‘The Little Mermaid’ flops in China, S. Korea as moviegoers pick on Ariel’s skin color

‘The Little Mermaid’ flops in China, S. Korea as moviegoers pick on Ariel’s skin color
Walt Disney Studios
Bryan Ke
June 7, 2023
Disney’s live-action adaptation of 1989 animated film “The Little Mermaid” performed poorly in the Chinese and South Korean markets, with some moviegoers expressing disappointment in Ariel being played by a Black actor.
What happened: “The Little Mermaid,” directed by Rob Marshall, performed poorly in China, grossing only $3.5 million since its opening on May 26. Some moviegoers attributed the poor reception to the casting of Halle Bailey, who is Black, as protagonist Ariel, who was depicted as being white in Disney’s original 1989 animated movie.
What viewers are saying: One user from Chinese review and rating platform Maoyan, where the film received a 7.5 out of 10 rating, wrote, “the ‘Little Mermaid’ in my mind is white.” Another user commented, “The fairy tale that I grew up with has changed beyond recognition!”
The film was also rated a 5.1 out of 10 on Douban, another Chinese review website.
In South Korea and Japan: Similarly, many South Koreans were also negative in their reception of “The Little Mermaid.” One Instagram user jeered the live-action adaptation and said that Bailey is “#NotMyAriel.” The film has only grossed $4.4 million since its release on May 24.
Although “The Little Mermaid” has yet to release in Japan, where its debut is scheduled for June 9, some Japanese moviegoers are already voicing their dissatisfaction with Bailey’s casting as Ariel.
Global performance: Despite the poor reception in China, South Korea and Japan, the adaptation is reportedly performing well in other markets, such as the United Kingdom, where it grossed over $20 million. In Asia, the film performed better in the Philippines and Indonesia, raking in $4.3 and $4.04 million, respectively.
The big picture: The Little Mermaid” has reportedly grossed about $332 million worldwide. The 1989 original made $211 million, or approximately $525 million after adjustment for inflation.
Disney’s two highest-grossing live-action adaptations, 2019’s “Aladdin” and 2017’s “Beauty and the Beast,” both surpassed the $1 billion mark worldwide.
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