Disney continues to mine its existing, classic, animated properties in safe and reliably lucrative ways. It’s a smart, savvy business play; animated fairy tales were the bread and butter for the company’s creative teams for decades, and now that moviemaking technology allows those stories to come to life in impressive live-action displays, Disney’s making the most of it. The company dabbled in live-action adaptations of their animated features in the 90s and early 2000s, but it was 2010’s billion-dollar-plus-earning Alice in Wonderland that helped shape the studio’s efforts in a new direction, for better or worse.
Among the animated classics up for live-action adaptation is The Little Mermaid, the 1837 Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale that’s been re-imagined more times than you can count, but easily the most famous adaptation was Disney’s own sanitized animated effort in 1989. Ron Clements and John Musker‘s film will likely serve as the backdrop to Disney’s new live-action version, but it’s looking like director Rob Marshall will be at the helm, as Deadline reports. That’s not super surprising considering that Marshall has worked for Disney before with Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides in 2011 and Into the Woods in 2014; he’s currently directing the studio’s 2018 release, Mary Poppins Returns. (Oh and multiple-Oscar-winning films Chicago and Memoirs of a Geisha also fell under Marshall’s direction, let’s not forget.)
We can glean a bit from this news. One, it’s likely that Disney is happy with the progress of Mary Poppins Returns, which stars Lin-Manuel Miranda as Jack alongside Emily Blunt as the title character. Miranda has already collaborated with the legendary Alan Menken for all-new songs in this new take on The Little Mermaid. Who knows, Miranda and Marshall might just team up again to work on the live-action adaptation of Ariel’s under-the-sea adventures. Marshall has reportedly received an offer to direct the picture and will likely make a decision after the holidays.
Marshall is certainly a solid choice for the picture, though Universal had reportedly sought out directors like Sofia Coppola (The Virgin Suicides) for their own take on the fairy tale, which would have been a much more interesting–and financially risky–project. That picture had Chloe Grace Moretz set to star in the title role, but it has since both foundered and floundered. Disney swept in to reassert its fairy tale dominance soon after.