Disney’s race-swapped Little Mermaid a flop in China—possibly worst 2023 opening: report

The film has earned only $13,000 in Chinese pre-sales.

Joshua Young North Carolina

Disney's new The Little Mermaid film, starring black actress Halle Bailey as the main character Ariel, has a Chinese poster that obscures the character's race, as the film is on track to flop in the Communist-led country.

According to Comic Book Resources, "the film is likely to be Disney's worst-performing Chinese release this year," and has only earned $13,000 in pre-sales.

In comparison, Cruella, the last Disney live-action adaptation to hit Chinese theaters, grossed 1.6 million upon opening, and Mulan grossed $307,000 in one day of presales and $23 million upon opening.

Disney has also created alternative marketing for the communist country by releasing a different poster than the one in the US. Elijah Schaffer on Twitter posted a side-by-side comparison and asked, "can you spot the difference."

Human Event's Jack Posobiec tweeted, "Disney's poster for the Little Mermaid in China speaks for itself" and another made it clear and noted that the actress's black skin was made blue.

This is not the first time Disney has downplayed a character's race in their marketing to China. Famously the black actor John Boyega, who played Finn in The Force Awakens, was reduced in prominence in the Chinese poster from the American poster.

According to Variety, in addition to minimizing Boyega, they cut out additional non-white characters entirely for the Chinese poster. 

According to CNN, Chinese state media denied the change was due to racism in the country.

Currently, The Little Mermaid sits at a 71 percent critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The New York Post review said, "Despite real actors, CGI and brand new material, 'Mermaid' is the studio’s latest flesh-and-blood cash grab that’s more lifeless than far better two-dimensional painted drawings."

The Little Mermaid is one of a few Hollywood films to garner a release in China after the country had cracked down on US releases during the Covid pandemic. 


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