Everybody’s remaking The Little Mermaid…but why?


It seems everyone wants to make Ariel part of our world again – even ABC is going under the sea. Now the main question is…why?

It’s a year of remakes in the movie world, and the trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. Leading the charge is Walt Disney Studios, remaking their own classic animations into live action blockbusters.

Now, even the small screen world is jumping on the bandwagon. ABC announced this week that The Little Mermaid Live! will debut this fall. But, it won’t be the first time Ariel is resurfacing. The Little Mermaid has quietly become one of Disney’s most coveted stories, and the competition is only growing.

But how much is too much? For some context, let’s first break down all the adaptations that are coming.


It’s a daunting task to compete with Disney, especially in remaking one of their classics. And yet, according to Teen Vogue, there are two studios taking on the challenge. That’s right, in total there are three film adaptations of The Little Mermaid in the works.

The first one, set to release this summer, comes from Kingsway Media and Conglomerate Productions. In this adaptation, The Shannara Chronicles‘ Poppy Drayton will play the titular mermaid – but her name isn’t Ariel.

Her name is Emily, and she’s supposedly the real Little Mermaid. In this version, Emily won’t have a Prince searching for her. Instead, she’ll have a reporter named Cam Harrison, played by William Moseley. She also won’t have an evil Sea Witch, she’ll have an evil ringmaster – it’s all very new.

Then there’s the upcoming remake from Universal Studios. Chloe Grace Moretz was attached to star as the films lead, but recently dropped literally all of her upcoming movie roles. Whether The Little Mermaid was part of that purge is still unclear. The film also lost its director, Sofia Coppola, over “creative differences.” She was later replaced by Richard Curtis. Right now, this remake is drowning a bit, but hasn’t officially been called off.

Finally, there’s the actual Disney studios remake. This one is in extremely early stages and, given Disney’s upcoming live-action slate, there’s likely no rush. All we know is that Alan Menken is returning to create music, and he’s bringing Lin-Manuel Miranda with him.

Live Specials

Last summer, the Hollywood Bowl put on The Little Mermaid in the form of a live concert. The event was a limited run, with a cast including Sara Bareilles, Rebel Wilson and Darren Criss. During the show, the film played on screens throughout the venue. But, when it was time for a song, the movie stopped and the performers took over, backed by a 71-piece orchestra.

Now, ABC is jumping into the live musical arena with their own adaptation. The Wonderful World of Disney: The Little Mermaid: Live! was confirmed at ABC’s upfronts presentation and is set to premiere this fall. The network has confirmed that the production will be similar to the Hollywood Bowl’s version, combining live performances with the original animation.

ABC’s head of alternative programming, Robert Mills told Variety the production could be the first of many live adaptations of a Disney classic. “If we do this and we do it right and it becomes one of the singular live events, you’ve launched a franchise,” Mills said.

In total, that’s FIVE adaptations of The Little Mermaid announced in the last year and a half. So, this begs the question…why?


Objectively, The Little Mermaid is nowhere near the top performer for Disney as a whole. It can’t truly be expected as such, given the technological advancements in animation since its debut in 1989. It’s actually #136 on the list, which is especially impressive considering the amount of films Disney has actually put out.

But, it is credited as the movie that started a new era of success for the company. The Little Mermaid kicked off the 10-year period that became known as the “Disney Renaissance.” The films released during that decade – including Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992) and The Lion King (1994) – have become Disney staples. And, as of right now, nearly all are getting a live action remake.

Being the first of the Renaissance, Ariel and her undersea friends are basically Disney royalty, but don’t think they’re forgotten. In Walt Disney World, The Little Mermaid is immortalized in the form of a ride (housed in Ariel’s castle) and a live show. Ariel’s meet and greet in her grotto is still one of the most popular.

At this point, a remake of the movie was inevitable. Getting five retellings of her story is more like getting two snacks from the vending machine, when you only wanted one.

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Do we need all these Little Mermaid remakes? No. Will we accept them? Absolutely.