Perhaps no task is more difficult for a studio than casting a well-known franchise to match the sky-high expectations of fans. From novels to comic books to animated film remakes, Hollywood has had mixed results with the task; some have spent the big bucks to get the demanded stars, while others have went the opposite route and chosen unknowns in the hopes of appealing to crowds with the clean slate a new-comer provides.
This year’s mega-hit, “Beauty and the Beast,” does an admirable job in the casting department. Disney’s near shot-for-shot remake of the animated classic works on many levels, and the performers chosen for the most part live up to the fandom the 1991 film inspired.
The House Mickey built has already announced “The Lion King” will roar into theaters soon with similar effects to last year’s hit “The Jungle Book” and has hinted future live-action updates of animated gems are on the way. In the name of competition – and big dollar signs – rival studios are trying to catch up, and two production companies have a “Little Mermaid” film in the works for later this year.
But let’s face it: the Disney version is the definitive one we all know. With that thought, sit back and allow me dream-cast this one for you.
Emma Stone as Ariel
We need an iconic younger red-head who can sing, and there’s no one that better fits the bill than this year’s Oscar winner (for a musical!) Emma Stone. Stone has slowly risen to popularity since her early days in crude comedies like “Superbad” and “Easy A.” Her recent turn in “La La Land” turn her into a true star for all ages, and the girlish charm she brings to her parts would be the perfect match for the star-struck Ariel.
Zac Efron as Prince Eric
Zac Efron was Disney’s musical darling in his teen years, playing All-American jock Troy Bolton is the super-successful “High School Musical” TV film series. And then, typical of most stars who owe Disney their stardom, he left and attempted to form a more “mature” image (i.e. lowbrow comedies like “Neighbors” full of dirty jokes you’ll laugh about and forget a day later). Enough time has passed that Efron should feel comfortably enough to offer his handsomeness to the role of Eric, who is, let’s face it, nothing more than glorified eye candy in this story.
Hugh Jackman as King Triton
You need a good voice? You need big muscles? You need someone who can be gentle, yet scare people to death when the moment is needed? These traits are hard enough to find in younger actors, but the range is really limited when it comes to the older crowded. Hugh checks every box here, and audiences may not realize the former Wolverine has a highly touted career on Broadway, as well. Also given the fact he and Efron formed a bromance on the set of another upcoming musical drama, “The Greatest Showman on Earth,” the re-teaming here makes sense.
Bruno Mars as Sebastian
It’s hard to replace the voice of Samuel E. Wright here, as his accent is so closely associated with the character. However, one thing the live action remakes Disney has been producing have accomplished so well is not outright repeating the tunes of the past and giving us something a tad new. Enter Bruno Mars, who feels tailor-made for this role. A bit of a Jamaican accent here is no stretch for Mars, who is use to creating diverse hit records with a flare. A super-cute pop star who has mastered the art of winning over the ladies? Sounds like Sebastian, for sure. “Kiss the Girl,” indeed.
Kathy Bates as Ursula
First off, composer Alan Menken’s proposal to have the legendary Harvey Fierstein play the part of Ursula is pure gold and perfect casting, from appearance to voice. However, this is Disney we’re talking about, and so the premise is (just a tad) of a stretch. Enter Oscar winner Kathy Bates, who has knocked the ball out of the park in every horror role she’s ever had had. With a Broadway background to boot, the star knows how to be deliciously villainous and wildly entertaining at the same time, all while looking glamourous. Only a poor, unfortunate soul would disagree with me.
Tom Holland as Flounder
I have no emotional attachment to Flounder whatsoever, but to a certain group that adore this film, he seems like the cuddly side-kick anyone would want, so let’s cast him quickly. Tom Holland rose to fame with Disney in Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War” last summer as the new, younger Spider-Man. Holland’s voice, still youthful and naïve, is the perfect companion to hold Ariel to account as she makes her journey to the human world. The fact he’s already on Disney payroll under the Marvel branch makes things that much easier.
John C. Reilly as Scuttle
Few actors have perfected the art of depicting soulful, yet absolutely insane characters in the same way John C. Reilly has. From more vulgar comedies to family-oriented entertainment, Reilly is the master of acting deranged and getting laughs while doing it. His fun-natured confusion is ideal for Scuttle, who is the “expert” on human life he has really little clue of how it operates.