The Little Mermaid is the important thing to Disney stay motion remake technique

Halle Bailey plays Ariel in Disney’s The Little Mermaid.


Disney’s The Little Mermaid grossed nearly $96 million in its first three days in cinemas in North America. This opening film is on par with the $91 million film Aladdin, which grossed more than $1 billion at the global box office in 2019.

However, that doesn’t guarantee that the company’s latest live-action remake will have the same success. The film will sink or swim by word of mouth.

Audience enthusiasm has become an increasingly important factor in box office success in the wake of the pandemic. With so many entertainment options, even franchise films can struggle to attract moviegoers. For those who cannot afford to see a film on its opening weekend, positive conversation can lure them into theaters, helping to boost the film’s overall box office earnings.

Disney has seen firsthand what happens when audiences don’t connect with titles. The studio, known for its animated content, has seen two of its most recent releases – Lightyear and Strange World – fail at the box office. Neither film was particularly well-received by critics, and previous releases that went straight to Disney+ confused consumers as to where to watch the films.

Disney has since built a solid theatrical business for live-action remakes of its litany of classic animated films, generating nearly $9 billion in worldwide ticket sales from these films since 2010.

The company’s success has inspired other studios to recreate popular animated films as live-action films. Universal Pictures and DreamWorks Animation are currently developing a live-action version of their highly successful How To Train Your Dragon animated trilogy. The film is scheduled to hit theaters on March 14, 2025.

Although there were two live-action movies based on 101 Dalmatians in 1996 and 2000, it wasn’t until 2010’s Alice in Wonderland that Disney really started producing these remakes. This film was the first in this series to gross more than $1 billion at the global box office, which sparked the production of nearly a dozen other titles, including Maleficent, Cinderella, The Jungle Book and Dumbo. .

And there are more on the way. Disney recently announced plans to bring Moana and Lilo and Stitch to the real world. With Disney scouting for newer animated films, Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at, believes it’s only a matter of time before the company starts looking at recent hits like Frozen or even Encanto.

These adaptations have had varying degrees of success over the past decade, with some such as The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast each grossing more than $1 billion at the global box office, and others such as Dumbo and Alice. Through the Looking Glass” has each grossed less than $350 million worldwide.

“The long-term game for Disney must include a plan that extends beyond the mighty triumvirate of Lucasfilm, Marvel and Pixar,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore. “Disney has focused 100% on live-action remakes of some of its most iconic titles, starring beloved characters, with varying degrees of box office success.”

The first box office showing of The Little Mermaid should give Disney a “confidence boost,” he added, as it shows that the live-action strategy is viable.

is it in the cinema

However, for many viewers, Disney’s release strategy has become muddled in the wake of the pandemic. While the live-action version of Lady and the Tramp was made available to subscribers when the Disney+ streaming service launched in late 2019, most consumers were expecting these new adaptations to hit the big screen as well.

When theaters closed due to the pandemic, Disney was forced to port 2020’s “Mulan” to Disney+ for a $30 rental and later release 2021’s “Cruella” in theaters and streaming simultaneously .

The company didn’t release another live-action remake until late 2022, when “Pinocchio,” starring Tom Hanks, came out on Disney+. According to Rotten Tomatoes, the film was heavily criticized by critics and audiences alike.

“Peter Pan and Wendy,” which came out on Disney+ in late April, also had mediocre reviews from critics (62% fresh) and was overwhelmingly disliked by audiences, who gave it 11%.

With only a few exceptions, audiences have been receptive to Disney’s classic animated remakes, often earning higher ratings than Rotten Tomatoes critics.

“The success of Disney’s remakes is pretty clear in that it resonates most strongly with the animation renaissance of the 1990s,” said Robbins. “That’s because these original stories are so popular and because of the contemporary tradition passed down from generation to generation.”

At the horizon

Box office experts will be watching The Little Mermaid’s second weekend in domestic cinemas for an indication of the film’s longevity at the box office.

For most films, a 50-70% drop is the norm. For big tentpole features, box office sales often dip into this range after opening weekend numbers were sky-high. While these types of films can continue to achieve billion-dollar box office releases, this metric can provide insight into whether word-of-mouth is attracting new viewers to theaters or if interest is waning.

The live-action film Aladdin, which also premiered over Memorial Day weekend, saw its ticket sales fall 53% from week one to week two. Ticket sales continued to decline by 40% or less through August of the same year.

Upcoming live action remakes from Disney

  • “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” – March 22, 2024
  • “Mufasa: The Lion King” – July 5, 2024
  • “Lilo & Stitch” – in development
  • “Moana” – in development
  • “Hercules” – in development
  • “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” – in development
  • “Robin Hood” – in development
  • “The Aristocats” – in development
  • “The Sword In The Stone” – in development
  • “Bambi” – in development
  • Cruella Sequel – In development
  • Sequel to The Jungle Book – in development

If The Little Mermaid can emulate these losses and stay in the cultural zeitgeist all summer, box office analysts predict domestic and eventually world box office success for the feature film.

That could be difficult as the film will face stiff competition from Sony’s Spider-Man Across the Spider-Verse, which hits theaters on Friday, as well as a host of upcoming family-friendly movies. Paramount’s Transformers: Rise of the Beasts is out June 9, Elemental from Disney and Pixar and Warner Bros. The Flash debuts June 16, and Universal’s Ruby Gillman: Teenage Kraken launches June 30 .

“Despite some backlash and lower box office earnings for certain films, the Disney vault has shown it continues to reach out and appeal to all age groups,” Robbins said. “However, some argue that this was at the expense of the original films. Ultimately, I think the audience wants both. Fresh content and nostalgic material both have their merits.”

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC. NBCUniversal owns Rotten Tomatoes.

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