Why the Live Action Little Mermaid Removed the Polyps From Ursula’s Lair

The live-action version of The Little Mermaid has seen numerous different changes compared to the original, and these have largely been hotly debated among the community. However, one such change that’s not really been mentioned much is a relatively minor – but also intriguing – detail regarding the polyps, which are Ursula’s previous victims, transformed into a plant form. 

For young children watching the scene, the polyps no doubt represent an unnerving sort of figure – and even for adults looking over their little ones’ shoulders, these creepy little creatures (if they can be called that, as the film leaves it wholly unclear what they’re meant to be) send a shudder or two down the spine. However, with the decision to remove these from Ursula’s lair in the remake, fans are left asking: why? 

Difficulties with Converting Animated Content to Live Action

Animation is an immensely powerful medium, and one of its core benefits is that it really allows us to push the boundaries. In line with this, while a straight conversion of animated content to live action can be done, it may not always be effective – and several features risk getting “lost in translation” if directors aren’t careful.

This is something that’s already raised concerns among Little Mermaid fans, especially in regard to Ariel’s casting and Flounder’s design. Indeed, for many filmmakers, finding the perfect actors who both possess the core traits of the characters and also resemble them in such a way as to bring their key qualities to life can be a challenge. 

Unrealistic shapes and sizes is one such issue here, with Flounder being made into a seemingly entirely different species overall. His expressions as a realistic fish also match with many of Disney’s past live-action animal criticisms, where fans express concerns that the focus on realism has prevented the animals from actually having emotions.

This is where the issue arises with the polyps, too; the nature of what they are and their shape simply makes it hard to bring them to life as a live-action being.

An Interview with Rob Marshall

Though the polyps themselves are a pretty interesting part of the original movie, perfectly demonstrating Ursula’s sadistic nature, they don’t really contribute anything significant – and this is something that Rob Marshall seems to have taken on board in deciding not to have them reprise their role.

As Marshall explained in a recent interview, “It just felt like one thing too much for them to be actual people. It was the idea that these plants would then turn into people felt almost like an animation idea, a concept… When you watch Triton in the original turn into one of them, it’s comical … I felt like this feels like one step too far, that it will cross that line into something that seems silly.

Considering the all-around more expanded focus of the new version, it seems perhaps unsurprising that the live-action remake has taken the step to remove the polyps. Still, even with the changes to increase the realism, there’s a long way yet to go until the film’s box office earnings break even on the two hundred and fifty million budget.

While changes to Ursula’s lair in the live-action Little Mermaid may surprise some, the initial reactions to Elemental’s first screening are garnering a mixed review.

Ryan is a car enthusiast and an accomplished team builder passionate about crafting captivating narratives. Known for his ability to transport readers to other worlds, his writing has garnered attention and a dedicated following. With a keen eye for detail and a gift for storytelling, Ryan continues to weave literary magic in every word he writes.