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Review: Halle Bailey is the quintessential modern Disney Princess in ‘The Little Mermaid’

There’s nothing ordinary about this reimagined age-old classic, which is reflective of the times. Halle Bailey who plays the character of Ariel captures the essence of the bold Disney princess aptly, and the diverse cast affirms that it’s a new dawn.

If the story of The Little Mermaid was part of your childhood then like me, the soundtrack evokes memories of happier times. Girls everywhere will have the image of a red haired Aerial etched in their minds, as they recall singing along to “under the sea” with hair brushes in hand.

Fast forward to the present; Disney has reimagined the age-old classic into a modern day epic. I was stoked when I received an invite to attend the media screening, and by the end of the movie, I shed a tear at the realization that Aerial could be anyone of us. I couldn’t share my thoughts with anyone in my circle considering that the movie is only set to release on the 26th of May. Having seen the trailer, my daughter asked me how it feels to see a brown Ariel on screen…VALIDATING. I managed to capture everything I was feeling in one word, and in this moment, I realized what it means for every girl who has ever seen herself as a Disney princess. We often say representation matters, and Disney nailed it!

Halle Bailey as Ariel in Disney's live-action THE LITTLE MERMAID. Photo by Giles Keyte. © 2023 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

With visionary filmmaker, Rob Marshall at the helm, starring an all-star cast including Halle Bailey as Ariel, Javier Bardem as King Triton, Jonah Hauer-King as Eric, Daveed Diggs as Sebastian, Noma Dumezweni as The Queen, and Melissa McCarthy as Ursula. The story is set against the backdrop of a breathtaking, photorealistic world under the sea. It plays out in the 1830s in and around the fictitious island in the Caribbean, which lends itself to exploration, mirroring Ariel’s journey as a spirited 18-year-old mermaid. Frustrated with the limitations of her life, she is determined to explore life above the surface. Fascinated by human life, she follows her heart, against her father’s wishes, who is also the ruler of Seven Seas.

(L-R): Halle Bailey as Ariel and Javier Bardem as King Triton in Disney's live-action THE LITTLE MERMAID. Photo courtesy of Disney. © 2023 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

When asked what the three most important things were when making a film, director/producer Rob Marshall replied, “Cast, cast, cast.” The result is a beautiful, stellar, diverse international cast. Twenty-three-year-old Halle Bailey, one half of the GRAMMY®-nominated R&B duo Chloe x Halle was cast as Ariel, the strong-willed mermaid from under the sea.

Halle Bailey as Ariel in Disney's live-action THE LITTLE MERMAID. Photo by Giles Keyte. © 2023 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

“Our goal was to find someone who was incredibly passionate, smart, vulnerable, clever, with a great deal of fire and joy,” he says. “When I first saw Halle, she was so young and sort of otherworldly, and the voice was simply angelic. Plus, she had such a deep connection to what she was singing about.” Marshall continues, “We were just looking for the best actor for the role, period. We saw everybody and every ethnicity. There really was no agenda. As a director, your hope is that an actor comes in and claims the role and says, ‘this is mine,’ and that’s exactly what happened with Halle.”

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