OPINION: “The Little Mermaid” looks flawed, but not because of the casting

On Sept. 9, Disney released the teaser for their next live-action remake, “The Little Mermaid.” The trailer has since been brutally ridiculed, currently standing at 2.8 million dislikes on YouTube. To put that in perspective, the teaser has only 1 million likes.

This ratio isn’t new. Reaction to its most recent remake, “Pinocchio,” was similar.

It seems part of Mermaid’s problem is sadly the “controversial” casting of Halle Bailey as the main character Ariel. Ever since news of the casting broke in 2019, people have been upset about the choice.

To that, I say: stop it. Grow up and accept the fact that African Americans exist and deserve a chance to be represented, as do all races..

Don’t be upset about how one white character has been race-swapped when it has been happening with African-Americans, Asians, Indians, Indigenous Americans and every other minority for decades. Bailey wasn’t cast as some sort of “woke agenda,” or because Disney wants to appeal to a different audience. They cast Bailey because she showed talent, dedication and spirit that won over director Rob Marshall.

“Halle had this incredible facility to be able to dig deep, find the truth of Ariel’s passion and her heart. It was like watching a great film actor being born,” Marshall said.

With the bigotry out of the way, let’s talk about legitimate criticisms.

Not many of Disney’s live-action remakes have been good. While many have been praised by critics, only a few have been positively received by the public like “Cruella” and “Cinderella”. Part of the issue is that the quality of the remakes is beginning to decline. It’s been doing so for a while now, and is only getting worse.

Critics thought Disney’s 2020 “Mulan” was a downgrade from the original, going as far as removing the music and iconic characters including Mushu and Shang Li, her original love interest. Reviewers felt the Disney+ debut “Lady and the Tramp” was lacking and failed to attract attention. Rotten Tomatoes said 2019’s “Dumbo” was crowded and overstretched.

The pattern is clear. Am I guaranteeing that this “Little Mermaid” remake will suffer the same fate? No, but the teaser itself seems lifeless, save for Bailey’s amazing voicework in “Part of Your World.”

The visual effects of the ocean felt empty and somewhat lacking, with complaints from viewers on YouTube that the underwater shots don’t even look underwater. I’m inclined to agree.

While the shots shown feel well-composed and certainly look realistic, something feels off upon closer inspection. Shots look dark and feel colorless, which isn’t something you want in a colorful movie like “The Little Mermaid.”

So how can Disney turn public opinion around and move on from this backlash? Stop the remakes the public is no longer looking forward to and move on to new and bigger projects.

For example, at the D23 Expo, Disney’s own official fan event, Disney announced its first ever Afro-Latina Disney Princess: Asha, voiced by Ariana DeBose in Wish,” an original musical film debuting in November 2023. Furthermore, D23 showcased trailers for sequels and series based on films that have become fan favorites over the years such as “Disenchanted” and “The Santa Clauses.” Maybe sticking to this idea and creative reimaginings of old films opposed to lifeless carbon copies is the best way to go.

So, Disney, don’t take this backlash as “never cast another person of color in a project.” Take this as a sign to pull the plug on your planned remakes, take a step back, and look at the reimaginings of these old films that worked. Perhaps start looking to revisit old “forgotten” films that actually deserve the attention and care of a proper live-action remake to bring them back to the spotlight.

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