Looks like Disney's live-action adaptation of The Little Mermaid will be a little like the 1997 cult classic TV film, Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella thanks to some multicultural casting.
According to Deadline, Javier Bardem is in talks to play the role of Ariel's royal father, King Triton. This comes on the heels of recent news of singer/actor Harry Styles being in talks to play Prince Eric, Ariel's love interest. Let's not forget that Halle Bailey is taking on the iconic role of Ariel. When you combine that with Melissa McCarthy playing villainous Ursula and Awkwafina and Jacob Tremblay voicing Scuttle and Flounder, this adaptation aims to please multiple audiences with its representation and diversity.
So where does Cinderella fit into the equation? If you are of a certain age, then you might recall how the Whitney Houston-produced musical was revolutionary in terms of fairytale adaptations. Not only did children get to see Brandy as Cinderella and Houston as the Fairy Godmother when the musical debuted on The Wonderful World of Disney, but the entire cast was a melting pot of actors.
While Cinderella's stepmother and stepsisters were played by Bernadette Peters, Veanne Cox and Natalie Desselle Reid, the King Maximillian, Queen Constantina and Prince Christopher were played by Victor Garber, Whoopi Goldberg and Paolo Montalban. While some over the years have taken eye-rolling potshots at the film, such as joking about how a Black mother and white father can create an Asian son, the casting has been touted as a watershed moment for audiences of color who felt inspired by seeing themselves represented in a story traditionally told with white actors.
That same kind of magic seems to be at work with the casting for The Little Mermaid. Granted, Cinderella gave us two leads of color, Brandy as Cinderella and Montalban as Prince Christopher. However, The Little Mermaid's multicultural cast can make the film be even more intersectional and, ironically, make the focus of the film less on race and more on the characterizations. With that said, the film will also provide the same type of inspiration Cinderella provided to young children who want to see positive representations of themselves on screen.
The Little Mermaid will be directed by Rob Marshall, with David Magee on as screenwriter. Marshall, Marc Platt, Lin-Manuel Miranda and John DeLuca are producing the film for Disney. Alan Menken, the animated film's composer, will also return to provide new music as well as new lyrics co-written by himself and Miranda.
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