The teaser trailer for the live-action remake of The Little Mermaid is mostly CGI.
CGI is everywhere in modern TV and movies, and when it’s at its best, it is imperceptible. In the trailer for the latest live-action remake of a Disney animated classic, it’s perceptible. The Little Mermaid (2023) is an underwater epic that relies heavily on computer-generated images to tell its story, and the results are questionable.
The 30-second teaser trailer for The Little Mermaid only delivers a handful of images from the new film. Fans in the comment section lauded the visuals for their bright colors, using words like “breathtaking” and “magical” to describe the latest Disney outing. Close examination, however, reveals video game-like animation at moments that naturally invites comparison to another underwater tale, 2022’s Oscar-nominated Avatar: The Way of Water.
The CGI in The Little Mermaid should not be judged entirely by its trailer. Blockbuster films often include unfinished visual effects shots in trailers, and even use fan response as a gauge. Remember the first trailer for Sonic the Hedgehog?
Disney and its many properties have come under fire from fans for poor CGI. Just last year, fans decried the animation quality in Marvel’s She-Hulk: Attorney at Law. Unrealistic deadlines and overburdened visual effects artists have been named as the primary reasons for the inconsistent quality of Disney’s visual effects, and the CGI artists behind The Little Mermaid may have suffered a similar fate.
The trailer’s saving grace, and the focus of most of the user comments, was Halle Bailey as the Little Mermaid herself, Ariel. Bailey glides through the ocean while delivering a stunning rendition of one of the musical’s most memorable tunes. Bailey’s casting was a point of controversy for many fans when it was announced, as Bailey is a black woman, and the animated Ariel is white.
The Little Mermaid director, Into the Woods’s Rob Marshall, defended the casting of Halle Bailey, claiming that race had nothing to do with the decision. Bailey was cast because she embodied Ariel’s exuberance, and she could sing with the best of them. Bailey’s powerful voice is on full display in Disney’s latest trailer.
The teaser also gave a glimpse of Melissa McCarthy as the villainous witch Ursula. The final shot of the trailer shows a tentacle obscuring the lower half of McCarthy’s face, revealing a pair of devilish eyes accompanied by her wicked cackle. While the original animated version of The Little Mermaid was rated G, frightening images earned the live-action entry a PG rating.
McCarthy is a well-established actress, but The Little Mermaid looks to serve as a breakout role for Halle Bailey. The 22-year-old actress is at the start of her career, starring in music videos and appearing in a recurring role on Freeform’s Grown-ish. Bailey is expected to appear as Ariel on the big screen later this year.
In addition to The Little Mermaid, Bailey will star in 2023’s musical adaptation of The Color Purple. Based on a novel by Alice Walker, the story follows the life of a struggling African-American woman living in the South during the early 1900s. The novel was previously adapted into film by director Steven Spielberg in 1985.
The Little Mermaid also stars Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric, Javier Bardem as King Triton, Noma Dumezwini as Queen Selina, Daveed Diggs as Sebastian, Jacob Tremblay as Flounder, and Awkwafina as Scuttle. The film is scheduled to splash into theaters on May 26, 2023.