A live-action Disney remake of the 1989 film The Little Mermaid is inevitable. And since the studio’s track record with similar remakes of its animated classics is financially successful but creatively questionable, it’s frankly a bit hard to get genuinely excited about individual pieces of casting for future entries.
There are exceptions, of course: the entire cast of Jon Favreau’s The Lion King seems pretty perfect for their roles. And now The Little Mermaid may have joined its ranks by hooking two young actors for supporting roles: Jacob Tremblay (Room, The Predator) and Awkwafina (Ocean’s Eight, The Farewell).
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Tremblay is in talks to provide the voice for Flounder, the yellow and blue tropical fish who serves as the title character’s best friend. And if her deal goes through, Awkwafina will lend her voice to Scuttle, Ariel’s seagull pal who serves as a source of (incorrect) information about human life above the waves to provide context for Ariel’s collection of artifacts.
The 12-year-old Tremblay, who stars in Universal’s raunchy comedy Good Boys this summer, is a solid choice to voice Flounder, a character who, in the ’89 animated film, was defined by his near-constant fright and panicky nature. (Much to his dismay, Ariel often joking refers to him as a “guppy.”) Tremblay’s career since his breakout performance in Room has been mixed, but it seems as if he’s on the upswing and locking down a voice in a major Disney film is a big step for him.
But while Tremblay as Flounder is solid, Awkwafina as Scuttle is truly inspired. The great Buddy Hackett voiced that role in the original movie, but Awkwafina is truly the perfect person to bring that same manic sense of live-wire energy and bogus confidence to a modern version of this character. As her excellent dramatic turn in The Farewell proves, she’s definitely capable of more than just broad comedy on film – but sometimes leaning into your strengths as a performer results in a perfect match of actor and character, and I feel like that’s going to be the case here.
Rob Marshall (Chicago, Into the Woods) is directing, and he’ll reunite with his Mary Poppins Returns star Lin-Manuel Miranda, who’s producing this film and co-writing new music alongside Disney legend Alan Menken. (Some familiar songs from the original movie will be featured as well.) Late last week, we learned that Melissa McCarthy was in talks to play the film’s villain, Ursula the sea witch. No other cast has been announced yet.
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