Is the Live Action Little Mermaid Scary for Kids?: What Parents Need to Know


If you’re thinking of taking your kids to see The Little Mermaid 2023, and looking for a spoiler-free parent review, don’t worry, I gotchu. And details to help you decide if the live action Little Mermaid is scary for kids you might want to bring. 

I know there are a lot of people who are excited for every new Disney remake announced. I am not one of those people. So the live action version of The Little Mermaid was just the next up on my list of movies to go into, hoping for the best, but expecting the worst. Whether because I wasn’t hoping for much, or because it truly was done well, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. In fact, I think this one is a great contender for Disney’d best live action remake yet (previously Aladdin held that spot for me). Jayda agrees, saying this was “the best Disney remake I’ve ever seen. It surprised me so much!” in her Little Mermaid kids review.

I brought my three littles with me. A 12 year old daughter who has seen the original The Little Mermaid many times, but not in a few years. My 10-year-old son who disdains princess movies, and my 4-year-old daughter who loves them. I get into their thoughts in our kids review post (also without spoilers)

What Parents Need to Know about the live action ‘Little Mermaid’

Parents need to know that the live action Little Mermaid is a remake of the 1991 film, with many of the songs we grew up loving, plus a few new ones. It’s modernized in a few ways, namely Ariel’s age isn’t explicitly stated, and some phrases like “body language” in the poor Unfortunate Souls song is removed. Her relationship with the prince also is developed more in this story and there’s a very diverse cast. Though the movie is rated PG there is some violence and peril, including explosions, trident zapping, near drownings, and more. There are also a couple of dark moments that might be scary for some younger viewers. We’ll get more into that in a bit. 

The Little Mermaid’ Parent 2023 Parent Review 

Where some Disney remakes such as The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast feel like near carbon copies of their animated counterparts, The Little Mermaid feels more like a new movie with the right touches of nostalgia that also took liberties to make it feel different. A couple notable scenes were removed and several new ones were added. Which leads to my biggest gripe with this beautiful family movie: the runtime. While the 1991 version of The Little Mermaid had a runtime of just an hour and 22 minutes, The Little Mermaid 2023 runs nearly an hour longer at 2 hours and 15 minutes. Which, in my opinion, is much too long for a kids movie. That is, if we are calling this a kids movie. Though there isn’t any explicit adult content, it definitely feels more made for an older audience. The runtime, as well as the lack of childish humor. I counted two, maybe three moments my kids laughed out loud and worthy of writing in our movie tracker. Though I’d hope there’d be more. Especially with Awkwafina in the role of Scuttle (the immediately called out “That’s Sisu!” the moment she spoke by the way).

My 12-year-old daughter appreciated the story the most, recognized the changes and understood why they were important. For my other two it was just a movie to go see, and it didn’t always hold up. Especially for my 4-year-old who got restless partway through and even needed a potty break (she’s never done this before and we’ve been to several movies). She still gives the movie 5 stars though, loves the soundtrack (it’s on repeat) and wants to see it again. I, however, will probably wait until it’s streaming on Disney+ to show it to her again. But enjoy it with my husband and oldest daughter again.

What I liked

Halle Bailey is a shining star and her stunning voice and glowing (literally I think it was shimmering) skin was a gem throughout the entire film. Of the new songs (a favorite aspect of the movie to me), hers is my favorite. I also appreciated the prince having a bit of his own storyline. Disney princes usually get the short end of the stick when it comes to storylines. Add to that the diverse cast (that didn’t feel forced), a more natural progression with the love story, some positive messages, and fun updates (Under the Sea was spectacular!) and we have a quality remake

All that said, I do still have some gripes.

What I didn’t like

Underwater CGI is no easy feat. Some of the animals looked a little wonky to me, not quite realistic, not quite animated. Speaking of animals–-Flounder got a makeover and it wasn’t very pretty. He wasn’t as scary-looking as he appears in the promo photo, but still not cute. Thankfully he doesn’t get much airtime. Some of the underwater scenes were a bit dark and a little hard to see. Those dark scenes underwater, and most of the water scenes in the first half just seemed to drag on a little longer than I’d expected. One moment I thought Triton might bust out in song cause the pause seemed to indicate he might. Perhaps it’s because this was the part of the story we were already familiar with, so a part of me was like “ok, we know, let’s get on with it!” And Disney had already released the entire Part of Your World scene. I get that they can’t skip scenes just because we already know them, but that seemed to make the story drag on. And with such a long runtime it leaves me wondering how much of that could have been cut out.  

Is the Live Action Little Mermaid Scary for Kids?

live action little mermaid too scary for kids? Melissa McCarthy as Ursula in Disney's live-action THE LITTLE MERMAID. Photo courtesy of Disney.
© 2023 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

If you’re thinking of making this a family movie night option, you might be wondering if the live action Little Mermaid is scary for kids. The moments that might seem scary in the original movie appear even scarier in this live action adaptation where everything looks more realistic. A giant animated Ursula is one thing, but a monstrous Melissa McCarthy is another story. She’s bigger, louder (especially in a big, dark theater), and seemingly angrier. Lee Lee (4) covered her eyes at a part or two. Not completely terrified, but a little overwhelmed for a moment. Ask her what her favorite part was though and it includes that. There’s also some violence with lightning and electric zapping, near drowning, high speed horse rides, explosions, and peril. If you want more specifics look out my other review with some spoilers. 

Should You Bring Your Kids to see The Little Mermaid 2023?

Every family can answer this for themselves. While The Little Mermaid 2023 is family-friendly as far as content goes, some of the darker, scarier scenes as well as the runtime might make you want to leave the littlest ones at home. My kids give share more of their thoughts on the movie and the age they think is best suited for in their Little Mermaid Kids Review.

Ariel pets a dog in the 2023 version of the little mermaid.

Are you planning to go see the live action version of The Little Mermaid? Be sure to let us know what you think if you do! 

The Little Mermaid swims into theaters May 26th. 

Want to dress for the occasion? Here is some Little Mermaid movie merch we are into.

Wondering how our review of The Little Mermaid 2023 might compare to yours? Check out some of our other movie reviews.

If you like watching movies together as a family you’ll love our Family Movie Night Journal! Created by me and my oldest daughter Jayda. It’s bringing a family tradition of movie watching and rating to families around the world.

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  1. I really loved this live action film. It is definitely my favorite although I still love Aladdin as well. I hadn’t been to a movie in a long time where the audience was so vocal with their emotions. The visuals were stunning. The changes to the story line were fine to me. Although, I wish Ariel had said I love you “Daddy” at the end. For me that carries more emotional weight than the more formal father. I thought the casting was perfection! Loved Ariel, King Triton and Eric. I was nervous about Melissa Mccarthy living up to an iconic performance as Ursula but thought she did a fantastic job.

    1. I’m with you on so much of this!! I didn’t mind father, I was still os moved but I LOVED “daddy” in the first one. I’m not sure she ever called him dad/daddy in this one. I might need to see it a third time. haha

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