The highly anticipated live-action remake of Disney’s beloved animated classic The Little Mermaid has finally hit theaters, bringing the magical underwater world of Ariel, Sebastian, and Flounder to life in a whole new way. But fans have noticed one major difference between this version and the 1989 original - the new Little Mermaid clocks in at a whopping 135 minutes, making it nearly a full hour longer than its animated predecessor.
So how exactly is Disney using all that extra time when it comes to the new Little Mermaid? Why is the 2023 remake so much longer than the 83 minute original, and is that a good thing or does it feel overly dragged out? Let’s take a deep dive into the new extended runtime and see how those additional minutes are spent.
A Quick Refresher - The Original 1989 Little Mermaid Runtime
Before we can really understand why the new Little Mermaid remake is so much longer, it helps to start with a refresher on the tight 83 minute runtime of the original 1989 animated movie. Disney was firing on all cylinders creatively at this time during the Renaissance era, and they told the story in a very economical way.
The original Little Mermaid skips any lengthy backstory, dropping us straight into Ariel’s world. We get the classic “Part of Your World” number within the first 10 minutes as Ariel longs to leave the sea behind and live among humans. The majority of the 83 minute runtime is then devoted to Ariel’s deal with Ursula to become human and try to get Prince Eric to fall in love with her.
Along the way, it hits all the memorable musical numbers like “Under the Sea” and “Kiss the Girl” while building to the climax where Ariel gets her voice back and returns to mermaid form. It’s a straightforward narrative that wastes little time on subplots or character backgrounds.
The New Little Mermaid Runtime: A Whopping 135 Minutes
Now on to the expanded 2023 live-action remake. Disney confirmed ahead of release that the new Little Mermaid clocks in at 135 minutes, which equates to 2 hours and 15 minutes.
That’s nearly a full hour, or 52 minutes, longer than the original. It’s not unusual for Disney to pad out the runtimes on remakes of their animated films, but this is one of the biggest extensions yet.
At 135 minutes, this new Little Mermaid has the longest runtime of any live-action remake that Disney has done of one of its classic animated movies. For comparison, the live-action Aladdin was 128 minutes long while Beauty and the Beast clocked in at 129 minutes.
So this sets a new record and shows just how intent Disney was on fleshing out the story and world of The Little Mermaid this time around.
Why is the New Little Mermaid Movie So Much Longer?
With almost a full hour of additional runtime to work with, how exactly did Disney and director Rob Marshall fill that time? They expanded on storylines and characters in some key ways:
More Backstory for Prince Eric
One of the biggest additions is a fuller backstory for Prince Eric. In the animated original, he was something of a blank slate - simply the human prince Ariel had to win over.
This time around, there’s more focus on his family background, relationship with the scheming advisor Grimsby, and the pressure on him to find a royal bride. We learn what makes him tick and why he’s so drawn to Ariel.
More Time Spent Developing Ariel and Eric’s Romance
The writers also use the extra runtime to let the romance between Ariel and Eric develop in a more natural, gradual way. Their relationship feels far less rushed than the original’s storybook love-at-first-sight angle.
In this version, they take the time to establish an initial spark of attraction, followed by deepening bonds as Ariel and Eric get to know each other without the aid of speech. Their new scenes together add authenticity.
Expanded Underwater Sequences
Additionally, the remake fleshes out Ariel’s underwater world, expanding visits to locations like Atlantica and Prince Eric’s seaside kingdom. We get to spend more time immersed in those settings, with a visual splendor live-action provides.
The writers invent various new supporting characters and adventures to showcase the underwater locations. This further spices up the runtime.
Extended Versions of the Musical Numbers
Of course, The Little Mermaid wouldn’t feel complete without the fantastic musical numbers. About 10 minutes of the new extended runtime goes directly towards allowing Alan Menken’s classic songs to shine even brighter.
“Part of Your World”, “Under the Sea”, “Poor Unfortunate Souls” - these songs are given more time to breathe and turn into major centerpiece moments. It’s more of a full-fledged musical than the fast-paced animated version.
Is the New Runtime a Good or Bad Thing?
The consensus among critics so far seems to be mixed on whether this vastly expanded 135 minute runtime helps or hurts the new Little Mermaid.
On the positive side, it allows for a richer, more immersive experience, especially for superfans. The new backstories, character moments, and extended musical sequences create something closer to an epic fantasy adventure.
However, some argue that all this extra padding slows down the story’s pace and loses the tight, propulsive spirit of the animated original. A few reviewers have said it feels bloated and overwritten, dragging at points when a quicker runtime may have been more effective.
It remains to be seen whether general audiences connect with the expanded version or if it tries their patience. The 1989 animated movie succeeded due to its brisk, fairy tale simplicity - this new take definitely goes for something more layered and complex, for better or worse.
No matter which side they take on the runtime debate, most critics agree the visual splendor and musical numbers help carry the day. Only time will tell though if this ends up being an all-time remake, or if the longer runtime proves to be an Achilles’ heel when it comes to achieving Disney classic status.
Either way, it’s clear the studio took the opportunity with this reimagining to give a lot more depth and scale to the story and world, aiming to create the definitive live-action Little Mermaid. Just be prepared to sit through 55 more minutes of underwater adventure compared to the snappier original.