The themes of the upcoming ‘The Little Mermaid’ won’t be as antiquated as the original.
Composer Alan Menken — who wrote the music for the original Little Mermaid movie — said he and lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda modified some of the songs’ lyrics for the live-action film because of their negative messaging, according to an interview with Vanity Fair published last week.
“There are some lyric changes in ‘Kiss the Girl’ because people have gotten very sensitive about the idea that [Prince Eric] would, in any way, force himself on [Ariel],” Menken, 73, revealed.
He added, “We have some revisions in ‘Poor Unfortunate Souls’ regarding lines that might make young girls somehow feel that they shouldn’t speak out of turn, even though Ursula is clearly manipulating Ariel to give up her voice.”
In “Kiss the Girl,” Ariel and Eric go on a romantic boat ride where Sebastian the crab encourages Eric to kiss the little mermaid, while in “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” Ariel makes a deal with the sea witch Ursula to visit the humans on dry land.
Menken and Miranda were attached to write additional music when the live-action project was first announced in 2016. The composer detailed how Miranda, 43, joined the film by proclaiming himself a fan of Menken.
“What happened was Lin gave a lot of interviews about just that,” Menken told Vanity Fair. “Sean Bailey, head of film production at the studio, heard or read one of those interviews. He didn’t even ask me. He just went to Lin and asked him to work on the movie. So this was a case where I heard I’m going to be working with Lin, I guess. We had a great time.”
He said of collaborating with Miranda, “He’s really smart. He understands theater really well. He understands a lot of things really well. He’s got this stylistic brilliance that brings in hip-hop and rap, and all old musical forms that help. Even though it’s a composer, me, and the lyricist, Lin — when we were in the room, all those influences came to band.”
As for the first song they worked on together, Menken said, “We discussed with [director] Rob Marshall what he wanted. One was the Prince Eric song, called ‘Wild Uncharted Waters.’ Then, there was the song for Ariel when she has her legs (doesn’t have a voice), and she’s singing her thoughts about all the firsts she is noticing for the first time.”
He also said, “There was a number called ‘Scuttlebutt’ for Scuttle and Sebastian. It’s this harebrained [song for them] trying to figure out what’s going on because they hear rumors that the prince has decided to marry. They think it must be Ariel but of course it’s Ursula in the form of Vanessa. It’s all this delicious imagination. Lin’s lyrics are to die for.”
On whether the live-action will adapt songs from The Little MermaidBroadway musical, Menken told the magazine, “There was a song, ‘Her Voice’ for the Broadway show. But Rob really wanted a new song for this moment of waves and all the wildness of what’s out there in the ocean. [Ariel] represented that to [Prince Eric]; she being the girl who saved his life.”
In 2019, Disney found its Ariel in Halle Bailey, who is best known as part of the R&B duo Chloe x Halle, and has also starred on Freeform’s Grown-ish.
Since then, the studio has released a few glimpses of the set as well as the official trailer released during the Oscars, which showcases Bailey’s rendition of “Part of Your World.”
Alongside Bailey as Ariel, British actor Jonah Hauer-King will star as Prince Eric and Melissa McCarthy as Ursula. The cast also includes Daveed Diggs as Sebastian, Awkwafina as Scuttle, Jacob Tremblay as Flounder, Javier Bardem as King Triton, and Noma Dumezweni in a brand-new role.
We can’t wait to watch. ‘The Little Mermaid’ is in theaters on May 26.