like as Ariel, writing alongside it: “Dream come true”. 

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As previously discussed in Stylist’s definite feminist ranking of the Disney princesses, Ariel comes reasonably near the bottom of the pack. After all, this little mermaid literally gives up her entire identity – and voice – to pursue a man she saw one time at the beach. As such, the 16-year-old (she’s not a child anymore, you guys) is rendered silent for almost the entirety of the movie.

There’s no denying, though, that Ariel has plenty of inspiring qualities, too. She’s curious, and yearns for change, and faces her fears in order to get what she wants. She actively pursues a guy she’s crushing on (way to make the first move, Ariel!). She takes control of her destiny, stops Eric’s wedding to Vanessa, and restores her own voice. She marries the guy of her dreams. And, in the sequel, she returns to the ocean in a desperate bid to save her own curious daughter from yet another sea witch. Not bad, eh?

As Jodi Benson, who voiced the mermaid, explains: “We see a lot of wonderful qualities in Ariel in 1989. She’s tenacious, strong-willed, determined, and motivated. She dreams big and lives out of the box.”

She added: “I think we have to take into consideration that we [made the film] in 1989. We have to take into consideration that the previous princess film, Sleeping Beauty, [came out in] 1961. That’s a big leap. Now, we’re leaping to 2019. To expect an ’89 film to leap to 2019 as far as feminism goes, I think it’s asking a lot.”

Benson isn’t wrong: Ariel’s character was pretty forward-thinking in 80s movie terms. 

Which is why Disney is working with Mary Poppins Returns director Rob Marshall on an updated version – and they’ve already got a humdinger of a cast lined up for the watery flick.

The Little Mermaid casting news and rumours:

As first reported by Variety, Melissa McCarthy will be taking on the role of Ursula the Sea Witch (although Lizzo has since expressed disappointment that she was not approached about the part). And journalist Kris Tapley has since announced on Twitter that Jacob Tremblay – oh he of Room fame – and Awkwafina will be joining the cast as Flounder (Ariel’s fishy friend) and Scuttle the seagull, respectively.

There was much speculation over who would play the titular mermaid’s role, with many wanting Ariana Grande to take on the character. 

And some calling for Lindsay Lohan:

And others want Zendaya. Indeed, even Zendaya seemed to want Zendaya.

“I loved The Little Mermaid,” she previously told People. “It is honestly one of my favourite movies of all time. I was obsessed with it when I was a little kid.”

But it is teen singer Halle Bailey who was finally cast in her “dream role” after director Rob Marshall’s extensive search. 

Will The Little Mermaid remake feature the original songs?

Yes, the movie will feature songs from the original soundtrack. However, it’s also getting some brand-new ditties, too.

That’s right: we know that Lin-Manuel Miranda – who has become an integral part of the Disney machine since Mary Poppins Returns and Moana – is working alongside original composer Alan Menken to create new music for the movie. He’s also serving as executive producer, and some have even speculated he will appear as Sebastian, too (he did name his son after the animated crab, after all).

Miranda told Vulture he’s “intimidated” to work on the movie, especially because of why Disney chose him.

“Basically they were like, ‘There’s no bigger fan of this movie than you, and no bigger public supporter,’” Miranda said.

When will The Little Mermaid remake be released in cinemas?

No word yet on when The Little Mermaid will be swimming into cinemas near you, but we imagine it won’t be long, especially as they’ve already begun the casting process. 

Anyone else estimating a 2021 release date?

Main image: Getty


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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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