It was only a matter of time before Disney realized that it’s better down where it’s wetter. And with major box office successes for Maleficent, Cinderella,The Jungle Book, and a little 2017 film called Beauty and the Beast, a live-action The Little Mermaid was an inevitability. Thus it continues to inch ever closer to a reality, Disney is apparently eying Rob Marshall for taking on the the directorial reins.
Indeed, Marshall has a long and healthy history with Disney, having previously directed Into the Woods and the mermaid-infested Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides for the Mouse House. He is also currently directing Mary Poppins Returns, which also co-stars Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton fame, who has also been tapped to co-wrote new songs for a live-action Mermaid alongside Alan Menken. And now Marshall might be headed under the sea.
The news comes via Deadline, which reports that the Chicago director will make a decision on directing The Little Mermaid remake after the coming holidays. Understandably, it is quite the years-long undertaking to do one of these major Disney crown jewels, and already reimagining Mary Poppins for a new generation could not have been light on pressure. Plus, his previously worked with mermaids for Disney, albeit of the more carnivorous variety.
Meanwhile Miranda (the composer, lyricist, and original star of Broadway’s Hamilton) will be collaborating with Oscar winning Alan Menken to create new songs for a live-action version of The Little Mermaid. Menken was there at the beginning with songwriter Howard Ashman when they placed a strong creative imprint on 1989’s The Little Mermaid at Walt Disney Animation Studios. The film that is largely regarded as the kickoff for the Disney Renaissance in the ‘90s. By marrying Broadway formula with classic Disney animation, the two helped create a new identity for Disney animation, as well as a slew of popular songs, one of them being “Under the Sea,” which netted Ashman and Menken an Oscar. Menken also won an Oscar for Mermaid’s score.
The new live-action version of The Little Mermaid will be using Menken and Ashman’s pre-existing songs, which also include “Part of Your World” and “Kiss the Girl.” Menken and Miranda will be collaborating to create new songs for a live-action version of Disney’s very unique take on the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale. Marc Platt (Into the Woods, Bridge of Spies) will meanwhile be serving as producer and shepherding this project along.
Platt is also working with Miranda on his other live-action Disney spectacle: Mary Poppins Returns. Miranda, will be making his first major acting turn in that film since leaving the company of Hamilton. That musical megahit, which combines the American Revolution with hip-hop, also just won 11 Tonys this past June, including Best Score, Best Book, and overall Best Musical for Miranda. Miranda also has an open affection for The Little Mermaid, having named his son Sebastian after the Rastafarian crab in the film.
This puts Disney in direct competition with Universal Pictures, who already has a Little Mermaid movie in production starring Chloe Grace Moretz. However, that film is likely to hew much more closely to Anderson’s rather dark fairy tale that, among other things, will lack Disney’s iconic songs, the name “Ariel” for the eponymous siren, likely the mermaid’s red hair, and, perhaps most notably, Disney’s happy ending.
We’ll keep you posted more as we hear about the dueling projects.