Live-Action “The Little Mermaid” Tie-In Book Reveals Ursula Now Defeated By Ariel Instead Of Prince Eric

Ursula (Pat Carroll) rises in The Little Mermaid (1989), Walt Disney Studios / Ursula (Melissa McCarthy) confronts Ariel (Halle Bailey) in The Little Mermaid (2023), Walt Disney Studios
Ursula (Pat Carroll) rises in The Little Mermaid (1989), Walt Disney Studios / Ursula (Melissa McCarthy) confronts Ariel (Halle Bailey) in The Little Mermaid (2023), Walt Disney Studios

In an outcome so predictable one could have seen it coming from oceans away, an official tie-in book for Disney’s upcoming live-action remake of The Little Mermaid has revealed that the film’s climax will see Ariel – rather than Prince Eric as in the animated original – put an end to Ursula’s villainous machinations.

Ursula (Melissa McCarthy) introduces herself in The Little Mermaid (2023), Walt Disney Studios

Ursula (Melissa McCarthy) introduces herself in The Little Mermaid (2023), Walt Disney Studios

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A distinct deviation from the original ‘Ariel turns into an ethereal soul after refusing to murder Prince Eric and his new wife’ ending of Hans Christian Anderson’s original fairy tale, the ending to Disney’s 1989 animated take on the story sees the titular mermaid, after having attempted to stop the witch from gaining the power of King Triton’s trident, at the mercy of a newly empowered, now-kaiju-sized Ursula.

Yet, just before the sea hag can crush both Ariel and her home kingdom, Ursula is stopped by the quick thinking of Prince Eric, who puts an end to her reign of terror by goring him with the broken bowsprit of his ship.

Ursula (Pat Carroll) meets her end after being speared by Prince Eric (Christopher Daniel Barnes) in The Little Mermaid (1989), Walt Disney Studios

Ursula (Pat Carroll) meets her end after being speared by Prince Eric (Christopher Daniel Barnes) in The Little Mermaid (1989), Walt Disney Studios

Unfortunately for fans – though admittedly entirely unsurprisingly given Disney’s corporate direction in recent years – it seems the live-action The Little Mermaid has done away with the idea of Prince Eric having a significant, heroic role to play in the final battle.

Instead it seems Ariel, as portrayed by Halle Bailey, will be the one to deliver the final blow against her nemesis.

Sora (Hayley Joel Osment) disarms Ursula (Pat Carroll) in Kingdom Hearts II (2005), Square Enix

Sora (Hayley Joel Osment) disarms Ursula (Pat Carroll) in Kingdom Hearts II (2005), Square Enix

This change was first publicly unveiled to the public on April 15th, courtesy of Twitter user @TheJCGreen who shared an excerpt from author Ashley Franklin and artist Paul Kellam’s illustrated tie-in book to the movie, The Little Mermaid: Make A Splash, wherein Ariel can be seen behind the wheel of Eric’s ship making a course for Ursula’s gigantic form.

“The newly powerful Ursula seems unbeatable, but Ariel refuses to give up,” reads Franklin’s description of the scene. “She steers a wrecked ship into Ursula and defeats her!”

@TheJCGreen shares an excerpt from 'The Little Mermaid: Make A Splash' via Twitter

Archive Link @TheJCGreen via Twitter

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This revised ending appears to have been inspired by the Broadway adaptation of The Little Mermaid, wherein rather than being defeated by a physical blow from Eric’s ship, Ursula is defeated when Ariel smashes the nautilus shell around her neck, which in the stage production contains all of her evil power rather than her young victim’s voice.

However, it should be noted that though Ariel delivers the killing blow to her enemy in the Broadway play, this change was not made at the detriment of Eric’s character or involvement in the story, as he is still shown throwing himself into the fray and using his ship to defend his love interest and make a ‘last stand’ against the witch.

Prince Eric (Christopher Daniel Barnes) refuses to let Ariel (Jodi Benson) die at the hands of Ursula (Pat Carroll) in The Little Mermaid (1989), Walt Disney Studios

Prince Eric (Christopher Daniel Barnes) refuses to let Ariel (Jodi Benson) die at the hands of Ursula (Pat Carroll) in The Little Mermaid (1989), Walt Disney Studios

Notably, this is far from the only change Disney has made to Ariel’s story.

As per iconic Disney composer Alan Menken, who not only provided the soundtrack for the 1989 original but has also been tapped to return for its live-action remake, two of the animated classic’s songs have been ‘updated for modern audiences’.

“There are some lyric changes in ‘Kiss the Girl’ because people have gotten very sensitive about the idea that [Prince Eric] would, in any way, force himself on [Ariel],” Menken explained to Vanity Fair. “We have some revisions in ‘Poor Unfortunate Souls’ regarding lines that might make young girls somehow feel that they shouldn’t speak out of turn, even though Ursula is clearly manipulating Ariel to give up her voice.”

Ariel (Halle Bailey) sings with Sebastian (Daveed Digs) in The Little Mermaid (2023), Walt Disney Studios

Ariel (Halle Bailey) sings with Sebastian (Daveed Digs) in The Little Mermaid (2023), Walt Disney Studios

Further, according to Bailey herself, the live-action film has “definitely changed that perspective of just [Ariel] wanting to leave the ocean for a boy.”

“It’s way bigger than that,” she told the luxury culture magazine Edition. “It’s about herself, her purpose, her freedom, her life and what she wants.”

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 10: The Little Mermaid's Halle Bailey reads The Little Mermaid: Make a Splash in the Reading Nook during The White House Easter Egg Roll on April 10, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for Disney)

WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 10: The Little Mermaid’s Halle Bailey reads The Little Mermaid: Make a Splash in the Reading Nook during The White House Easter Egg Roll on April 10, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for Disney)

“As women we are amazing, we are independent, we are modern, we are everything and above,” Bailey then declared, seemingly ignorant of the fact that Ariel’s desire to explore the surface world was sparked long, long before her first meeting with Eric. “And I’m glad that Disney is updating some of those themes.”

The Little Mermaid is set to shipwreck into theaters on May 26th.

NEXT: Disney’s Live-Action ‘The Little Mermaid’ Star Halle Bailey Torpedoes Her Own Manufactured Representation Narrative

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