‘The Little Mermaid’ | Anatomy of a scene

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Hi, I’m Rob Marshall and I’m the director of ‘The Little Mermaid’. So this is about two minutes into the musical number “Under the Sea,” which is the most challenging musical number I’ve ever done, because you have one live actor – I mean, there she is Ariel, played by Halle Bailey. And introducing dance into a sequence is so complicated because it has to feel seamless. It should feel organic. It doesn’t feel applied. So right here, as the turtles start to move, you see, OK, there’s a little bit of dancing. The tricky thing about this was I only had one live actor, I needed some dancers or something to work with. And I took a page from Walt Disney’s script, and I worked with the Alvin Ailey Company. He had worked with the Ballet Russe Company when he created ‘Fantasia’. And I thought that was such a brilliant idea. So I worked with the Alvin Ailey Company, brought them to London so we could make all these sea creature movements onto something so that our artists, our CGI artists, could actually use them as a template, which was incredible. And then we found all these sea creatures that actually lend themselves to dancing naturally. These are all real sea creatures. So there you have mimic octopus and flatworms. Here we go to a bioluminescent world. We had the Alvin Ailey Company that used umbrellas and, literally, ribbons, streamers hanging from them so they could literally create this jellyfish idea. But all of this, every moment of this was choreographed. And it was so complicated because everything was done by counting. It wasn’t like, well, let’s just let them do what they want. Every moment of it was strategically choreographed by myself, John DeLuca and our choreographers. [‘UNDER THE SEA’]:- music for me. Music is for me – There really comes a moment here – [‘UNDER THE SEA’]:- hot crustacean tape — that, literally, the CGI artist said it’s the most creatures they’ve ever had on screen. But it was really about protecting and celebrating this beautiful song. Here’s a nautilus shell we tried to make a la Busby Berkeley. But I really wanted to make sure we did justice to this incredible number, but also brought a photorealistic, exciting world to life.

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