‘Little Mermaid’ Director Rob Marshall and Star Halle Bailey Praise Original Ariel Jodi Benson Cameo in New Movie

Photos: Everett Collection

Halle Bailey in The little Mermaid, The little Mermaid (1989) and Jodi Benson (Photo: Everett Collection)

Warning: Minor The little Mermaid spoilers ahead.

Call it a dinglehopper pass.

Beyond Halle Bailey’s powerful new rendition of “Part of Your World” and other musical favorites like “Under the Sea” and “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” some of Disney’s biggest audiences are applauding Disney’s new live-action reboot. The little Mermaid come after a cameo appearance that not everyone in theaters might recognize. (The film opened to $118 million over the holiday weekend.)

As Ariel (Bailey) and Eric (Jonah Hauer-King) visit a market during their day-long adventure around her coastal homeland, the now human-legged mermaid is a fork – otherwise known as a dinglehopper by the friend from Ariel to the bird-brained Scuttle (Awkwafina) – by a friendly merchant. The reason moviegoers gush? The Merchant is played by Jodi Benson, the beloved actress who voiced Ariel in the original 1989 animated version.

“Jodi is an old friend, so I’ve known her for a long time,” director Rob Marshall says when asked how the cameo came about. “I worked with her in the theatre. I directed her in a production of Chess in Casa Manana, Texas [in 1991]. It was a long time ago. So I’ve known her since [decades]. She’s such a beautiful and warm person, and [producer John DeLuca] and I thought, ‘Well, we should really find a place for Jodi.’ And we said, ‘Where can it feel natural?’ Obviously, he can’t feel stunted. And we were like, ‘Well, in the market there are vendors and vendors, that sort of thing.’

“And that scene was already written where someone handed her a fork, and that fork is so iconic for Ariel. And I thought, ‘What if Jodi handed him the fork, the dinglehopper, and so it just felt organic. We wanted to give it something small but special. And she immediately embraced that movie, and the Halle cast immediately, which was so generous. I mean, that’s who she is. She has such a generous spirit, and having her on set with us, everyone was crazy, especially Halle.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 08: (L-R) Halle Bailey and Jodi Benson attend the world premiere of Disney's live-action feature film

Halle Bailey and Jodi Benson attend the world premiere of Disney’s live-action feature film The little Mermaid at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles, California on May 8, 2023. (Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)

Bailey testifies to this.

“It was like a dream come true for me because Jodi Benson was the soundtrack to all of our lives for so long,” Bailey said. “I felt this duty to make her proud, to make the movie lovers proud. And she just said the kindest words to me that she’s so proud of me and that God put me here for a reason and I’m so grateful to her for her support. Because having her support makes me feel like, ‘OK, I made the original Ariel proud. I’m fine.'”

“Even for me, it was so special,” says Hauer-King. “[It was great] have this continuity between the two films. This film has always been about reinvention, but also about respecting the original. And it’s so beautiful to see [Halle and Jodi] together… Because they are both so Ariel in [their] own ways. It’s just really special.

The little Mermaid play now.

Watch the trailer:

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