Haters on Twitter started using the hashtag #NotMyAriel to express their discontent about a Black woman playing Ariel. But several people have come to Bailey’s defense, including Jodi Benson, the actress who voiced Ariel in the original Little Mermaid film.
“The most important thing is to tell the story. And we have, as a family, we have raised our children, and for ourselves, that we don’t see anything that’s different on the outside,” she said at the Supercon convention in Florida, according to comicbook.com.
“I think that the spirit of a character is what really matters. What you bring to the table in a character as far as their heart, and their spirit, is what really counts,” she continued. “And the outside package—’cause, let’s face it, I’m really, really old—and so when I’m singing ‘Part of Your World,’ if you were to judge me on the way that I look on the outside, it might change the way that you interpret the song. But if you close your eyes, you can still hear the spirit of Ariel.”
Benson added, “And that’s what we want to do, we want to make a connection to the audience. So I know for Disney that they have the heart of storytelling, that’s really what they’re trying to do. They want to communicate with all of us in the audience so that we can fall in love with the film again.”
At an event honoring her inclusion in Variety’s Power of Young Hollywood 2019 list, Bailey spoke out about the #NotMyAriel hashtag. “I feel like I’m dreaming,” she told a reporter. ”And I’m just grateful. I don’t pay attention to the negativity; I just feel like this role is something bigger than me. And it’s going to be beautiful. I’m just so excited to be a part of it.”
Lin-Manuel Miranda is behind the music. The award-winning Hamilton creator is a massive Little Mermaid fan—so much so that he named his son Sebastian, after the beloved crab in the original film. So it makes perfect sense that Disney tapped him to churn out some music for the film. He’s also reportedly an executive producer on the project, which might be why he’s had a hard time describing his exact role.