By Jocelyn Buhlman
Since 1989, we’ve been flipping our fins to the beloved music from Disney’s The Little Mermaid—and with the debut of its new, live action reimagining, there’s even more opportunities to enjoy these classic tunes in fresh new ways. The soundtrack for the new film is out now, featuring beautiful new versions of your favorite The Little Mermaid songs… plus some all-new ones! Disney Legend Alan Menken returned for the reimagining, this time teaming up with Lin-Manuel Miranda to create several new musical masterpieces. During our D23 Inside Disney video podcast on The Little Mermaid, we had the chance to sit down with Menken and talk the new tunes in the film; you can watch to the full interview here, or read on to learn some of Menken’s splashy secrets.
It was on Menken’s “bucket list” to work with Miranda:
Given he literally named his son Sebastian, it’s no surprise that Miranda is a The Little Mermaid superfan. His fandom of the film is so intense that, as a kid, he even reached out to the musical maestro behind the film himself! “I knew of [Lin] as a little boy who was fanatical about The Little Mermaid,” Menken recalls, “I would get these requests for signed posters or to answer questions—just so passionate about it.” Once Miranda rose to his own fame as a songwriter, Menken knew he had to work with him… and the live-action The Little Mermaid was the perfect opportunity to combine their musical mastery.
Prince Eric is dealing with a lot of mysteries:
In the 1989 classic, while Ariel loses her voice, Prince Eric is also silent—when it comes to singing, anyway. This was amended in the live-action reimagining, where Menken was able to put to music some of the feelings Eric is grappling with. “First of all, who is this girl who saved him?” Menken asks. But in the new film, the prince’s got more on his mind than mermaids: “He’s also thinking about the thrill of what’s uncharted before him in his life—and the mystery of the sea.”
Ariel finally figures out what a fire is, and why does it—what’s the word?–burn:
In the beloved song “Part of Your World,” Ariel asks a lot of questions of the human world, and we finally get some answers in the new song “For the First Time.” Menken explains, “It’s the moment where she’s first on land. Feeling for the first time—her legs, feeling the air.” And of course, figuring out what’s the deal with fire (and burns). But that’s not the only new pain she discovers, Menken adds: “She experiences heartbreak for the first time.”
The scuttlebutt on “The Scuttlebutt”:
You’ve probably seen one new song, between Sebastian and Scuttle, making waves with fans—titled “The Scuttlebutt,” and featuring something never-before-heard in The Little Mermaid: rapping! “It’s a delightful combination of Lin’s style of writing and mine, in a really surprising and fun way,” Menken explains of the song. “I gave him a Caribbean tune and Lin sort of did a rap over it that was so perfect, that used the music, but it had this rhythmic pulse to it.”