The Little Mermaid is the latest Disney classic animated film to be reimagined into a live action version. During the Global Press Conference with the cast, they talk about the intimidation, but also the excitement, of being a part of the project. They also talk about the musical numbers, and what it was like seeing the movie in its final form on the big screen at the Hollywood premiere.

Participating Talent: 

  • Halle Bailey (“Ariel”)
  • Melissa McCarthy (“Ursula”)
  • Javier Bardem (“King Triton”)
  • Daveed Diggs (“Sebastian”)
  • Awkwafina (“Scuttle”)
  • Jacob Tremblay (“Flounder”)
  • Jonah Hauer-King (“Prince Eric”)
  • Noma Dumezweni (“Queen Selina”)

Becoming A Part Of This World

The Little Mermaid is a beloved Disney Animation Studios’ film, so to be a part of it is not only exciting, but a bit intimidating, the entire cast agrees. Halle tells a touching story at the press conference about how she reacted when she was told she got the part. Daveed and Jonah also discuss how it feels to

HALLE: Oh my gosh, my first reaction was just sobbing, honestly. I think we had celebrated my sister’s birthday the day before, so we rented an Airbnb. We were coming home, unloading everything, in work mode. Then I got this call from Rob, but I don’t answer unknown numbers, so I just saw it and was like, whatever, I’m not gonna answer it. Then my baby brother comes running to me, was like, “Answer your phone, answer your phone!” And I was like, okay. So I answered it, and then Rob was like, “Hello. I’m looking for Ariel.” I just cried the whole day.

HALLE: I tell people all the time I feel like Ariel truly has helped me find myself and this young woman version of me because it’s been five years of my life now. From 18 to now being 23, so those are very intense transformative years as you’re developing as a young woman. But I feel like especially these themes of the film and what she had to go through with her passions and drive and speaking up for herself, and even though it may be scary, she went for it. I feel like those things I really try to adopt and give to Halle now. She’s taught me so much.

The Hollywood Premiere Vibe

The Hollywood premiere was a big affair. Hollywood Boulevard was shut down, and a blue carpet was rolled out. Here, the cast talks about what a magical evening it was and how it felt to see not only the fans reactions, but their family’s reactions as well.

MELISSA: This is why I love movies. This has been such a long labor of love. It’s taken a while to make this beautiful thing. I think to finally be there and to be like, okay, there you go, good luck in
school. You kind of send the kids off on the bus.

HALLE: Yeah. Absolutely. My sister is my best friend. She’s my rock. And so, yesterday was actually her first time getting to see the film. She cried. And she was squeezing my hand so tight the whole time. I’m just so happy that she loved it and I feel like okay, I can pat myself on the back now. My big sister loved it.

MELISSA: That’s the first time my kids have come to a premiere, and this is the first time they wanted to come. So, I was nervous but also excited that they were there. They just loved the movie so much, and it was fun to see them get excited about meeting people and seeing them. They were like oh my God, Halle’s sitting behind us. And they’re jaded old young people.

JONAH: It was amazing. I mean, it is horrendous having to sing in a film with a Grammy-nominated artist. That’s not fun for anyone. With everyone’s incredible voices and Melissa. But it was, yeah, it was an amazing night. I think the reaction from the audience to all of the music was incredible. It felt like such a warm reaction. There was so much great energy in the room, and it was quite special.

DAVEED: In the middle of Jonah’s song, it was my first time seeing it, also. His song came on, which I hadn’t heard before, and the audible “SING!” in the audience… I think I was unaware that you could do that, sir.

JAVIER: I loved the screening. I thought the energy was amazing. People were truly, deeply, honestly moved by it. And everybody was cheering, and they were supporting the hard work that a lot of people has done with this movie.

DAVEED: Me remembering that I stood in line to see The Little Mermaid opening night in Oakland when it first came out. It was just this moment of oh, yeah, this thing that was sort of a fundamental part of my childhood is gonna be that maybe for this little girl, who was also so terrified of Ursula that I had to introduce her to Melissa afterwards so that she didn’t have nightmares.

JONAH: It’s hard to wrap your head around it. The first time I saw it a couple weeks ago, I was with my family and some of the cast who are based in the UK. And Art Malik was there, who plays Sir Grimsby, and he brought his grandson out there, who is eight years old. It was amazing seeing my mom’s reaction. It was amazing seeing my sister’s reaction. But seeing this little boy’s reaction, who I’d never met before, and seeing how taken in by the story he was, how transported by it, it was really, really special, because he was just with it. His eyes were wide, and he was laughing and crying, and just watching it through his eyes was really, really special.

Scuttle, Flounder, & Sebastian Voice Recording Together

It is rare that voice-over actors get to record together nowadays, but Daveed, Jacob, and Awkwafina did so for their roles of Sebastian, Flounder, and Scuttle. Not only that, they weren’t in a recording booth, they were on a stage. They talk about how this helped them create something truly special for The Little Mermaid.

JACOB: We were all together for quite some time in the studio in England. We just got to know each other so well, and that definitely helped with the voice work. Because I preferred it so much better than being in a booth. Especially ’cause of covid, it would usually be on Zoom, but it was definitely a privilege that we all got to be together and we got to do our scenes together.

AWKWAFINA: Definitely, for me, it was the first time I’ve ever read a scene with other actors. Usually, you’re in the booth, and a lot of the times the other actors aren’t there, and the directors just read the lines with you. But we were all able to do it, and there were other people in the room too. It was pretty crazy.

DAVEED: Right? We worked on it like it was a small thing. At least in that work session, it really felt like we were doing community theater. We were pushing boxes around to make sets. We got in this groove. That’s how you make art. We made something that we understood, that everybody could wrap their arms around, and that we really believed in and knew inside and out. And then so to show up when they’re shutting down the street, and the posters are huge, and then you watch the film, and it’s on this massive screen, and it’s a whole world that I never saw at all. So to sit there and be struck by it, it’s really cool to see a thing that you thought only existed in your imagination. It really felt like we were just building a world in our heads, but then it was there on the screen. That was crazy.

Rehearsals On Set

As explained above, the vibes on the set were very much that of a theater production for the cast.

NOMA: The thing what I’ve absolutely clocked with Rob and John is that they’re theater babies. For me, having a rehearsal on set is such a rare thing when I’m moving into the TV and film world. It’s such a joy to go all right, this is what we’re aiming for, so we know it and then we can be free when we’re doing it. Which is what I love about rehearsal. This was just joyous experience. That’s what Rob and John are great at is they value each and every one of these performances.

MELISSA: Rob Marshall, I think we all agree, sets up this world that is why I fell in love with plays. It feels so small, and yet you know it’s this enormous thing, but it just feels as if we all do our best, then maybe we can make a show. It just becomes so personal, and everyone’s doing their best, and he’s just there wrapped and swaddled in cashmere, just cheering quietly everyone on. Everyone, from the actors to the gorgeous camera movers and the sound department’s killing it. Look at the costumes! It’s an appreciation of every human and all the moving parts that it takes to make a movie work. And having a cheerleader like that is like, I can’t even explain how fortunate I feel, and I’m sure all of us feel too.

The Little Mermaid hits theaters everywhere on May 26th and will be coming to Disney+ later this year.

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Tessa Smith

Tessa Smith AKA Mama's Geeky, is a journalist that covers geek and Disney culture on her own website, as well as freelances for other sites such as What's On Disney Plus and Screen Rant. She graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Marketing and loves all things geeky. She is a Disney Vacation Club member and a Founders Circle Member of Disney+. She is also an approved critic for Rotten Tomatoes and a member of the Critics Choice Association. Tessa lives in Upstate New York with her husband, two daughters, and two dogs named Sansa and Khaleesi.

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