Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s iconic fairy tale, the original movie famously portrayed Ariel as a redhead.
However, for the reimagining, the studio has moved the action to the Caribbean, casting African-American singer Halle Bailey in the role.
Upon her casting announcement in 2019, there was some backlash to the race-swapping, while others calling the response racist.
The new movie went on to receive a mostly positive reaction from the critics amid review bombing on various websites like IMDb, with such outlets adding a warning to the rating pages of the film saying: “Our rating mechanism has detected unusual voting activity on this title. To preserve the reliability of our rating system, an alternate weighting calculation has been applied.”
Despite a relatively decent start to box office takings in the US, having grossed over $206 million, The Little Mermaid is struggling in other territories.
Most notably in Asian markets like China and South Korea where Disney movies can usually take between $40-85 million.
In China, the Disney movie made just $3.6 million in its opening weekend and just $4.4 million in South Korea, with some commentators blaming a racist backlash to Ariel’s recasting.
According to The Guardian, last month Chinese state media tabloid the Global Times accused Disney in an article of “forced inclusion of minorities” and “lazy and irresponsible storytelling”.
The Little Mermaid also just has 2.5 stars on Douban, a popular Chinese review website.
However, it must be noted that many of the reviews there are critical of the film’s plot rather than the star’s casting.
The Little Mermaid is out now in cinemas.