The Little Mermaid (2023) (Alan Menken)

Disney continues their trend of plundering their animated 'Renaissance' era films for live-action adaptations, this time with Rob Marshall directing. For my money, these remakes have ranged from decent to pretty painful, and though this film certainly has its fair share of flaws and maddeningly inconsistent rules, I actually found this to be one of the better films of the collection overall, one that expands on the world and tries to give some real human drama and diversity to the world, and more importantly, actually feels like a film to me. Also aiding the drama is an overall solid cast, with Halle Bailey really shining in her titular role as the young mermaid princess who longs to be part of the human world up above. Having an actual singer as the lead is your musical film makes a tremendous difference in letting the drama actually come alive through the music (I know--shocking idea!). 

Returning to the venture, is composer Alan Menken, having been a key figure in the success of a major era of Disney's animated films, and then revisiting the material for a full Broadway stage expansion in 2007. Original lyricist Howard Ashman was a producer on the initial animated film, and was a major influence on that original story and its message. Sadly he passed away just two years after the initial film's release. For the stage version, Glenn Slater was brought on to collaborate on new songs, though none of those were used for this new version. Instead, Lin-Manuel Miranda was brought on very early in the process to update and adapt some problematic lyrics from the original, as well as collaborate with Menken on several new songs. Principally, Ariel is given a new song discovery and loss, and Eric has a new power ballad of his own. These two new songs form the core of the new score, along with returning references to "Part of Your World" and "Poor Unfortunate Souls". Sadly, a lot of the motific underscore from the original cartoon has been abandoned in favor of this new material. While the 1989 was one of Menken's first films, and as a result his score there often feels very simplistic and small (though nonetheless very tuneful), but here Menken returns with decades of symphonic mastery and gives those themes a dramatic and lush sound that really captures the majestic worlds on screen.

The soundtrack got two releases by Walt Disney Records, the standard CD with the songs and a portion of score, totaling about 40 minutes, and then a deluxe edition online that adds the remainder of the missing score. Sadly these bonus score cues were just lumped onto the end, instead of being inserted in chronological order, though the proper order can easily be found online. A song was written and filmed for King Triton, though it was ultimately cut from the film. One hopes that song will soon be made available. The two official covers are a little lifeless, so I wanted to inject more color and variety. Overall, there was a variety of colorful poster artwork developed as part of the marketing campaign, and fortunately most of these required relatively little editing. 

I won't bother going into full detail on every image, again, having a new film from a major studio makes it easier to find textless art in high quality, which makes my job much simpler. I recreated the title, and condensed the music credits. Besides that, my main task was doing color tweaks, and then figuring out how to match the colors in the art onto the title and credits (which ended up being more colorful, and using more gradients that I usually resort to). Not sure if this works? I pushed the variety of the title much further than I usually do, I like how the yellow ones echo the logo design of the original cartoon--this goes against the general design of these posters which seems to go for a very strictly classy and regal look with mostly white, but I think it mostly works with the colorful nature of the art itself and the movie in general. A few relatively simple edits were required, moving some things up or down (the biggest example was in #10, I cut out Ursula's tentacles and moved then significantly higher in the image than in the original poster, so they'd be more prominent and properly weighted), slightly condensing or stretching part of the background to allow space for text, etc. Overall, this was a fairly quick and painless set, but each one always brings its own challenges and joys. Hope you enjoy, and let me know your favorites from the set. 

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