Jodi Benson, who voiced Ariel in The Walt Disney Company’s The Little Mermaid in 1989, recently declared her support for the upcoming film’s changes to iconic songs from the original animated film.
In an interview with Vanity Fair at the end of March, composer Alan Menken revealed he and The Walt Disney Company made changes to “Kiss the Girl” and “Poor Unfortunate Souls.”
Menken explained not only that they made the changes, but why they made the changes telling the outlet, “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].”
He added, “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.”
Menken would also explain that he and Disney cut “Daughters of Triton” from the live-action film explaining to ComicBook.com, “I think the thought process was a) we didn’t it need in this particular version, and we definitely wanted the film to start with a much more of a live-action feel of the ocean and meeting Ariel, and then we wait a little bit, make you wait until we get to ‘Part of Your World.’ And I think that was, you know, it was an amazing choice because it just builds the power and anticipation.”
“And part of that is also knowing you’re adapting something that’s already beloved. So you want to say, wait for it, wait for it, wait for it, and here it is. And when it comes, god,” he elaborated.
Now, in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Benson voiced her support for the changes to “Kiss the Girl” and “Poor Unfortunate Souls.”
She told the outlet, “We’re talking about starting our [voiceover] sessions in ’86 [for the original film]. It’s 2023, so we have to grow, we have to learn, we have to be aware of our surroundings.”
“We’ve got to be aware of our growth as humans and what’s important now and what maybe isn’t as important,” she said. “Things change. We’ve got to roll with that. I think that Rob and John have done a beautiful job of doing that, and still paying tribute and honor to our original film. But you’ve got to have growth.”
She continued to justify the changes saying, “It’s very important to stay relevant with where we are, what’s going on around us. We need to be aware. So the adjustments and the fine-tuning that they needed to do, it was a must, but it was done in a beautiful way, and I’m very, very thrilled with it.”
Interestingly, Benson’s comments and Disney’s decision to edit the songs fly in the face of recent comments by director and producer Steven Spielberg at the 2023 Time100 Summit.
In that appearance, Spielberg was asked, “Are there films you would edit that you would, looking back at them, something you would have done differently? … I know at one point you took some guns out of E.T. and then regretted it?”
Spielberg answered, “That was a mistake. That was a mistake. I never should have done that because E.T. is a product of its era. And no film should be revised based on the lenses we now are either voluntarily or being forced to peer through.”
“But E.T. was a film that I was sensitive to the fact that the federal agents were approaching a bunch of kids with their firearms exposed and I thought I would change the guns into walkie-talkies. But that was because years had gone by and I had changed my own views. I should never have messed with the archive of my own work.”
He then advised, “And I don’t recommend anybody really do that. All our movies are kind of measuring, sort of a signpost, of where we were when we made them, and what the world was like, what the world was receiving when we got those stories out those.”
“So I really regret that,” he added.
Spielberg was then asked about the editing being down to works like Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and if his opinion applies across mediums.
He responded, “Nobody should ever attempt to take the chocolate out of Willy Wonka ever. And they shouldn’t take the chocolate or the vanilla or any other flavor out of anything has been written. For me it is sacrosanct. It’s something that is our history. It’s our cultural heritage.”
When pressed if he would include the “warts and all,” Spielberg replied, “Yeah, I do not believe in censorship that way.”
What do you make of Benson coming to the defense of Disney editing these songs for the upcoming live-action The Little Mermaid?