Disney’s live-action remake of The Little Mermaid (1989) has just made a splash into theaters, and critics are each pitching in with their two cents. There’s good and there’s bad, and the reviews for The Little Mermaid (2023) are mixed thus far.
One of the most common criticisms is the look of one of the most iconic Disney villains ever: Ursula the Sea Witch.
In the original film, Ursula is known for her larger-than-life personality, which matches her bold appearance. The original character animator, Rob Minkoff, was actually inspired by the late drag queen, Divine.
Divine was known for her bold takes and her even bolder appearance. In a way, her legacy will always be tied to Ursula the Sea Witch. As a result, many fans of the original film had high expectations for Melissa McCarthy’s Ursula.
However, many of those expectations were simply not met with live action Ursula’s look.
Knowing this historical context, it’s understandable that many fans may have been expecting a more…larger-than-life look to match Ursula’s personality. If you’ve ever seen drag makeup, you’ll know how exaggerated, over-the-top, and detailed it is.
However, Ursula’s look in the new film is less than over-the-top.
As a result, the makeup artist behind the look, Peter Smith King, has received a lot of criticism, especially from queer makeup artists and drag performers.
Kerri Colby, a contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race, wrote, “[this is why] we should hire up and coming queer artists with a pulse on the present and a vision for the future more often” on Twitter in response to Ursula’s look.
King responded during an interview with Insider, less than thrilled to have received criticism:
I find that very offensive […] Why can’t I do as good a job as a queer makeup artist? […] But don’t put people down because they’re not what they want it to be.
Unfortunately, King’s work simply didn’t hit the mark with queer artists and many fans who simply know the history behind Ursula the Sea Witch’s design.
What did you think of Melissa McCarthy’s Ursula?