15 Behind-The-Scenes Secrets You Probably Didn’t Know About “The Little Mermaid” Movie
Dive deep into the depths of Disney's latest splash, The Little Mermaid (2023), and get ready for some behind-the-scenes tea! We all know bringing a beloved animated classic to life is no fishy business, and The Little Mermaid was no exception.
But fear not, dear friends, for the star-studded ensemble cast rose to the challenge with gusto. Halle Bailey gracefully swam into the role of Princess Ariel, Javier Bardem donned the trident as the majestic King Triton, Melissa McCarthy deliciously embraced her inner villain as the wicked Ursula. The film has already made waves with critics and fans, delivering a fin-tastic remake that stays true to the original story while sprinkling a touch of modern magic.
Now that the underwater enchantment has graced our screens, it's time to spill some secrets that will leave you floundering in disbelief! Prepare to gasp as we unveil hidden details that slipped through the seaweed, tickling your curiosity and leaving you with a treasure trove of newfound knowledge about The Little Mermaid's journey!
#1. Jonah Hauer-King's audition process to play Prince Eric lasted seven months.
He sent in numerous self tapes of him playing Eric in different accents, sang several songs (including some from West Side Story, Rent, and ones written by Amy Winehouse), and went to an in-person screen test with Halle.
#2. Halle Bailey was actually the first person to audition for Ariel.
Director Rob Marshall said that he knew she was the perfect fit before she even came into the room. He told IMDb, " John DeLuca and myself were watching the Grammys, and Chloe x Halle started to sing 'Where is the Love,' a beautiful song. And I turned to John… I said, wait, is that Ariel?! She’s so ethereal, sort of otherworldly with that angelic voice"
"She came to NY just a few weeks later and auditioned for us… She sang 'Part of Your World,' and by the end of the song, I was completely in tears."
#3. Melissa McCarthy drew inspiration from her own experiences and other drag queens' performances to portray Ursula.
Her first job was doing stand-up comedy in drag. She said, "I am a huge fan of drag, I always have been. There's a bravado to it and a self deprecation to it. It's the perfect mix of 'having full and utter confidence' and also 'there's some damage there and it's a cover.' And I think in all the characters I kinda fall in love with, that quality of what's done because of real confidence or what's done to cover is...that's exactly the gray area that makes me usually take a part."
#4. The locs and extensions that Halle wore in the movie cost over $150,000.
The wrap process also "took 12 to 14 hours" which is a technique where they took the fake hair and wrapped it around Halle's natural hair, so she wouldn't have to color it or "change her internal hair structure."
#5. Part of Halle's (and some other mermaids') training included weight lifting.
And it’s for strengthening their necks for some specific scenes.
#6. Ariel's iconic hair flip moment took about 20 tries.
The iconic moment is filmed about 20 times to get as close to perfect as possible. Halle explained that when her locs get wet, they become "really, really heavy."
She added, "It was just a lot of hair on my head. So, whenever I would get in the water, it would be heavy. So, that one scene, it was really funny: That whole day we were trying to get it right, get it right, and finally, they got a take that they really liked."
#7. To film the "Under the Sea" scene, several dancers and puppeteers needed to wear blue screen suits.
They were then edited in post-production to appear as various sea creatures. Director Rob Marshall explained , “So, we brought the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater over to London to work with our VFX artists. And we had this beautiful company of dancers literally replicate how [each sea creature] moved so that we could use that as templates for our artists to create this massive production.”
#8. Jacob Tremblay was 13 years old when he first recorded his lines for Flounder and it has been 3 years since then.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions and the majority of the film being CGI, it took much longer than usual to get the movie released.
Jacob said , “My voice has changed so much since then, so it was far easier to hit those high notes. If I were ever to revisit [the movie], I don’t think I could ever do nearly as good of a job as I did, because like everyone can tell, I’ve grown.”
#9. Daveed Diggs, who voices Sebastian, explained that the voice cast rehearsed together for a month "before any cameras began filming."
Daveed said, "We rehearsed it, built it like a play… Then, when we recorded, all of us were together. Me, Awkwafina, and Jacob were all on a stage together, anyone else in the scene was also in the room, so we got to really play the scene and improvise."
This gave them a chance to actually bond as cast mates, build chemistry, improvise, and riff off of each other.
#10. Halle was by herself with the puppeteers and a recording of Daveed, Jacob, and Awkwafina's voices.
Sometimes, a tennis ball or smaller puppet was brought in as a placeholder for its respective character. Awkwafina shared, "[Halle] said it felt like we were there, because she was constantly listening to us all day."
#11. A majority of the film was actually filmed inside a water tank.
Rob Marshall explained, "[Filming] underwater was so complicated, but our goal was never to let you see the machinery behind it all because sometimes, there would be… In 'Part of Your World,' Halle would sing two lines, and we'd say, 'Cut,' and then she'd be back on another piece of equipment or apparatus. It was all choreographed in advance."
#12. Jonah nearly drowned while shooting the movie.
He's not the best swimmer and had to wear a heavy pair of boots that weighed him down while he was in the water. The crew had to poke holes in his boots so that they wouldn't fill up with water.
He admitted, "I just can't get the floating aspect, some people seem to do that really easily, that comes naturally to them. I just sink to the bottom."
#13. Jodi Benson, the original actor to voice Ariel, has a cameo role.
She said that when the movie finally got greenlit, she reached out to her longtime friends Rob Marshall and John DeLuca, and congratulated them. They immediately responded with "You are going to be part of this."
Jodi had to keep her cameo a secret for four years — she couldn't even tell her family.
#14. Ariel's new song "For the First Time," was actually inspired by the score from the original animated movie.
Alan Menken was riffing on "Tour of The Kingdom," and Lin-Manuel Miranda suggested he slow it down and add a "dancehall beat" underneath — which gave the tune a "Caribbean-island vibe.
#15. Simone Ashley, who plays Ariel's sister Indira, seemingly got the role in Bridgerton while she was on set filming The Little Mermaid.
Last year, she told Jimmy Kimmel, "I was on a movie at the time, and I was in my trailer, and I got the call saying, 'It's kind of secret, you can't tell anyone. But you've got the role.'"
At the time, she couldn't name what movie set she'd been working on but explained that she got the news after Bridgerton 's first season came out, which was December 2020, and The Little Mermaid began filming in January 2021.