Ariel Character Meet & Greet from Live Action Little Mermaid Debuts at Disney World

Ariel from the new live-action version of The Little Mermaid movie is now appearances at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and Paris as a meet & greet character as of today (May 26, 2023). This post covers the photos, details, plus our commentary about this somewhat unprecedented occurrence.

According to Disney, Ariel is trading her fins for human legs and stepping into a world beyond the sea as she appears in the all-new live-action story The Little Mermaid. In celebration of the film’s release, Ariel will be venturing out to select Disney Parks where guests will get to meet her in Summer 2023.

The Little Mermaid live-action remake is filmmaker Rob Marshall’s reimagining of the Oscar-winning animated musical classic, and it opens exclusively in theaters on May 26, 2023. (You probably already know how the story goes, but in case not…) This movie tells the story of Ariel, a beautiful and spirited mermaid looking for adventure.

The youngest and most defiant of King Triton’s daughters, Ariel longs to find out about the world beyond the sea, and while visiting the surface, falls for the dashing Prince Eric. Mermaids are forbidden to interact with humans, but Ariel follows her heart and makes a deal with the evil sea witch, Ursula, to experience life on land, but ultimately places her life–and her father’s crown–in jeopardy.

Here are photos of the live action Ariel character meet & greet released by Disney:

You can find Ariel from the live-action The Little Mermaid in the following locations in the parks:

Disneyland Paris – At Disneyland Paris, guests can share an interactive and fun experience with the character Ariel, from the live-action story, as she invites everyone at Walt Disney Studios Park to join a joyful, limited-time celebration in honor of the new movie release. From “Under the Sea” to “Kiss the Girl”, come and join in this unforgettable musical moment!

Walt Disney World – Disney’s Hollywood Studios – When Ariel’s adventures on land take her to Walt Disney World Resort, guests will be able to meet her by visiting Walt Disney Presents at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which is located between Toy Story Land and the reimagined Pixar Place, which is reopening soon.

Ariel invites guests to be “part of her world” and for a limited time, see a special sneak peek and props from the film available at Walt Disney Presents Theater. Come be immersed in the live-action “The Little Mermaid” story at Walt Disney World.

Disneyland Resort – Disneyland Park – Heading west to Disneyland Resort, Ariel will venture on land to greet guests along the promenade near “it’s a small world” at Disneyland. Is life under the sea better than anything they have on land?! Guests will have to come see for themselves this summer at Disneyland.

Starring singer and actress Halle Bailey as Ariel, the film holds an all-star cast, including Daveed Diggs, Awkwafina, Javier Bardem and Melissa McCarthy. Check out Halle’s announcement below:

In terms of commentary, I view this as a huge and mostly unprecedented win for one big reason: Walt Disney World FINALLY accepted the studio marketing budget for a meet & greet character!!! I feel like hanging one of those “mission accomplished” banners in the top corner of the blog, as this is something about which we’ve been complaining for years.

We’ve mentioned this repeatedly, but in case you’ve missed those past rants, it’s incredibly common for Walt Disney World to decline promotional characters and other offerings that are funded entirely from Disney+ or studio marketing budgets, even when the Florida parks doesn’t have to foot any of the bill.

The rumored explanations I’ve heard for Walt Disney World turning down these “free” additions range from casting logistics to guest disappointment when they inevitably disappear. By contrast, Disneyland does not, which is why Raya, Mirabel, Bruno, and so many other characters debut there first.

For all of the talk about synergy, Disney has gotten really bad about promoting popular characters from its streaming shows and movies at Walt Disney World on tight turnaround times. They used to develop and debut whole parades faster than they manage to stick a single character into a cavalcade.

It’s too bad there isn’t a small and nimble team dedicated to these synergy efforts with the ability to move quickly and authority to bring these characters to the parks in meaningful ways, even if that means overruling park management. This is even more important now as viewership has become fragmented and IP needs a little more help to enter the cultural zeitgeist. Disney should place a renewed emphasis on a day-and-date model, but for its shows/movies and promotional pushes in the parks.

My sincere hope is that this is the start of a trend and not a one-off. Perhaps Walt Disney World management was (somehow) caught by surprise at the massive popularity of the Mandalorian and Baby Yoda characters, and wants a repeat of that success for the new version of The Little Mermaid.

It’s also possible that Walt Disney World actually is starting to find its footing with characters, as there have been some aggressive and laudable initiatives at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in the last several months. That started with the surprise debut of rare characters, extended to Mandalorian and Grogu, and will soon include the return of Pixar Place.

And that’s not all–similar initiatives appear to be on tap for the other parks, with Mirabel and Moana finally getting permanent homes, Figment returning to EPCOT, and more. So I’m optimistic about characters at Walt Disney World, which is a rarity.

Admittedly, it’s only cautious optimism at this point. It’s also possible that Ariel is part of an initiative from on-high, and Walt Disney World didn’t have a choice. The company is positioning this movie to be its big summer blockbuster, and is doing everything possible to set it up for success.

So it’s entirely possible that after this, we don’t see other popular new characters make appearances at Walt Disney World until 3-7 years after their films are smash successes. Personally, I really hope that’s not the case. You might even call it my one Wish…

Oh, speaking of which, that movie is right around the corner, so someone at Disney should get to work on the characters from Wish appearing in the parks during this Christmas season.

I think we can all agree that the easiest and most ideal solution is to bring a baby goat (live-action variety) with a speaker strapped to its back and let it be a free-roaming character in Frontierland, with Alan Tudyk a safe distance away delivering lines as the goat interacts with guests. It would be a huge hit, like Push the Talking Trash Can, but a goat.

Since these things are sure to come up as questions in the comments:

  • The animated classic version of the character will continue to meet at Ariel’s Grotto in Magic Kingdom.
  • Expect Ariel to have very long lines at Walt Disney Presents, as this is a low-capacity location. (It’s somewhat-secluded location helps.)
  • This confirms that Sulley the monster will be relocating from Walt Disney Presents to Pixar Place, proper.
  • Still no word on the nearby Voyage of the Little Mermaid at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We’ve heard rumblings that there are future plans for this show, which is a change from the original rumors that it was done for good.
  • No official confirmation from Disney as to whether this will be the human or mermaid version of Ariel, but it’s heavily implied in the press release (via words and photo choice) that it’ll be the “on land” version.

I think that should about cover everything, but I’ll add to that list as necessary…

Ultimately, that’s our take on this character addition to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and Disneyland Paris. I’m much more excited about the fact that it is happening than the substance of the addition, as I’ve been “over” these CGI redos of the animated classics for a while. I’m betting this will be a smash success at the box office, and one of my mantras is let people enjoy things, but I look at the poster art for Flounder, Sebastian, and Scuttle and wonder how those photo-realistic characters can replicate the personality and emotiveness of their animated counterparts.

On the other hand, this movie will undoubtedly introduce a whole new audience to The Little Mermaid while also rekindling interest in the animated original. It’s great that another generation will have their version of this story, many of whom will cherish it with the same sentimentality and nostalgia I have for the original. It’s great that those kids will be able to meet Ariel at Walt Disney World this summer. Now it’s on Disney to make sure they can meet the goat from Wish, too. It truly would be the best way to celebrate Disney100, and the ultimate form of wish fulfillment!

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What do you think of live action Ariel coming to Walt Disney World? Excited that the studio is firing up the synergy machine for a character meet & greet alongside a new movie release? Hopeful this marks a shift in strategy away from Walt Disney World’s slow rollout of character meet & greets from recent Disney+ shows and movies? Willing to sign our petition for a live-action version of Valentino the goat from Wish in Frontierland?! Do you agree or disagree with our assessments? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

14 Responses to “Ariel Character Meet & Greet from Live Action Little Mermaid Debuts at Disney World”
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