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8 Differences Between The Live-Action Little Mermaid And The 1989 Disney Classic


The time has finally come to talk about The Little Mermaid, specifically about the most recent iteration. The 2023 movie shows a story everyone should be familiar with, one about the inquisitive and beautiful young mermaid Ariel, who wants to learn more about the world, including the forbidden human world above the sea. The film is a live-action adaptation of the 1989 animated classic, which itself is based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale with a much darker ending.

Overall, the movie follows the plot of the original cartoon, with some minor plot deviations in favor of a more modern agenda, but people have noticed some very interesting differences between the two films.

1. The animals

Nobody expected to see a cartoony, big-lipped Jamaican crab in the live-action, but come on, Hollywood, this is just lazy. Poor Flounder got an even worse treatment. Now he’s just a fish. At least Scuttle the Seagull, voiced by Awkwafina, feels somewhat alive.

2. The prince

In the 1989 film, Prince Eric was so one-dimensional that everyone remembers him for wearing a white puffy shirt. In the new live-action version, Eric’s role has been expanded upon, and now his character is much more similar to Ariel’s, which makes their relationship that much more real.

3. King Triton’s backstory

In the old animated film, King Triton was there to tell the viewers that humans are bad, but we never got to learn why. At least not until the prequel series came out when we found out that his wife, Ariel’s mother, was somehow killed by the surface dwellers, and that’s why he hates them so much. Javier Bardem’s Triton gets all these nuances and then some!

4. New songs

During the viewing, you may feel like some cadences and rhymes, especially in the new songs, sound kind of familiar, but that’s probably because Lin-Manuel Miranda worked on those tunes. He’s a huge fan of the “original” Little Mermaid, so the producers hired him to work on three new songs: The Scuttlebutt, Wild Uncharted Waters, and For the First Time. Keep your ears sharp when you see it in the theater.

5. Cut songs

Unfortunately, adding more tunes also meant some of the old hits had to be cut out. You won’t hear Les Poissons or King Triton’s Daughters, and some other songs, like Kiss the Girl, had their lyrics changed to sound less inappropriate. We don’t need our kids to go for the kiss without consent. 

6. Ursula changes the deal

As you may remember, the contract Ariel signs gives her legs but takes away her voice. Well, in the 2023 version, the little mermaid also completely forgets that a kiss would break the evil spell. Ursula, you devil, you!

7. Ariel kills Ursula

In the 1989 version, Eric is the one who saves the day by gutting the sea witch Ursula with a half-broken ship. But in 2023, it’s Ariel who both slays the big evil aunty and rescues the helpless prince.

8. The happy ending

After defeating Ursula, Ariel and Eric get hitched, just like in the 1989 version, but instead of showing us the royal wedding with all its unnecessary little cameos and scenes, we get to see the perfect couple after a short time-skip where they both leave the kingdom to follow their common dream – travel the land and seven seas to learn about other people and their cultures.