Black American singer Halle Bailey has said she was "honored" to play Ariel in the live action remake of "The Little Mermaid", adding she hoped to inspire children of colour with the new iteration of the beloved Disney animation. The 23-year-old plays the mermaid princess who dreams of being a human in the movie, which had its world premiere in Los Angeles on Monday night, more than 30 years after the original was released.
"My hopes for this film are just for people to take away such love and joy and happiness when they leave and especially for all of the Black and brown little... boys and girls to be able to see themselves being represented on such a big scale," Bailey told Reuters.
"I'm just honored to be in this position."
There was a racist backlash online when the film's trailer was released last year, but many videos were also posted showing delighted Black children on seeing her as the Disney princess. "It's so important for little girls to see themselves in things, in movies, in representation," said Awkwafina (Nora Lum), who voices the seagull Scuttle. Melissa McCarthy takes on the role of the villainous Ursula, Javier Bardem plays King Triton and Jonah Hauer-King portrays Ariel's love interest, Eric.
"We all love that instinctive romance that you have between Disney characters but in a live action version ... we wanted something maybe even deeper," Hauer-King said of the new film's approach to Ariel and Eric's romance.
The film's premiere took place amid a nearly week-long strike by thousands of film and television writers in Hollywood. "There is not such a thing as a storytelling without writers. They're the base of what we do and I hope they get the respect and the treatment that they deserve in these negotiations," Bardem said.