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Little Mermaid director addresses racist backlash for Halle Bailey casting

Ali Condon

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Little Mermaid director addresses racist backlash for Halle Bailey casting

Featured Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios/hallebailey/Instagram

The director of Disney's live-action Little Mermaid is not here for anyone's ignorant or archaic issues with his film.

When the trailer for the highly-anticipated remake of the 1989 classic was first released, the reaction to Halle Bailey's casting as Ariel was intense.

It wasn't long before social media was flooded with devastatingly cute videos of little girls around the world squealing and jumping for joy after recognising a Disney princess who looked like them.

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But amid the excitement was an exhausting wave of racist backlash, calling for boycotts and re-castings.

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That painful selection of the population who keep words like 'woke' and 'snowflake' in the forefront of their vocabulary had a lot to say about the Grammy nominated singer's casting.

Some even went as far as accusing the film studio of hiring Bailey just because of her race, and not because of - oh, I don't know, her angelic voice, her monumental music career, or her outstanding acting skills?

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Of course, Disney was undeterred by the backlash, and fans will be delighted to know that The Little Mermaid is coming to cinemas in May 2023.

The film's director Rob Marshall, who is also behind some other Disney live action projects like Mary Poppins Returns and Into The Woods, has commented on the online response to Bailey's Ariel.

Credit: Disney
Credit: Disney

On the heart-melting response that children had to the film, Marshall admitted he 'wasn't anticipating' it.

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He told EW: "In a way, I felt like we've moved so far past that kind of thing, but then you realise, in a way we haven't.

"It was very moving to me to see how important this kind of casting is for the world."

And on the other side of the stick, the director made it clear to all of the skeptics that there was absolutely 'no agenda' when it came to casting Ariel.

"We just were looking for the best actor for the role, period. The end," he asserted. "We saw everybody and every ethnicity."

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He added that the Disney team were on the hunt for someone who could be 'incredibly strong, passionate, beautiful, smart, clever,' with 'a great deal of fire and joy', and Bailey was the perfect woman for the job.

Credit: Disney
Credit: Disney

As if Disney fans weren't already excited for the film, they might be pleased to know that Marshall and his team have made sure that the 2023 remake will give the painfully dry Prince Eric a personality of his own.

I never thought I'd see the day.

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"The role of Eric in the animated film - I'm sure the original creators would agree with this - it's a wooden, classic prince character with not a lot going on," said the director.

"There's a whole story that's developed in our film. He has a mother, a queen, that's new to the film. He has a very similar trajectory in a way to Ariel. He doesn't feel like it's where he fits in, his world."

He continued: "These two kindred spirits find each other and really teach the world about prejudice and about breaking down barriers and walls between these two worlds."

The Little Mermaid will hit the big screen on May 26, 2023.

Topics: Film & TV, Disney, Film and TV

Ali Condon
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