Disney is all about the live-action remake these days—not that we’re complaining. Beauty and the Beast, Dumbo, The Jungle Book, and Cinderella are just a few Disney classics that have gotten updates. This summer, the company released a reboot of Aladdin and a new version of The Lion King, which features Beyoncé’s majestic vocals.
So what’s left for Disney to reimagine? The Little Mermaid, of course. Back in 2016 Deadline reported that a live-action version of the 1989 gem was on the way, but the only detail we knew was that Lin Manuel-Miranda was working on some of the music. But now casting is underway, with some roles having been announced. (Melissa McCarthy, Awkwafina, and Jacob Tremblay have all been referenced as potential hires.)
Most of these updates haven’t been confirmed, but here’s what we do know:
Rob Marshall is directing. He worked with Manuel Miranda on Mary Poppins Returns; his other musical adaptation credits include Chicago, Nine, and Into the Woods.
Halle Bailey will be playing Ariel. You probably know her best as one of the two members in the R&B group Chloe X Halle. Marshall said in a statement about Bailey’s casting, “After an extensive search, it was abundantly clear that Halle possesses that rare combination of spirit, heart, youth, innocence, and substance—plus a glorious singing voice—all intrinsic qualities necessary to play this iconic role.”
Haters on Twitter started using the hashtag #NotMyAriel to express their discontent about a black woman playing Ariel. But several people have come to Bailey’s defense, including Jodi Benson, the actress who voiced Ariel in the original Little Mermaid film.
“The most important thing is to tell the story. And we have, as a family, we have raised our children, and for ourselves, that we don’t see anything that’s different on the outside,” she said Saturday, July 6, at the Supercon convention in Florida, according to comicbook.com.
“I think that the spirit of a character is what really matters. What you bring to the table in a character as far as their heart, and their spirit, is what really counts,” she continued. “And the outside package—’cause, let’s face it, I’m really, really old—and so when I’m singing ‘Part of Your World,’ if you were to judge me on the way that I look on the outside, it might change the way that you interpret the song. But if you close your eyes, you can still hear the spirit of Ariel.”