Fairytale Filmmaking and THE LITTLE MERMAID

lm1     I am currently working on a new screenplay adaptation of THE LITTLE MERMAID.  No, before you ask, it’s not the Disney version of the story but rather the Hans Christian Andersen original, and yes, I’m having A LOT of fun!

I won’t go into the story itself or the angle I’m giving it; I’ll just say that the original story is really quite sad and melancholy with heavy religious content (a common theme in Andersen’s work).  I would even venture to say it may well be the most powerful fairytale ever told, and one that really makes use of the genre.  It’s also one of the most feminist stories of its time.


The Little Mermaid and the Sea Witch!

But what saddens me, my fellow fantasy nerds, is I feel it’s been so long since this style of fantasy filmmaking was in style.  Whether it’s pure whimsical fairytale storytelling like THE PRINCESS BRIDE and LABYRINTH or grittier/heartfelt fairytale storytelling like THE DARK CRYSTAL, LEGEND, and my personal favorite RETURN TO OZ, it seems these movies have disappeared off the radar.  Instead we have tons of fantasy movies, yes, but they’re all these TWILIGHT knockoffs or over-the-top action movies like WRATH OF THE TITANS where EPIC is emphasized in every shot.  In my opinion, that’s exactly what killed Walden Media’s NARNIA movie series.  The original books were intended as lighthearted whimsy.  I remember seeing the EPIC battles in PRINCE CASPIAN and thinking that if C.S. Lewis saw it he’d say “Dude, even I didn’t mean for it to be this serious!”

Walter Murch

On the set of RETURN TO OZ

This is not to in any way bash the movies or shows that do this type of high fantasy well.  LORD OF THE RINGS and GAME OF THRONES probably represent the best of this genre.  But not every fantasy story is meant to be told that way.

A few years ago I actually remember thinking: “There haven’t been many film versions of SNOW WHITE lately.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have a new film that told the story again and in an intelligent way?”  Imagine my surprise when not one but two film versions came out in 2012, only for both to be disappointing.  MIRROR MIRROR was a goofy slapstick comedy while SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN was an action movie starring EPIC battles.  Remember RETURN TO OZ, THE DARK CRYSTAL, or for a recent example PAN’S LABYRINTH?  No EPIC battles in those movies; just character-driven fairytale stories.  And that’s why all the classic fairytales are truly timeless.


So, what will happen with THE LITTLE MERMAID?  Will audiences today be interested in a simple, lyrical, beautiful tale of a girl coming of age under a backdrop of magic, or will they demand EPIC battles?  Well, until the suits tell me to change it otherwise, I am pushing for the gentler, melancholic fairytale movie, of the RETURN TO OZ variety.  Keep an eye out for news of Gabe Rodriguez’s THE LITTLE MERMAID as the project starts to grow.  And feel free to leave your comments because the feedback I’ve been getting is that a lot of people want to see this story revived once more.


Little Mermaid statue from 1913


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