Why ‘Little Mermaid’ Director Rob Marshall Cut a Classic Animated Sequence from His Live-Action Version

[Editor’s note: The following interview contains some spoilers for “The Little Mermaid.”]

While Rob Marshall’s live-action spin on the animated Disney classic “The Little Mermaid” holds fast to many of the elements that made Ron Clements and John Musker’s 1989 animated gem such a winner, there are still plenty of changes to the material at hand. And while Marshall and screenwriter David Magee mostly added new material to the existing story (or offered clever tweaks to stuff like, ohh, the species of a certain squawky bird pal), there were a few things they cut from their feature.

That includes one of the best — and, yes, silliest — musical sequences from Clements and Musker’s kid-friendly original, second-act ditty “Les Poissons,” sung by no less than René Auberjonois as a truly demented chef.

It’s undoubtedly the film’s wackiest sequence, as it follows Sebastian the crab (voiced in the animated film by Samuel E. Wright; Daveed Diggs takes over for Marshall’s version and is aces) as he makes his way through the royal family’s nightmarish kitchen. As Chef Louis hacks and slashes his way through a dizzying array of foodstuffs (read: lots of Sebastian’s own kinfolk), the wily crab attempts to hide, injecting some serious physical comedy and wacky hijinks into the feature.

So, what would that have looked like in Marshall’s live-action world? Instead of tackling the sequence, Marshall and his team opted to cut it.

“Well, that was the problem: [what] would that look like? That really is an animation concept,” Marshall said during a recent interview with IndieWire. “It felt like Saturday morning cartoons. That kind of thing, you can really do in animation, but in a different genre, it just wouldn’t work. It’d be so silly.”

It also just didn’t fit into Marshall’s overall vision for the story, not just in terms of how it looks but the way it functions within the moment at hand.

“Also, it takes a vacation from the story, full on,” the filmmaker said. “So, you’re like, well, why is it there? I think if we had filmed it, it would’ve been impossible to make work, but also it would’ve been [cut] out, because it has nothing to do [with the story in that moment]. It’s a lovely song, but it just doesn’t belong in a live-action film. That was the real reason.”

Disney releases “The Little Mermaid” in theaters on Friday, May 26.

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