Melissa McCarthy tells Vogue Philippines what it was like working with the multi-award-winning costume designer.
Despite not looking like the classic depiction of The Little Mermaid, 23-year-old Halle Bailey brings a much-needed freshness and vitality to the character that perfectly suits the tune of the times. The Atlanta native was recently tasked to bring Ariel, Disney’s seminal mermaid princess, to life for the live-action remake of the film.
“The version of Ariel in my head was the one we all know and love: pale skin and bright red hair. She didn’t look like me,” Bailey says in an interview with British Vogue.
Directed by Rob Marshall, the film boasts a diverse range of cast members, each bringing their own distinct personalities to the table. “When casting, I hope that the actor comes in and claims the role,” Marshall said in a behind-the-scenes interview. “Someone who can bring that vision to life.”
Bailey is joined by Melissa McCarthy, who plays Ursula, Jonah Hauer-King, who plays Prince Eric, and Javier Bardem, who plays King Triton. The cast also includes Daveed Diggs, Awkwafina, and Jacob Tremblay.
To aid each of the actors in giving new life to their classic characters is Academy Award-winning costume designer Colleen Atwood, who is behind hits like Wednesday, Into The Woods, Alice In Wonderland, Sweeney Todd, and Memoires of a Geisha, to name a few.
Atwood superbly translated the fantastical animation into real-life materials. Bailey leaves behind Ariel’s purple seashell top for a bodice that looks more like a natural extension of her tail, which shimmers in multi-chrome colors of blue-greens, violets, and reds.
Upon gaining her human legs, Ariel is dressed by one of the palace maids in a smocked corsetted gown, complete with a 1700s corset and undergarments. Prince Eric dons, on the other hand, a collared blouse, vest, and knee breeches.
For King Triton, god of the sea, Atwood has crafted a lustrous mother-of-pearl suit of armor. His sister Ursula (a new character detail for this film) similarly stuns in her signature malicious green hues. Her black bodice is given a glamorous makeover, which glimmers in a material akin to black jewels, or perhaps scales. Her tentacles also possess a dynamic bioluminescent glow.
“Getting to work with Colleen was like, what do you got? Like, bring it to me!” McCarthy tells Vogue Philippines. “People really have like a Bruce Springsteen thing where they’re like, oh my god, I’m doing Bruce Springsteen. To me, that is Colleen Atwood.”
The self-professed huge costume fan talked about being starstruck working with the acclaimed designer. “I’m a huge, wild fan of just her precision and her exquisite taste and everything she does. I mean, it’s like a laboratory where everything was being made.”
McCarthy details how the costume department had to develop custom fabrics that “had never been made before,” especially for their scales. “It was watching her precision of ‘what is the exact arch of the corset’ and ‘what is this little curve going to be here,'” she describes. “It’s the attention to detail that is so gorgeous and fascinating to watch.”