Jodi Benson, who voiced Ariel in the original 1989 The Little Mermaid, is praising the 2023 live-action reimagining starring Halle Bailey.
In an interview with People magazine published Wednesday, Benson shared why she supports the adjustments made to give the original a modern twist and reflect current society.
“When you look at our film, we started in the studio in 1986 and we were released in 1989. Times change, people change, cultures change,” Benson told People. “What matters and what is important changes. And, as a studio, we need to make those adjustments, and we need to take into consideration what’s going on around us. We need to be aware.”
Benson credited the live-action for going more “in depth” with characters and says that it “expands” the story in ways the original didn’t allow. The film features inclusive casting, a new character look for Flounder, lyric changes and the song “Daughters of Triton” no longer being included in the Disney film.
“I do feel all of the nuances and small, slight changes here and there are very important,” she said. “It’s very important to address what’s going on right now in our world and to make it effective for our period of time, where we are right now in this generation.”
Despite an over 30-year difference since the release of the original, Benson noted that director Rob Marshall still managed to pay “tribute to the integrity” of the 1989 film which she said “just comes shining through in such a beautiful way” and is “just breathtaking.”
Benson admitted that though she’s always felt connected to and “very protective” of Ariel, after seeing the new take, she’s “thrilled” with the result.
“I do feel that these changes that have occurred, especially with the live-action telling, are really important. Her integrity has been maintained. It’s really a special retelling, and I’m just so thrilled,” Benson said.
In the live-action, Bailey takes on the role of the young mermaid Ariel who yearns for adventure. The singer and actress has been open about the racist backlash that followed after she was announced to portray the iconic Disney princess.
Bailey’s take on the role has the seal of approval from Benson, with Benson calling Bailey’s interpretation of Ariel “absolutely beautiful.”
“I loved everything that she did with the film,” Benson praised of the star. “I love the acting, I love the singing and just the pure spirit. Her beautiful love for the character comes through. It’s just a beautiful, beautiful performance.”
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, The Little Mermaid director Marshall and producer John DeLuca shared the same sentiments on Bailey.
“We made sure we saw hundreds of women and great actors and singers after that, but she immediately set the bar so high that no one surpassed it. No one did,” Marshall said. “And we saw every ethnicity. There was no agenda to cast a woman of color. It was really just, ‘Let’s find the best Ariel,’ and Halle claimed the role. We always say this to ourselves, but our goal is to never have to really even choose; it’s chosen for us. So she claimed the role and said, ‘I’m Ariel.’”
The Little Mermaid also stars Melissa McCarthy, Javier Bardem, Jacob Tremblay, Daveed Diggs and Awkwafina and will release on May 26.