Disney Looks to Create a More Modern 'Little Mermaid'

November 22, 2021, 3:18 PM · We are getting some more details about that rebooted version of Disney's "The Little Mermaid" that will debut on the new Disney Wish this summer.

During the Disney Parks presentation at last weekend's Destination D23 event at Walt Disney World, the company revealed two more live shows that will play on the Disney Cruise Line's new ship, joining the previously announced "Disney's Aladdin – A Musical Spectacular." At the time, Disney said that the Disney Wish's reimagined version of The Little Mermaid would provide "a modern and innovative take on a young woman learning the power of her voice."

Today, the Disney Cruise Line added more detail:

"In this modern-day retelling, the curtain will rise on an enchanted treasure chest at the moment it is discovered by a group of storytellers, led by a special young woman who has the power to unlock its magic," the DCL said in a press release. "As they uncover the whozits and whatzits galore hidden within the trunk, the storytellers will take on the roles of Ariel, Ursula, Prince Eric, Sebastian, Flounder and more, bringing to life the immersive undersea world right before guests' eyes. They’ll put their own contemporary spin on the timeless story of a young woman’s search for independence, love and a place in the world."

The musical will include "cutting-edge" puppetry on stage and projection mapping in the theater to create the undersea setting. The changes are in line with Disney's recent attempts to create more positive role models and eliminate lazy stereotyping in its stories. Let's face it - Ariel in the 1989 animated classic was not the sharpest tool in the shed and as such often perpetuated a stereotype that Disney would like not to appear to be promoting.

"'The Little Mermaid' is a timeless story, one that transcends generations," Disney Live Entertainment Vice President, Creative and Advanced Development Shelby Jiggetts-Tivony, said. "Our hope is that this new stage adaptation aboard the Disney Wish continues that incredible legacy, not by simply reenacting the elements that make the original film so powerful, but by reinterpreting it in a way that resonates with the audience sitting in the theater each night."

The other new production on the Disney Wish will be "Disney Seas the Adventure." Starring Captain Minnie and Goofy, this show will follow a now-familiar Disney Parks template. Captain Minnie will allow Goofy to take over the helm, and he sails "into uncharted waters on a journey to discover his own inner captain." And along the way, he of course encounters a bunch of other Disney and Pixar characters who "encourage him to lead with his heart through rousing renditions of iconic Disney songs."

It's a formula that we've seen in musical shows at Disney theme parks around the world. This production will include songs from "The Princess and the Frog," "Frozen," "Moana," "Brave," and "Hercules," as well as "Go with the Flow" from the late "Finding Nemo – The Musical" at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

The Disney Cruise Line's Disney Wish will sail its maiden voyage from Port Canaveral on June 9, 2022.

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Replies (16)

November 23, 2021 at 10:14 AM

I feel that every story has the ability to mean different things to different people, and that Disney is starting to take their classic material a bit too literally and pigeon-holing their remakes in such a way that they are becoming very 1-dimensional. It's not just Disney, but this trend is occurring across virtually everything in the entertainment industry, as if producers are scared of having their material interpreted in a potentially offensive way. There's far less left to the imagination/interpretation, and the heavy-handed way in which producers are relaying their messages is becoming sterile and borderline proselytizing. I understand the need to bring diversity of characters and culture into the equation, but there's something to be said for letting the audience discover their own meanings and morals from a story instead of being lectured to and having beliefs dictated to them through fictional characters. For as much as they need to present diversity in their works, producers need to allow for diversity of thought from their audience.

November 23, 2021 at 9:58 AM

Adding to that, I also think that creative professionals often get bored when charged with recycling the same old titles and look for any excuse to shake things up.

But fans often want the same old titles, so here we are.

November 23, 2021 at 10:49 AM

I think Robert nails it. I've seen it with comic book fans, they'll complain about stories in a rut so writer does a huge shake-up and then it's "why did you change this?!" Happens in other fandoms too, some just like going back to the "classic" flavor even as they wish something different at the same time.

November 23, 2021 at 11:14 AM

It's not just rebooting or recreating, it's the heavy handed and 1-dimensional way with which creators are retelling these stories. Less and less is being left up to the audience's interpretation/imagination. Instead of letting people figure out for themselves what a story means to them, they have to be dictated to through the lens of the creators. Obviously, when a story is retold/reframed, it's going to pick up the interpretations and biases of the storyteller, but it's gotten to a point where creators are so afraid of developing something unique or open-ended that could be viewed from different perspectives because they don't want to offend anyone that the original story ends up losing that heart and soul that made it successful in the first place.

What producers view as ways to make works more accessible end up making them generic and less accessible to the greater audience. All the bells, whistles, and special effects in the world cannot bring back the soul that is lost from the original work that ultimately becomes either a contorted rats nest of morals or a pointed sermon of shame on society. Classics are "classic" for a reason, and Disney's repeated attempts to reframe their legacy through a modern lens rarely lead to an improvement upon the original.

November 23, 2021 at 11:53 AM

Sorry, Russell, but every story is open to just as much or as little interpretation as any other story--a creator cannot "lock down" the meaning of a story or tell you what it means to you.

And are you suggesting the Little Mermaid that came out in the 1980s didn't have its own agenda?

Strikes me that your real problem is found in this sentence: "I understand the need to bring diversity of characters and culture into the equation, BUT . . ." Or maybe this one, "the story becomes either a contorted rats nest of morals or a pointed sermon of shame on society." At bottom, yours is a thinly veiled critique of what you see as "woke" culture at Disney.

At these times I always enjoy a quote from Karl Lagerfeld: "When you no longer enjoy the art of the times, your time has passed."

November 23, 2021 at 12:35 PM

I just hope she stays a redhead.

November 23, 2021 at 12:45 PM

You are certainly free to interpret my words in that way thecolonel, but at no point did I mention or criticize "woke culture". For what it's worth, my statements were directly aimed towards the clumsy and heavy-handed ways in which modern creators are being forced to deliver their messages, and not the messages themselves. Morals and statements on society can and were made far more subtlety when works were open to diverse interpretation through a less polarizing lens. It's called nuance, and so much of our society has lost the ability to recognize and understand it, and instead we are turning what is nuance disguised as ambiguity into a weapon against an artist's legacy.

November 23, 2021 at 12:49 PM

Art is subjective, and just because somebody doesn’t enjoy something doesn’t mean their time is past. That seems like a much more personal attack then someone saying they don’t enjoy something. With that being said I think the Little Mermaid is one of the best things Disney has ever made, and while some creative changes can be made, they shouldn’t fundamentally change the story of the movie.

November 23, 2021 at 1:27 PM

I concur with Kris V, ""We Wants the Redhead".

November 23, 2021 at 2:57 PM

Another solid barometer to measure whether your time has passed or not is to experience the Carousel of Progress. If you make it through all the scenes without blowing a gasket, whew boy give yourself a pat on the back! If you are roiling by, oh let’s say the 60’s era scene, then perhaps it’s time to invest in a typewriter and get started on all of those letters to the editor…

November 23, 2021 at 3:02 PM

So do the people complaining about changing a "classic" realize how Disney re-imagined the original Hans Christian Anderson story to play better to a modern audience? Oh no! We can't change a classic that changed a classic!

November 23, 2021 at 6:46 PM

I'm going to take this in a different direction.

Let's take Finding Nemo, which is a wonderful movie. And then let's look at "Finding Nemo: The Musical" at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

It was a show referencing a movie, but told in a different way, with then-state-of-the-art puppetry, and it was an amazing show.

Other than Disney's overuse of projections these days, what else makes this different?

November 23, 2021 at 7:01 PM

I suspect this will be a precursor for what to expect out of the live-action film. And if the changes are universally despised, that gives Disney some time and feedback to do a script re-write and reshoots.

November 23, 2021 at 8:30 PM

Interesting idea. It's like the snarky theory that George R. R. Martin used HBO to test the potential ending for "A Song of Ice and Fire" (aka Game of Thrones).

Guess he'll be writing something else, eh?

November 23, 2021 at 8:35 PM

Maybe Martin was using the TV series to gauge interest as to whether he should even FINISH writing the books…

November 29, 2021 at 11:48 AM

Oh geez, it’s all fiction and made up - don’t take any of it so seriously!

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