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17 of the biggest differences between 'The Little Mermaid' remake and the animated movie

17 of the biggest differences between 'The Little Mermaid' remake and the animated movie
EntertainmentEntertainment1 min read
There are a few changes to Ursula's "Poor Unfortunate Souls" performance in "The Little Mermaid" remake.Courtesy of Disney, Kirsten Acuna/Insider
  • Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Disney's "The Little Mermaid" remake.
  • Insider gathered the biggest differences between "The Little Mermaid."

The remake opens on a quote from Hans Christian Andersen.

The remake opens on a quote from Hans Christian Andersen.
Halle Bailey as Ariel in "The Little Mermaid."      Disney

The remake opens with a quote from the author of the original fairy tale upon which Disney's adaptations are based.

"But a mermaid has no tears, and therefore she suffers so much more."

During the movie's virtual press conference, attended by Insider, director Rob Marshall explained why he chose to use the quote in the remake.

"We were immediately aware of how this was a very contemporary story already in the 1830s about a girl who feels displaced," Marshall said in response to a question from The Direct. "To be able to find something from Hans Christian Anderson specifically so we sort of ground this in where it came from was important to find something from him."

Marshall added: "It's the most sort of famous quote from the tale. And I have to say because I think we were bringing more depth and emotion, which you can in a live-action piece, that's what this genre helps you do. The idea that because a mermaid has no tears, and she feels more, she suffers more, it felt to us like it set the table for this more emotional telling of the story."

Ariel is aged up to 18 in the remake.

Ariel is aged up to 18 in the remake.
On the left: Ariel in the 1989 animated film "The Little Mermaid." On the right: Halle Bailey as Ariel in the 2023 live-action film "The Little Mermaid."      Disney

In the animated film, Ariel's 16, something which made her quick marriage to Eric within a few days of meeting him cringeworthy.

Disney's production notes for the live-action film note that Ariel's a "spirited 18-year-old."

The new film doesn't contain a big concert number led by Sebastian.

The new film doesn
The concert in the animated version of "The Little Mermaid."      Walt Disney Animation

The animated feature kicked off with King Triton's daughters performing to a crowd of merpeople to show off Ariel's vocal talents only for the event to come to a halt when it's discovered the young mermaid skipped out on her royal duty.

That's scrapped in the new movie.

The remake doesn't contain a large event hosted at the palace.

This time, Ariel ditches a rather boring gathering between her father and her sisters.

In the 2023 film, Ariel's sisters have different names and are vaguely introduced as representatives of the ocean instead of a gaggle of giggling and gossiping sisters.

King Triton doesn't live in an opulent, gold castle.

King Triton doesn
King Triton's underwater palace in 1989's "The Little Mermaid."      Walt Disney Animation

The iconic castle from the animated movie doesn't exist in the 2023 movie.

Triton's throne room appears to be in the middle of the ocean, unprotected, in the remake.

According to the production notes, the underwater kingdom was designed "with a deep, strong, jewel-tone-like color palette inspired by real corals and anemones," including oversized corals.

The design is supposed to feel real instead of manmade or futuristic, but it's barely glimpsed on-screen.

Ariel's mother was killed by humans.

Ariel
A scene from "The Little Mermaid III: Ariel's Beginning" shows Ariel's mother.      Walt Disney Animation

The remake glosses over this new revelation.

The death of King Triton's wife was a main plot point further explored in Disney's straight-to-video 2008 prequel, "The Little Mermaid III: Ariel's Beginning."

She died saving a young mermaid and trying to grab a trinket given to her by Triton.

Ursula is King Triton's sister and Ariel's aunt.

Ursula is King Triton
Melissa McCarthy as Ursula.      Courtesy of Disney

A plot line teased in a deleted scene from the original, the remake introduces Ursula as King Triton's exiled sister but never dives deeper into what soiled their relationship.

Though we know Ursula was banished from the kingdom years ago, it's unclear what forced her into exile.

The remake includes three new songs.

The remake includes three new songs.
Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric in "The Little Mermaid."      Giles Keyte/Disney Enterprises

Original "The Little Mermaid" composer and lyricist Alan Menken returned for the remake and was joined by Lin-Manuel Miranda ("Hamilton").

Together, the two wrote three new songs along with a reprisal to "Part of Your World."

Here, Prince Eric gets his own song, "Wild Uncharted Waters," and Sebastian and Scuttle get their own rap, "Scuttlebutt."

The best addition is a new number for Ariel, "For the First Time," sang cleverly in her head after losing her voice.

Scuttle is a northern gannet instead of a seagull.

Scuttle is a northern gannet instead of a seagull.
Scuttle in the animated movie versus the remake.      Walt Disney Animation, Courtesy of Disney

Instead of the mermaid breaking the surface to show off her treasure trove of human findings to her squawking friend, Scuttle's now a diving bird who meets Ariel underwater to maintain their friendship.

In the remake, Ariel abides by her father by never going above water until curiosity gets the best of her when she notices fireworks coming from Eric's ship.

Only then does she break her father's rule to get a glimpse of humans and, subsequently, save the prince's life.

Ariel doesn't sign a contract with Ursula. Instead, she forges a blood-binding one.

Ariel doesn
Ariel doesn't sign anything in the new movie.      Walt Disney Animation

When Ariel agreed to give her voice to Ursula in exchange for legs, she sealed the deal with a signed contract.

This led to many Disney fans wondering why Ariel simply didn't write messages to Eric to let her know of her ordeal.

The 2023 remake rids of this potential plot hole.

Instead of signing any paperwork, Ariel rips off one of her scales and gives it to her aunt.

Ursula's memorable "body language" line is removed from "Poor Unfortunate Souls."

Ursula
Ursula in "The Little Mermaid" animated movie.      Walt Disney Animation

There are a few minor lyrical tweaks to "Under the Sea" and "Kiss the Girl," but the most obvious omission is the removal of Ursula singing and gyrating to the memorable "body language" line from "Poor Unfortunate Souls."

In the animated feature, Ursula sings the lyric when Ariel asks how she's supposed to charm Eric into falling in love with her without her voice.

The full lyrics from the omitted line are: "You'll have your looks, your pretty face. / And don't underestimate the importance of body language, ha!"

Longtime Disney and "The Little Mermaid" composer Alan Menken told Vanity Fair in March revisions were made in the song "regarding lines that might make young girls somehow feel that they shouldn't speak out of turn, even though Ursula is clearly manipulating Ariel to give up her voice."

Ursula makes a slight change to her deal with Ariel, without the princess' knowledge.

Ursula makes a slight change to her deal with Ariel, without the princess
Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King) and Ariel (Halle Bailey) in "The Little Mermaid."      Photo courtesy of Disney.

In the new movie, Ursula refines her spell so Ariel can't remember she needs to kiss Eric in order to remain human and regain her voice.

At a surface level, this seems like a silly addition, but it's a pretty clever update.

Instead of Ariel obsessing over getting a kiss from the object of her affection, she's now encouraged to get to know the man she saved and potentially fall in love with him naturally.

Eric isn't a natural-born prince. He was adopted by a queen in the remake.

Eric isn
Noma Dumezweni plays Queen Selina in "The Little Mermaid."      Giles Keyte/Disney

The assumption in the animated movie is that Eric was born into royalty.

In the 1989 movie, Eric's pressured to find a wife. On his birthday, he briefly apologizes he didn't fall for the Princess of Glowerhaven.

A deadly shipwreck brought Eric ashore in the 2023 movie where he was adopted by Queen Seline (Noma Dumezweni).

Sebastian isn't chased around the castle by a chef.

Sebastian isn
The chef finds Sebastian in the kitchen in "The Little Mermaid."      Walt Disney Animation, Disney+

Once on land, Sebastian has an entire subplot where the castle chef is trying to cook him.

This storyline's ditched in the new film.

Now, Sebastian focuses his full attention on trying to get Ariel to break the spell since she can't recall she needs to kiss Eric.

Ariel tells Eric her name, not Sebastian.

Ariel tells Eric her name, not Sebastian.
Eric learns Ariel's name in different ways in both "The Little Mermaid" movies.      Walt Disney Animation, Courtesy Disney

In the animated movie, Sebastian whispers Ariel's name to Eric during the song "Kiss the Girl."

This time around, Ariel tells Eric her name by pointing to the constellation Aries and then guiding him from there.

In the remake, Eric says that's a beautiful name, steps up from the animated film in which he says, "That's kind of pretty."

Ariel kills Ursula instead of Eric.

Ariel kills Ursula instead of Eric.
Eric drives a ship into Ursula in "The Little Mermaid."      Walt Disney Animation

The remake's Ursula battle makes one major tweak to how the sea witch meets her end.

When Ursula grows to a behemoth, it's Ariel — not Eric — who steers a ship into Ursula to deliver the final blow.

Ariel doesn't get her iconic blue, sparkly dress at the film's end when staying human.

Ariel doesn
Two of Ariel's dresses in the animated "The Little Mermaid" versus Ariel's look in the live-action feature.      Walt Disney Animation, Giles Keyte/Disney

Halle Bailey's live-action version of the princess doesn't get Ariel's pink dress either.

Bailey is only seen in one blue dress throughout most of the movie until its very end.

According to the production notes, the color is supposed to reflect a "sea tone aqua blue."

The dress seen at the end features coral-colored flowers and sea and land motifs, representing a mix between "the village world, the royal court, and the ocean."

Ariel and Eric don't receive a lavish wedding.

Ariel and Eric don
Ariel and Eric's wedding is seen in the animated movie.      Walt Disney Animation

The animated film culminates with Ariel and Eric's wedding aboard a ship as it sails off.

King Triton, Ariel's sisters, and other merpeople break the ocean's surface in a send-off.

The remake oddly skips over Ariel and Eric's wedding and vaguely mentions the two wed off-screen.

The two get in a paddleboat and receive a similar goodbye from Triton.

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