Josh Gad Lashes out at Trolls Over 'The Little Mermaid' Racist Backlash
Disney's upcoming live-action take on The Little Mermaid has faced racist backlash ever since the studio cast Halle Bailey as Ariel. That backlash allegedly manifested itself into a campaign to downvote the latest trailer on YouTube. Josh Gad, who worked with Disney on Frozen and Beauty and the Beast, mocked those taking the time out of their day to down-vote a movie trailer.
A Twitter page claimed there were over 3 million dislikes for The Little Mermaid trailer on YouTube, compared to 600,000 likes. Gad spotted the tweet and added his own comments. "Imagine being so broken and pathetic in life that your chief concern is the skin color of... a make-believe singing mermaid," Gad wrote.
Imagine being so broken and pathetic in life that your chief concern is the skin color of… a make-believe singing mermaid. https://t.co/7F6F8LT2b9— Josh Gad (@joshgad) March 16, 2023
Racists have complained about Disney casting Bailey as Ariel since the fictional character was depicted as white in the 1989 animated classic. However, there were also positive responses, including a TikTok trend of parents sharing videos of their children being excited to see a Black actress in the role. The September 2022 teaser also has over 1.2 million likes on YouTube.
"We just were looking for the best actor for the role, period. The end," director Rob Marshall told Entertainment Weekly in December. "We saw everybody and every ethnicity." He said there was "no agenda" when casting the part, noting that they wanted someone who was "incredibly strong, passionate, beautiful, smart, clever" with a "great deal of fire and joy" to play Ariel.
Bailey fits those criteria. She is also an incredible singer as one-half of the duo Chloe x Halle. "That voice is something that is so significant and so ethereal and so beautiful that it captures the heart of Eric, and he looks for her for the entire film," Marshall said.
Marshall's film also stars Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric, Javier Bardem as King Triton, and Melissa McCarthy as Ursula. David Diggs, Jacob Tremblay, and Awkwafina voice Sebastian, Flounder, and Scuttle, respectively. Noma Dumezweni plays Queen Selina, a new character created for the movie. Alan Menken returned as the composer and wrote new songs with Lin-Manuel Miranda. The original songs Menken wrote with the late Howard Ashman will also be included. The Little Mermaid opens in theaters on May 26.
The latest trailer for the film was controversial for another reason. Disney aired it during the Oscars on Sunday, instead of buying commercial airtime. McCarthy and Bailey came onstage at the Dolby Theatre to introduce the trailer in a move widely criticized by viewers. Warner Bros. also paid to have a 90-second clip reel shown to celebrate the studio's 100th anniversary introduced by Morgan Freeman and Margot Robbie. Puck News' Matt Beloni reported that it cost the studios "Between $7 million to $10 million" each. Sources told Indiewire that Warner Bros. paid much less than that, but Disney did pay at least $10 million to show The Little Mermaid trailer during the broadcast on ABC, which it owns.