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Halle Bailey’s Live-Action Little Mermaid Will Feature A Surprising Number Of New Songs

The Little Mermaid original animated movie, Ariel singing part of your world
(Image credit: (Disney))

Disney has been making a habit of revisiting its Renaissance Era as of late through live-action versions of its animated films, with new stars voicing the memorable characters and new twists on their stories. The next movie in the mix will be the musical that started that chapter of Disney history back in 1989: The Little Mermaid. Ahead of Halle Bailey taking on Ariel, we’ve learned more details about the movie’s music via Alan Menken himself.

Alan Menken composed all the music for the original Little Mermaid alongside the late Howard Ashman, who wrote the lyrics of the movie's songs. The soundtrack went on to win Best Original Score and Best Original Song ("Under the Sea") at the Academy Awards and become one of the all-time great modern pieces of music. Looking toward the live-action remake, Menken has shared that there will be at least four brand new songs he and Lin-Manuel Miranda cooked up for the upcoming movie. In his words:

At first, Lin-Manuel Miranda was struggling to do Alan Menken-style songs, and he felt like walking in Howard Ashman’s shoes was a daunting prospect. Then we wrote some songs that were in Lin’s wheelhouse and for me, walking in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s shoes was a daunting prospect, but we had a blast.

While speaking on the Disney For Scores podcast, Alan Menken revealed that he and Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda ended up having a significant collaboration on the Little Mermaid film, writing about half as many songs as Menken and Ashman originally wrote for the 1989 movie. According to the composer, Miranda was having some trouble writing lyrics to his music, especially after growing up idealizing and loving the original collaboration.

In turn, it sounds like the musicians decided to work together even more, creating some songs that might sound more like what we’d expect from Miranda’s discography. Aside from the playwright and songwriter’s work on Hamilton, he wrote the lyrics for Moana, the upcoming Disney animated film Encanto and Netflix’s Vivo. Miranda is somewhat of a modern Howard Ashman in terms of the kind of career he’s building up with Disney and in the Broadway community.

Howard Ashman wrote the lyrics to Oliver & Company, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin for Disney after being the lyricist and director on Little Shop of Horrors. Unfortunately, Ashman was quietly battling AIDS during his time working at Disney and died before he could see his work become as beloved as it's considered today. I highly recommend checking out the Disney+ documentary Howard to learn more about him.

The Little Mermaid will star Halle Bailey as Ariel, Melissa McCarthy as Ursula, Javier Bardem as King Triton, Jacob Tremblay as Flounder, Awkwafina as Scuttle and Daveed Diggs as Sebastian. The live-action movie recently wrapped filming, but won’t hit theaters until May 26, 2023.

Sarah El-Mahmoud

YA genre tribute. Horror May Queen. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.