The REAL Reason ‘The Little Mermaid’ is Floundering

The Little Mermaid
Credit: Disney

The Little Mermaid remake has struggled. From review bombing to poor performance in international markets there are a thousand excuses for why it is not doing as well as hoped. Everyone wants there to be some nefarious reason for the film’s lack of success but the fact is, there isn’t one. Let’s Discuss the elephant in the room, shall we? 

halle bailey disney live action the little mermaid flounder scuttle cgi ariel

Credit: Disney

By the numbers:

First things first let’s break down the numbers. Depending on what sources you read you’ll either be led to believe the film is a massive flop or an incredible success. The truth is, neither are true. The film has taken five weeks to earn $500 million. That is enough to turn a profit but it isn’t enough to call it a success. The film had a production budget of $250 million. Then there is the marketing budget to factor in which was another $140 million. To break even The Little Mermaid needed to bring in $390 million. It did that. Barely. The film has only earned the company $110 million. Compare it some of Disney’s other remakes:

  • Alice in Wonderland (2010): $860 million
  • Maleficent (2014): $615 million 
  • Cinderella (2015): $405 million
  • Jungle Book (2016): $700 million 
  • Beauty and the Beast (2017): $1 billion
  • Aladin (2019): $870 million 
  • The Lion King(2019): $740 million
  • Maleficent: Mistresses Evil (2019): $315 million
  • Dumbo (2019): $180 million

*Note: the profits listed are earnings minus production and marketing budget. The figures above were complied from herehere

halle bailey ariel the little mermaid disney under the sea live action

Credit: Disney

The Little Mermaid hasn’t completed its theatrical run so it would be unfair to call it at $110 million, however, after over a month in theaters it is dropping theaters each week so profits will start to slow. The film has earned the bulk of what it is going to earn at the box office. It’s profitable, sure, but it is currently sitting at the least profitable live-action remake to date. For that reason we can neither call it a flop nor a success. 

The Elephant in the Room 

The Little Mermaid

Credit: Disney

Fans are firmly divided about why the movie hasn’t performed as hoped. One side says its racists who hate that a person of color was cast as Ariel. The other side says it’s simply a bad movie. The truth is, as always, somewhere in the middle. The truth about why the film isn’t producing is that fans are simply over it. 

Live action remakes were novel at first. They harkened back to the Disney Renaissance and played on our nostalgia. Now? Fatigue has set in. Fans complain about every live action announcement Disney makes. It sort of feels like Disney has shot their shot with the remakes. Fans want something new, something original. Re-doing stories we already know no longer cuts it. 

Can it be saved? 

Disney would have to do more than surprising casting to ignite fans interest in live action remakes again. Many of the films that have been remade were masterpieces in their original forms. What is the old saying? “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” To get fans interested again, Disney needs to start fixing what’s broken and leave perfectly good films alone. 

Revisiting forgotten Disney films would be a great place to start. The Black Cauldron, Atlantis, Treasure Planet would all be excellent places to start. Personally, now that Disney owns it, I’d welcome an Anastasia remake. They could make use of their acquired property and bring the incredible myth of Anastasia to a new audience. 


Credit: 20th Century Fox

Without something drastic I don’t foresee the reception to live action remakes being reignited. It’s no longer novel. Fans are clamoring for something new. 

About Jill Bivins

Jill Bivins has been visiting Disney Parks since she was 2 years old and loves sharing her Disney adventures with the world. She likes to say Disney is in her blood and writing is in her bones — so any time she has the opportunity to combine these loves she is one happy camper! She has a deep abiding love for Epcot and as a die hard Star Wars fan has a serious love for Hollywood Studios as well. When she isn't exploring or writing about Disney Parks, Jill is homeschooling her 8 year old son, playing with her brand new baby son, or pretending to be a farmer on her family homestead (despite being unable to keep even a cactus alive). Find Jill on Instagram @minnieonmain.