ABC’s The Little Mermaid live special is back on, and it has set most of its core cast with Moana star Auli’i Cravalho as Ariel, Queen Latifah as Ursula and Shaggy as Sebastian. The Wonderful World of Disney Presents The Little Mermaid Live!, featuring a mix of live action, animation and puppetry, will air Nov. 5 to mark the classic Disney animated feature’s 30th anniversary.
ABC originally announced in May 2017 that it would stage a live production of the beloved underwater tale under the long-dormant Wonderful World of Disney banner, which was slated for Oct. 3, 2017. In August of that year, the network announced that the live event had been put on hold.
Since joining ABC last December as President of Entertainment, Karey Burke has expressed strong support for live specials. Her commitment was likely reaffirmed in May after the success of Jimmy Kimmel’s live staging of two classic Norman Lear sitcoms on the network, which spawned two more installments.
Burke today said that if The Little Mermaid is a success, it too can lead to do more live musicals based on Disney film titles on ABC. “If it works, I expect we will do more of them and we will work closely with the feature department about timing,” she said.
Billed as a tribute to the original animated classic and its music, The Wonderful World of Disney Presents The Little Mermaid Live! will feature live musical performances by its star-studded cast interwoven into the broadcast of the original feature film. The hybrid format will combine intricate sets and costumes created for the special with music from the original animated film and the Tony Award-winning Broadway stage version, composed by eight-time Oscar-winner Alan Menken. Howard Ashman’s film lyrics will also be showcased, with Glenn Slater, lyricist for the Broadway adaptation, as a contributor.
Cravalho, who will play the title role of Ariel, already is in the extended Disney Princesses family having voiced Moana in the hit animated movie. Queen Latifah will play the villainous sea witch Ursula; while Jamaican reggae musician Shaggy will voice the lovable red crab Sebastian and is expected to perform the film’s signature song, the Oscar-winning Under the Sea.
Queen Latifah celebrated the casting news by channelling her inner Ursula in an Instagram post:
The announcement of The Wonderful World of Disney Presents The Little Mermaid Live! going forward comes as Disney is gearing up for production of a live-action feature adaptation of The Little Mermaid for director Rob Marshall, Hamilton‘s Lin-Manuel Miranda and Menken. Halle Bailey has been set as Ariel in the movie, Awkwafina as Ariel’s seagull friend Scuttle, and Jacob Tremblay as Ariel’s friendly fish pal Flounder, while Melissa McCarthy has been rumored for the role of UIrsula and Harry Styles for Prince Eric.
Burke is not worried about ABC’s live Little Mermaid special and the upcoming movie cannibalizing each other. “Ours is distinctly different from the feature film,” she said.
The Wonderful World of Disney presents The Little Mermaid Live! is produced by Done+Dusted. Executive producers include Done+Dusted’s Hamish Hamilton, who will also direct, Katy Mullan, David Jammy, Raj Kapoor and Ian Stewart. Also executive producing is Richard Kraft, producer and director of the Hollywood Bowl productions of The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast.
Following her breakout role in Moana, Cravalho performed the film’s anthem, How Far I’ll Go, at the Oscars and starred in the NBC musical drama series Rise. It was just announced that she is the lead of the Brett Haley Netflix film Sorta Like a Rock Star. She is repped by Framework Entertainment, WME and Schreck Rose Dapello.