Disney Faces Backlash Over Sebastian and Flounder in New ‘Little Mermaid’

Disney is facing an online backlash over the character designs of Flounder and Sebastian in the upcoming remake of The Little Mermaid.

It’s less than a month until the new live-action version hits cinemas, but there’s growing discontent on Twitter over the design of the two fan-favorite characters.

The first trailer for the film proved divisive when it was released last year, racking up millions of dislikes on YouTube as well as comments from fans praising the movie’s fresh approach to the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale.

Much of the online discussion has centered on the casting of Halle Bailey as Ariel.

While many applauded the decision to introduce more diversity into Disney films, the move drew criticism in some quarters, including conservative political commentator Matt Walsh, who claimed it was not “scientifically” accurate.

This latest furor centers on the decision to depict Sebastian and Flounder in a hyper-realistic manner, with some fans evidently unhappy at the filmmakers for moving away from the cuddly, cartoonish approach adopted in the 1989 movie.

One disgruntled Disney fan posted a picture of the new Flounder to Twitter, writing: “WHY DOES HE LOOK LIKE THAT. Does Disney know they could’ve kept Sebastian and Flounder animated?”

Much of the negative reaction stemmed from the release of several new character posters offering a closer look at the new design of the characters.

Commenting on a tweet by Discussing Film, featuring posters of Sebastian and Flounder, one fan wrote: “These don’t look like memorable, one-of-a-kind Disney characters, they just look like generic realistic crab and fish renders.”

“This was not what I was expecting for Flounder and Sebastian,” another Twitter user commented. “They could have been a little more imaginative and or creative.”

A third added: “Disney keeps doing this, like I know it’s live action but surely a talking fish can be a little less realistic looking for the sake of facial expressions and conveying emotion similar to the cartoon original.”

Others were even more scathing, with one Twitter user branding the character designs “nightmare fuel” while a second warned: “This is starting to be on par with the Cats movie.”

Elsewhere, one concerned fan warned: “children are going to have nightmares” while another said Disney had “learned nothing” from The Lion King remake.

Despite some fans expressing concern, there were others who appeared supportive of the filmmakers’ approach to the characters.

“Unpopular take: I actually like how flounder and sebastian look,” one tweet read. “They’re kinda cute plus what do you expect? it’s a live action adaptation, after all.”

“What were y’all expecting?” a second asked. “I want someone to show me a concept of a live action for this movie and tell me what they should’ve done? For real they are FISH!!!”

This isn’t the first time film fans have reacted badly to the design of an animated character. The makers of the Sonic the Hedgehog movie were forced to redesign the titular blue hedgehog after a widespread backlash to the character’s look in the film’s first trailer.

Newsweek has contacted Disney by email for comment.

The Little Mermaid
Halle Bailey in The Little Mermaid to be released in 2023

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