Warning: Spoilers ahead for The Little Mermaid.
With any modern remake, there will inevitably be some differences between the newer and older versions. With 2019’s The Lion King, the biggest difference was that Beyonce existed in lioness form, while 2017’s Beauty and the Beast introduces a gay character, which definitely did not happen in the 1991 animated version. The 2022 version of Pinocchio implied the wooden toy has a love interest, but that’s a whole other conversation. So with the new Little Mermaid tale, there are bound to be some differences as the story is updated for modern audiences.
The latest remake stars Halle Bailey as the rebellious mermaid who just wants to live among the humans and their silly little forks. One of the biggest (and perhaps most controversial among Disney die-hards) changes is the lyric switch in the popular song “Poor Unfortunate Souls.”
The song is sung by the evil sea witch Ursula, played by Melissa McCarthy, who tricks Ariel into giving up her voice. Composer Alan Menken wanted to switch out some of the lyrics because Ursula’s original song “might make young girls somehow feel that they shouldn’t speak out of turn.” So, the lyrics to the iconic song were altered, even though Ursula is clearly not someone who you should take life advice from.
Speaking of Ursula, the rules for Ariel’s deal are also different, as Ariel doesn’t remember that she has to kiss Eric in order to seal the deal and make her human. Rob Marshall told UPROXX that the change was to avoid a superficial outcome. “I didn’t like the idea that she knew that she had to kiss him because it feels very superficial,” Marshall admitted. “I like that it actually makes what I call the three amigos – our three amigos, Scuttle and Sebastian and Flounder – I love that they have to do the work then.”
Besides the various lyric changes, there are also a few more characters introduced, including Eric’s mother, and he gets a little more backstory that helps round out his character and his motives. His mother discourages him from exploring the waters, which just makes him want to explore even harder. Parents just don’t get it!