Why Scuttle Is Different In The Live-Action The Little Mermaid

The Little Mermaid

One of my favorite characters in “The Little Mermaid’s” classic animated film and now live-action re-imagination is Scuttle. When we first met him in 1989, he was an eccentric seagull and self-proclaimed expert on all things human. This is why when Ariel has a question on things like dinglehoppers he is the go-to bird. He was originally voiced by Buddy Hackett.

Now the live-action version of “The Little Mermaid”, Scuttle has gotten a bit of an upgrade. The most notable change is that Scuttle is no longer a seagull or male. She is now a black and white diving bird known as a Gannet.

The director of “The Little Mermaid”, Rob Marshall explains why saying, “This was done specifically so that Ariel would only meet Scuttle underwater because, at the start of our story, Ariel has never dared go above the surface.”

This version of Scuttle is still described as a neurotic, dim-witted seabird that thinks of herself as an expert on all things human. Despite being clueless most of the time, she is always a loyal friend to Ariel. She is voiced by the talented Awkwafina.

“Scuttle for me is literally a dream role. One of the most memorable scenes of my childhood is the dinglehopper scene in which we are introduced to Scuttle. I didn’t know what was going on when I first went to meet with Rob Marshall; I didn’t know it was about playing Scuttle, but inside I was like, maybe it’s about Scuttle? Because I would have been happy to be a dancing clam in the background,” said Awkwafina.


Photo by Giles Keyte. © 2023 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Marshall when talking about Awkwafina says that she is a “joy to work with”, and a “combination of her originality, humor, and heart” that is rare. Something that we have already seen in the Disney animated film, “Raya and the Last Dragon”, where she voiced the dragon Sisu.

To get the most out of Awkwafina (as well as Daveed Diggs and Jacob Tremblay who voiced Sebastian and Flounder), the production team used six cameras to record her performance which was then used in the development of her character in post-production to make Scuttle “photo-real”. The other actors joined off-screen along with an array of puppets and puppeteers to allow the scenes to be played with actual characters.

The Little Mermaid
Photo courtesy of Disney. © 2023 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

“The whole experience was really magical. Rob encouraged me to ad-lib and improvise, which was really unexpected because I assumed the script would be sealed in stone,” says Awkwafina. “So, it was a really free environment in which to be an actress.”

Scuttle even got some extra love in “The Little Mermaid” in the form of a new song titled “The Scuttlebutt”.

It will be interesting to see how audiences react to this version of Scuttle.

Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” premieres in theaters this Friday.

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