The Little Mermaid follows Ariel as she embarks on a journey of self-discovery that ultimately ends in her getting married, which has led many to wonder how old Ariel is supposed to be in Disney’s animated classic. First appearing in 1989, The Little Mermaid‘s Ariel is the latest Disney princess to receive the live-action remake treatment, with the new version hitting theaters on May 26th, 2023, and her age is being changed for the new version.
Disney’s line-up of official princesses range in age from 14 to 19 years old. The family-friendly nature of Disney’s movies is the obvious reason for this, as the princesses are intended to be relatable to Disney’s target audience. However, it does open up some issues surrounding the stories that some of the characters embark on. Ariel’s whirlwind romance and eventual marriage to Prince Eric is one such example, leading many to question how old the princess is really meant to be in the story of The Little Mermaid.
Ariel Is 16 In The Little Mermaid
In Disney’s 1989 animated adaptation of The Little Mermaid, Ariel is 16 years old. The Disney adaptation makes many changes to Hans Christian Andersen’s original fairytale, but Ariel’s age is consistent as she’s depicted as a teenager in the original tale too. The decision to fix Ariel’s age at 16 years old was also likely to appeal to the target audience of Disney’s version of The Little Mermaid. Her age makes sense to the narrative of the story as it’s driven by her curiosity about the world and her identity crisis; relatable themes for many at the same stage of life.
However, the live-action remake includes changes from 1989’s animated The Little Mermaid, including Ariel’s age. According to production notes, Ariel is described as a “spirited 18-year-old” (via Yahoo!). This change of age is likely to avoid criticism surrounding Ariel’s hasty marriage to Prince Eric in the animated version and make 23-year-old Halle Bailey more believable in the role.
How Old Prince Eric Is In The Little Mermaid
While Ariel is 16 years old in Disney animated The Little Mermaid film, her love interest is not the same age. The character’s voice actor, Christopher Daniel Barnes, was just 16 years old at the time of recording the film, leading to the assumption that the character was intended to be the same age. However, according to the official novelization of Disney’s story, Prince Eric is 18 years old in The Little Mermaid (via Internet Archive). The age difference between the couple in the 1989 movie may be another reason for Ariel’s change of age in the live-action remake of The Little Mermaid.
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