The original 1989 classic is known to fans as not just another solid Disney princess film. It was the massive hit that the animation juggernaut needed to get back on top of the industry, and it was also the movie that officially launched the legendary “Disney Renaissance”. Packed to the brim with revolutionary animation, catchy melodic tunes, and perhaps most of all, memorable characters, the animated film has easily cemented itself as one of the crowned jewels in the House of Mouse’s ever-expanding empire. This gives the various actors set to bring the story into live-action quite big shoes (or fins) to fill, but with a cast that contains both experienced veterans and talented newcomers (not to mention direction from Rob Marshall and music from Lin-Manuel Miranda), that shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
Remember, the following cast and character guide contains minor spoilers for the original 1989 film and the upcoming remake.
The Little Mermaid (1989)
- Release Date
- Rob Marshall
- Awkwafina, Melissa McCarthy, Jacob Tremblay, Javier Bardem, Jonah Hauer-King, Daveed Diggs, Halle Bailey
- Main Genre
- Fantasy, Adventure
- Hans Christian Andersen, Ron Clements, Jane Goldman, David Magee, John Musker
Halle Bailey as Ariel
Following the release of the first teaser trailer for The Little Mermaid, Disney fans everywhere were ecstatic to see one of cinema’s most beloved princesses being brought to live-action by Grown-ish star Halle Bailey. Bailey is set to have a huge year in 2023 with her starring in the upcoming remake of The Color Purple. If the up-and-coming actor’s “Otherworldy” audition according to Rob Marshall and producer John DeLuca is any indication, it’s a well-deserved start to a promising career.
The youngest of six sisters and a member of the royal family of Atlantica, Ariel is a starry-eyed mermaid whose rebellious nature leads to an absolute fascination with the surface world, much to the chagrin of her over-protective father, King Triton (Javier Bardem). Along with her guppy best friend Flounder (Jacob Tremblay) and semi-strict court composer Sebastian (Daveed Diggs), Ariel spends the majority of her time collecting treasures from the surface that have made their way to the deep, keeping her own treasure trove that she keeps secret from her father, whom consistently teaches to her and her siblings that the surface is far too dangerous for them.
On one fateful night, Ariel sees a massive ship catch fire on the surface and saves the life of a handsome prince named Eric (Jonah Hauer-King). Ariel becomes infatuated with Prince Erik and now desires to walk on land more than ever if it means a chance to be with him. It doesn’t take long for her father to discover Ariel’s hideaway and King Triton ransacks it for her own good, leading a distraught Ariel to make a flippant decision. Against the warning from her friends, Ariel makes a bargain with the dreaded sea witch, Ursula (Melissa McCarthy). The shady sorceress offers to give Ariel legs in exchange for a vital resource – her voice. Ariel agrees and now must find a way to communicate with Eric without the use of her melodic singing voice.
Jonah Hauer-King as Eric
Jonah Hauer-King (A Dog’s Way Home) will be playing Prince Eric, the dashing sea-faring prince who becomes the apple of Ariel’s eye.
Despite being 100% human, Eric also spends much of his time on the oceans, searching for what wonders might be lying beneath them. He also is often joined by two companions of his own, with his playful shaggy dog Max and his loyal yet easily seasick butler Grimsby (Art Malik). Whilst venturing into an intense storm, Eric finds himself falling into the depths of the ocean. Though the prince kept falling in and out of consciousness, he does remember that his savior was a beautiful woman with an absolutely enchanting singing voice. Eric becomes obsessed with his savior and seeks to find her and thank her properly. He eventually does find Ariel, but her inability to speak makes him doubt that she was the woman who saved him. Still, Eric and Ariel quickly form a bond that may even be the start of true love.
Melissa McCarthy as Ursula
The dreaded, manipulative sea witch Ursula is well-known for her snarky sense of humor, so it makes sense that she’ll be played by comedy legend Bridesmaids star Melissa McCarthy.
Once upon a time, Ursula lived in Atlantica as a servant of King Triton, but was later banished from the kingdom entirely. Since then, Ursula has harbored a bitter resentment for Triton and everyone close to him, looking for ways to take control of his all-powerful trident and in turn the rest of the kingdom. In the meantime, Ursula has spent most of her time tricking desperate merfolk into signing impossible contracts in exchange for their “poor unfortunate soul”, all with the help of her scheming pet eels, Flotsam and Jetsam. When Ursula learns of Ariel’s desire to trade her mermaid tail for human legs, the sea witch sees a perfect opportunity to get revenge on Triton. Ursula gives Ariel exactly what the naive princess wants, but now armed with the payment of her voice, Ursula puts her plan for oceanic domination into action.
There’s a significant change to Ursula’s character in the remake, that being a surprising new connection to Ariel and King Triton that we won’t dare spoil for you here.
Javier Bardem as King Triton
Academy Award-winner Javier Bardem terrorized the seas as the villainous Capitan Salazar in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, but now he’ll once again be working with Disney as a more likable character with King Triton.
In addition to being the respected King of Atlantica, Triton is also a single father to seven young daughters. He loves them all more than life itself, but his youngest child Ariel can’t seem to keep herself out of trouble. Her fascination with the surface is a subject of deep concern for the loving yet reclusive monarch, and he feels the only way to prevent this is to destroy Ariel’s extensive collection of thingamabobs and whatsits. When all this does is push Ariel to his sworn enemy Ursula, Triton now must learn to let his daughter be free to become her own person.
Jacob Tremblay as Flounder
Jacob Tremblay made a big splash in the industry with his lovable breakout performance in Room, and he’s continuing to ride that wave of success as the voice of Flounder.
Flounder is an excitable young fish who accompanies his best friend Ariel on almost all of her adventures, even if it’s something dangerous like exploring a shark-infested ship wreckage. What Flounder lacks in bravery he easily makes up for in his loyalty to Ariel and their friendship, always seeking to help wherever he can.
Daveed Diggs as Sebastian
Voicing everyone’s stressed-out crustacean Sebastian is Daveed Diggs, who made his Disney debut when his role in the Broadway smash hit Hamilton hit Disney+ in 2020.
Sebastian’s official role in Atlantica is the court composer, putting on and conducting various musical shows. Many of these involve performances from King Triton’s daughters, but when Princess Ariel consistently fails to show up for the performances, Triton entrusts Sebastian with keeping an eye on Ariel. He also trusts that Sebastian will convince Ariel that a life “under the sea” is far more appealing than a life on land. Still, in addition to being a court composer, Sebastian is also a hopeless romantic, and he helps Ariel in her quest to earn Eric’s love despite his loyalty to Triton.
Awkwafina as Scuttle
Comedian and actress Awkwafina is no stranger to Disney having appeared as major characters in Raya and the Last Dragon and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and now she’ll be making her Disney live-action remake debut as Scuttle. The energetic bird was a seagull in the original film, but Awkwafina’s take on the character will be a gannet – a bird capable of going underwater for longer stretches of time.
The third member of Ariel’s group of friends, Scuttle is Ariel’s walking squeaking dictionary for all the human objects that she finds in the ocean. However, though Scuttle is certainly enthusiastic, the bird is far from an expert in human artifacts. Scuttle often provides wholly inaccurate names for the objects and what they’re used for, leading to some funny misunderstandings when Ariel finally gets her legs and gets to see the surface for herself. Still, Scuttle’s heart is absolutely in the right place, and is a dear friend of Ariel.
Noma Dumezweni as Queen Selina
Noma Dumezweni is no stranger to live-action Disney films, having previously played Miss Penny Farthing in Mary Poppins Returns. This time, however, Dumezweni will be playing of the remakes few original characters, Queen Selina.
Selina is the antithesis of King Triton, the human adoptive mother of Prince Eric. While she isn’t as strict as Triton, Selina still doesn’t approve of Eric’s sense of adventure and exploration, seeing it as a dangerous pastime that will surely end with him getting hurt or even killed. When Eric gets into a near-fatal shipwreck, she can’t help but be reminded about the time Eric came to her shores as a child in another ship disaster.
Art Malik as Sir Grimsby
Art Malik may be best known as the villainous Aziz from True Lies (1994), but he’ll be a bit more of a friendlier presence as Sir Grimsby.
Grimsby is a loyal servant to Prince Eric, but he’s also a dedicated and loyal confidant. He handles much of the day-to-day bureaucratic proceedings that Eric has no interest in. In the original film, Grimsby is tasked with teaching Ariel etiquette and how the human world works, but is still woefully ignorant of her true identity as a mermaid princess. The remake takes Grimsby’s role a step further by being a helpful father figure, helping Eric and Ariel avoid the Queen’s gaze, so they can spend some time together.