The highly anticipated live-action remake of Disney’s beloved classic, The Little Mermaid, made its way to the big screen recently. However, despite the immense excitement surrounding its release, the film has failed to make the waves Disney had hoped for.
Let’s delve into the real reason behind The Little Mermaid’s underwhelming performance. Let us go beyond the typical blame game and explore the true factors at play.
Disney’s live-action remake of The Little Mermaid has been making waves around the world.
However, the film’s journey has hit troubled waters in fan circles, in China, and as a production.
In Asia, a very different and more sensitive issue occurred. It faced a lacklustre response because of racist backlash.
Early on, the film suffered from review bombing, leading to negative reviews before its release. Was it the cumulative effect of The Little Mermaid’s underperformance in China, the impact of racist critiques, and the consequences of review bombing on the film’s early reputation….
….That caused it to flop.
The numbers don’t lie
The Little Mermaid, with its high production budget, has failed to impress at the box office. Comparing its earnings to other Disney live-action remakes tells an obvious story of underperformance.
This begs the question: what went wrong?
The film made $95.6 million dollars in its opening weekend. Oh dear! If that sounds a lot, I’ll add that is less than 35% of its total gross as of May. Though, it picked up and with a production budget of $250,000,000, it broke even. As of July 5th, it has gone further and reached takings of $285,000,000.
Sounds okay on the surface – eventually. But not a massive profit; not one befitting a Disney production.
A significant division among fans has emerged regarding the film’s reception. One faction believes that race is a factor, as the casting of Halle Bailey, an African-American actress, as Ariel, drew mixed reactions. However, it is crucial to note that a significant number of fans passionately support the casting choice, appreciating the diversity it brings to the iconic character.
The film made a disappointing box office take over Memorial Day weekend. This toxic response was primarily attributed to the racist critiques and questions surrounding the casting choice of a black actress as Ariel.
But we can’t tar all viewers with the same brush in this way.
As on the other hand, another group of fans simply views the movie as a disappointment. The performances were frowned at, and the CGI looked quite flat in many underwater scenes during early trailers. There’s a definitive argument here that The Little Mermaid’s unappreciated performance is not a result of any social or racial controversy but due to the film failing to live up to expectations.
This divide in fan opinion highlights the complexity of the issue at hand.
Disney is on one of its worst-ever runs at the box office, and things could be about to get a lot worse
The Impact of Racist Backlash in China
Despite receiving a mixed response in the United States, things developed differently in the far East. Halle Bailey’s casting as Ariel was hailed as refreshing and a positive step toward representation for many viewers in the US and Europe.
But, The Little Mermaid faced a chilly reception in China.
Fan objections surfaced on popular Chinese movie review websites, with some expressing disappointment with Bailey’s casting. Users on Douban, a prominent movie review platform, scored the film just 5.1 out of 10.
Certain users made discriminatory comments regarding Bailey’s skin colour, while others expressed puzzlement, stating that Ariel should be “White” in their minds. Chinese state media also questioned the casting, framing it as an issue of forced inclusion and questioning the storytelling strategy of Disney.
But hold on, that’s not the sole reason worldwide
There is another reason outside of race swaps, performances and the CGI effects.
One undeniable factor contributing to the film’s lack of success is fan fatigue. Something also quite clear in the superhero universe across Marvel and DC with a weakened interest in watching superhero stories.
And live action remakes have hit the same roadblock.
Over the past several years, Disney has inundated audiences with a series of live-action remakes, from Beauty and the Beast to Aladdin and The Lion King. The repetitiveness of these adaptations has caused some fans to long for fresh and original stories rather than just rehashed versions of beloved classics.
So, what can Disney do to reignite fans’ interest in their live-action remakes?
One potential solution lies in revisiting forgotten or lesser-known Disney films. By shining a light on hidden gems from their vast inventory of stories, Disney could bring something new and exciting to audiences.
Disney could consider branching out beyond their own properties and gaining new intellectual properties. This would offer fans the opportunity to experience fresh narratives and characters while still enjoying the magic Disney has become known for.
Review Bombing and its Consequences
Apart from facing racist backlash, The Little Mermaid was also subjected to review bombing, a practice in which users intentionally leave negative reviews to lower a title’s rating.
This affected the film’s IMDb score, leading to a warning about “unusual voting activity” and adjustments to the ratings calculation. Review bombing can have a significant impact on a film’s early reputation, influencing audience perception before they form their own opinions.
Consequences for the Film’s Overall Performance
The underwhelming performance of The Little Mermaid in China is likely to be the straw that broke the production’s back in its early days of release. A huge detrimental effect on its global box office earnings. China’s position as the world’s second-largest box office market makes its contribution vital to the overall success of a movie.
With the film making only $3.6 million in China compared to its strong domestic and international earnings, the impact of the racist backlash becomes evident.
So, what is Disney’s Response and Director’s Stance?
Disney and the film’s director, Rob Marshall, have not directly addressed the controversy surrounding the racist backlash. Marshall has reiterated that Halle Bailey was selected based solely on her talent, highlighting her exceptional ability during the casting process.
Sadly, that changes zero here. The impact of the racist critiques and review bombing on the film’s performance became a pressing concern that calls for deeper reflection and response from the industry.
The underwhelming performance of The Little Mermaid is not due to a single factor alone
Rather, a combination of reasons has contributed to its dying reception. With fan fatigue setting in and the need for fresh stories becoming evident, it’s critical for Disney to rethink their approach to live-action remakes.
Without something drastic, it’s unlikely that these remakes will regain their initial novelty.
What does ROR think about this?
Disney needs to focus on creating original stories and exploring new properties to cater to fans’ thirst for innovative and captivating narratives. Only then can Disney’s live-action remakes recapture the magic that made them such a sensation in the first place.
The Little Mermaid’s struggles in China because of racist backlash and review bombing have highlighted the complexity of the film industry’s challenges in achieving representation and combating negative practices.
As China plays a significant role in the global box office, the film’s underperformance in this market is a setback for its overall success.
Moving forward, it becomes crucial for the industry to address these issues, fostering inclusion and combating review bombing to ensure that films are given a fair chance to impress audiences around the world.
Take a look at our picks for The Top 20 Most Successful Movie Remakes list!!