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The Little Mermaid adds to its cast, and makes a huge change to Ursula

The Little Mermaid
(Image credit: Disney)

Disney's live-action remake of The Little Mermaid has added to its cast and made a major change to its villain Ursula.

According to Deadline, Jessica Alexander has been cast in an unknown role in the movie. Alexander is probably best known for her part as Olivia in the Netflix/BBC series Get Even. She's also appearing in Kelsey Egan's sci-fi movie Glasshouse, and Ruth Paxton's horror film A Banquet.

As for Ursula, who will be played by Melissa McCarthy in the remake, a significant change has been made to her backstory (H/T Comic Book). The Deadline report describes her as Ariel's "evil aunt Ursula". In the animated original, the villain was simply a scheming sea witch with no familial relation to the titular mermaid. Ursula planned on taking the underwater throne for herself, though, and used Ariel's wish to walk on the surface to further her plans.

Though for the animated classic Ursula was at one point set to be King Triton's sister, making her Ariel's aunt, the idea was eventually abandoned – so this twist to the mermaid-tale is probably taking inspiration from the previous plan. Plus, part of Ursula's backstory includes her formerly living in the royal palace, which means tweaking her past in this way shouldn't be too difficult, and could make for an even more interesting dynamic between hero and villain.

In the remake, Ariel will be played by Halle Bailey, one half of the singer duo Chloe x Halle. Javier Bardem will portray King Triton, with Hamilton's Daveed Diggs as Sebastian the singing crab, and Luca's Jacob Tremblay as Flounder, Ariel's sidekick fish-friend. Jonah Hauer-King will play Prince Eric, with Raya and the Last Dragon's Awkwafina as Scuttle the seagull. The Little Mermaid will be a musical, including the original songs as well as new numbers from the animated movie's composer Alan Menken, and lyrics from Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda – who also wrote lyrics for Moana. Rob Marshall will direct.

This is one of many live-action movies based on classic Disney films on the way, which includes the 101 Dalmatians prequel Cruella, releasing May 26, 2021, and a live-action Hercules produced by Avengers: Endgame directors Joe and Anthony Russo.

The Little Mermaid doesn't currently have a release date, but in the meantime, you can check out our guide to all of 2021's upcoming movie release dates, and find the best Disney Plus deals.