The Incredible Task Of Bringing The Little Mermaid’s Under The Sea To Life

One of the elements that make Disney films so iconic is their music. Songs from their animated films are beloved by fans and at this point have been passed on from one generation to the next. It’s no different with “The Little Mermaid”. In 1990, Alan Menken won an Oscar for “Under the Sea” and best original score.

The original version of the song that was released in 1989 was sang by the beloved voice of Sebastian, Samuel E. Wright. Now in 2023, that responsibly falls on the “Hamilton” alumni Daveed Diggs.

This week the reimagined, live-action version of “The Little Mermaid” is taking audiences back under the sea. Speaking of which, you can check out part of the song in a clip that was released by Disney below!

Fun right? Well, at least the song was. In a recent press event for “The Little Mermaid” attended by LRM Online, we learned that “Under The Sea” was actually a daunting task that had the filmmakers procrastinating a little.

“To conceive and shoot, and just to have an idea of what we’re gonna do, and then how we were gonna do it. The logistics of that. I remember Rob and I kind of put it aside for a long time,” said producer John DeLuca.

He also commented how this was one of the most ambitious and challenging production numbers that he and director Rob Marshall had ever created. Part of the problem is that there was one actress in the entire sequence. For inspiration, Marshall looked back at another Disney project.

Daveed Diggs behind the scenes of Disney’s live-action THE LITTLE MERMAID. Photo by Giles Keyte. © 2023 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

“My first thought was what would Walt Disney have done?” He continues, “I immediately thought of how Disney had approached the ‘Nutcracker Suite’ dance sequence in ‘Fantasia,’ and remembered that he had brought over the Ballet Russes to the Disney studios in Anaheim so that the animation artists could use their dance moves as a template for the dancing flowers, mushrooms and snowflakes,” said Marshall.

Dancers for inspiration are a great idea, except… in “The Little Mermaid” the ones doing the dancing are sea creatures. So Marshall and DeLuca worked with choreographer Joey Pizzi and co-choreographer Tara Nicole Hughes to figure out which sea creatures’ natural movements would fit best for “Under the Sea”.

In the end, some of the chosen sea creatures included Feather Starfish, Limpets, Flying Gurnards, Ribbon Eels, Sea Turtles, Mimic Octopuses, Flatworms, and Iridescent Jellyfish to name a few. There is one frame in the sequence that has over 500 creatures at one time.


To choreograph this big number, they flew in dancers from the Alvin Ailey Foundation to their Pinewood Studio in London. There they worked on each creature’s dance steps.

The Little Mermaid

“We started with storyboards, then moved to animatics, and then pre-vis,” explains Marshall. “It was the most complicated process of designing a production number that we have ever encountered.”

“Under the Sea” also had the help of VFX supervisor Tim Burke and editor Wyatt Smith. Hundreds of artists from around the world worked hard to bring to bring this classic to life. Overall, the sequence took over two years to complete.

This comment from Marshall really sums up the work that was done to bring this classic song to life, “Of course, the whole thing should look effortless, but believe me, it was a herculean effort on behalf of everyone involved. And I have to say, the end result is pre(y spectacular.”

You can also take a trip under the sea starting May 26 when Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” splashes into theaters.

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