If you were a cognizant child in the '90s and allowed to watch movies, you likely harbor some deep nostalgia for what is generally known as the Disney Renaissance. From 1989 to 1999 Disney put out ten animated films, each of them a precious part of most millennials' childhoods. The film to kick off this golden age? The Little Mermaid.
Based on a particularly dark fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, The Little Mermaid is colorful, features the most lovable of sidekick characters, explored the ocean in animated wonderment, narcissistically praised the marvel of being human, and featured absolutely amazing music. If The Little Mermaid is your comfort movie and the rumors of the live-action update these past few months have driven you insane with their lack of commitment, the internet has news for you.
Not only is that live-action film now confirmed but it's going the way of the upcoming Beauty and the Beast live-action film to be a musical. Additionally, like the new Beauty and the Beast, Alan Menken is set to write music for The Little Mermaid joined by — hold your applause — Hamilton genius Lin-Manuel Miranda. The man who wrote the soundtracks to our childhoods is collaborating with the man who wrote the soundtrack to my life this past year and its hard not to read into it a bit as some sort of miracle. Could we be in for another Disney Renaissance?
The nine years after 1989's The Little Mermaid featured equally wonderful animated features from the House of Mouse. Beauty and the Beast would become the first animated feature nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Aladdin, The Lion King, Pocahontas, Hercules, Tarzan and all the others in between are Disney royalty, the characters and music of a generation. But now 27 years have passed since The Little Mermaid released and Disney's reputation has more to do with Marvel and Star Wars movies than the animated technique it built its legacy on.
Pixar gave the mouse a boost in the early 2000s when Disney's own animated films stopped delivering but they lacked one key element of those iconic films of the '90s: songs. Those who have tentatively embraced Disney's new adventure into live-action films based on older animated films (Cinderella, The Jungle Book, Pete's Dragon) may not have totally made their minds up. Sure they look pretty but, once again, no songs (or very little).
In a year when not only a musical about a dead president can become the biggest hit on Broadway, but where Broadway talent can be as well-known as their film and television counterparts, that's a year when I say the world is ready for its Disney musical resurgence. And Lin-Manuel Miranda is just the man to lead it.
Miranda is already a part of the Disney family. He's helped score Moana, the upcoming Hawaiian themed animated feature and wrote two funky songs featured in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (fun fact!). He's also got a part in the Mary Poppins remake (please god, he'd better be singing). Pairing the hit maker of our childhood favorites (Menken may not have written the lyrics to "Part of Your World" but you'd better believe he wrote the crescendo that leads Ariel up through the waves, forever compelling me to sing the song when anywhere near rocks on a beach) with a man who embodies the changing face of musical theater and musical storytelling, is possibly one of the more genius moves Disney has had of late.
It's been announced this new iteration of The Little Mermaid will feature a mix of songs from the original and new ones and here is where Disney has the golden opportunity to appeal to fans' nostalgia and our need for freshness. Miranda has helped us see that musical storytelling is still very much alive and refreshed. The millennial audience that loved the Disney Renaissance also loves Hamilton. If all involved play their cards right, it could be nothing short of a rebirth for Disney musicals.
Are you excited for the live-action The Little Mermaid? Are you glad to hear Lin-Manuel Miranda will be writing music for it?