EXCLUSIVE: Disney is pairing Hamilton‘s Lin-Manuel Miranda with iconic songwriter Alan Menken for a live action feature adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid. Miranda and Menken will write the songs together. Marc Platt will produce the film along with Miranda, in a configuration just set by Sean Bailey, president of Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production. Deadline revealed in May that Disney was figuring out a way to add the classic title to a slate of films based on the studio’s animated films. This one is being orchestrated as a mix of pre-existing songs from the 1989 Disney animated classic movie, for which Menken won two Oscars, sharing Best Song with Howard Ashman, and winning Best Score on his own. Menken has eight Oscars in his storied career.
While Miranda has become all the rage since his record breaking Broadway show Hamilton became the hottest ticket and won 11 Tony Awards, he has a soft spot for The Little Mermaid, even naming his newborn son Sebastian, after the crab in the musical. They are still working out a lot of details, including the level of Miranda’s involvement. At this point, he isn’t writing the script, but he will supervise the story and the studio will hire a writer shortly. This extends Miranda’s relationship with Disney, where he is starring with Emily Blunt, Meryl Streep and Ben Whishaw in a live action sequel of Mary Poppins to be directed by Rob Marshall. That film is being produced by Platt, who is also readying the long awaited adaptation of the hit musical Wicked at Universal. Miranda also worked on the upcoming Disney animated feature Moana, which bows November 23.
Mary Poppins is just one of the live action adaptations of past Disney films on the Disney slate, which certainly got a boost with the towering success of The Jungle Book. The slate also includes the Bill Condon-directed Beauty and the Beast with Emma Watson as Belle, to be released March 17, Cruella with Emma Stone set for the title role, Dumbo with director Tim Burton and scribe Ehren Kruger, Jungle Cruise with Dwayne Johnson set to star and John Requa and Glenn Ficarra writing, and The Nutcracker and the Four Realms with director Lasse Hallstrom. Also being fast tracked is A Wrinkle in Time with Ava DuVernay directing.
Disney isn’t alone in pursuing the fish tale. Working Title has set a Little Mermaid project at Universal, with Chloe Grace Moretz attached to star and up-and-coming filmmaker Rebecca Thomas set to direct from a script by Richard Curtis.
Also in the pipelines are Maleficent 2 with Angelia Jolie set to return in the title role and Linda Woolverton writing; The Jungle Book 2 with both director Jon Favreau and writer Justin Marks returning; and a Tinker Bell project with Reese Witherspoon set to star and Victoria Strouse writing.
Miranda is repped by WME and Liebman Entertainment, Menken by Kraft-Engel Management and Rick Kunis.