Disney announces new Ariel for live-action ‘Little Mermaid’: Halle Bailey
Every Disney princess for the past 30 years has had Ariel’s face. Now Ariel has a new face.
Disney’s next live action, Little Mermaid, is scheduled for actress and singer Halle Bailey, from the R & B duo Chloe x Halle, as Ariel, Variety reports. That means that one of Disney’s most iconic princesses will look very different.
This Ariel will be black
That’s a giant deal, and not just because Ariel is a popular Disney princess with possibly the best “I Want” song in the Disney canon. Ariel is also the princess whose character design sets the mood for the amazing and homogeneous career of giant-eyed and small-nosed Disney princesses we’ve known since The Little Mermaid debuted in 1989.
In 2015, a Tumblr user named Alex published a publication entitled “Every woman in every Disney / Pixar movie in the last decade has exactly the same face.” He traced the face shapes of the male and female characters from the last 10 years of Disney / Pixar filmed and discovered that while men had a variety of facial shapes: square jaws and short noses.
Round jaws and long noses! The list goes on:
The shapes of the women’s faces were almost identical: they all had round cheeks, giant round eyes, and tiny noses. In the extreme close-ups, it was almost impossible to tell the difference.
“Same Face Syndrome” is most noticeable in Disney’s current era of CGI animation, but it goes back to the traditional animation of the Disney Renaissance. Classic Disney heroines like Beauty and the Beast’s Belle, Aladdin’s Jasmine, and Tarzan’s Jane also share the basic Disney Same Face character modeling — round face, big eyes, small nose — and Ariel, who ushered in the Disney Renaissance when The Little Mermaid came out in 1989, set the mold for them.
Disney has its own set face to showcase
That means that over the past 30 years, Disney has been selling a very specific face as its cultural ideal for girls, which is anatomically impossible but mostly exaggerates European characteristics. (Ariel was modeled freely after Alyssa Milano.)
And now, the white and redhead character that originated that face will be reimagined as a black girl. In terms of the Disney iconography, it’s an exciting step forward.
The movie will be better than the other Disney live action movies
Well, that remains to be seen.
The plot of “gay Le Fou” in the Beauty and the Beast of 2017 showed that Disney is not above making a gesture of inclusion and representation for positive headlines without doing the necessary work to make that representation feel significant.
But Disney also showed with 2014 Maleficent that these live action remakes are at their best when they have a strong point of view on the source material and are not afraid to remix it to a large extent.
Little Mermaid Cast
We know he has a strong cast: besides Bailey, Melissa McCarthy is in talks to play Ursula; Awkwafina (Crazy Rich Asians) and Jacob Tremblay (Room) have already signed to play Scuttle the seagull and Flounder the fish, respectively.
Bailey’s casting could be a sign that The Little Mermaid is willing to look back at the original with a critical eye, but at this point, we really do not have enough information about the new movie to make sure.
We know that Alan Menken has joined with Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton to write new songs for this version and that it is directed by Rob Marshall of Chicago and Into the Woods … and that’s it. What we can say for sure is that the character that originated the Disney Face Syndrome just had a new face. That is exciting, no matter how you see it.