With Disney’s new “The Little Mermaid” film splashing into theaters on May 26, fans can enjoy an assortment of whozits and whatzits designed with representation in mind. When children see themselves, their cultures and their families reflected in the toys they play with and the stories they read, they know they are valued.
Earlier this month, a diverse group of creators and their families were invited to an interactive product launch shell-ebration, for a first look at the must-have toys, books, apparel and more, all inspired by the live action film. After a day of mer-mazing fashion and play, guests were treated to an early screening introduced by a very special surprise guest—the Little Mermaid herself, Halle Bailey!
“Inclusion is so important to Disney consumer products, because for us, it’s an opportunity to hear what our fans want and to create products they can relate to,” said Carmen J. Smith, senior vice president, Creative Development – Content, Product and Inclusive Strategies, Disney Parks Experiences and Products, Consumer Products, Games and Publishing, and Walt Disney Imagineering. “I think what makes us so different is that we reflect our world.”
More Than Just A Doll
A brand-new line of dolls, inspired by the film and created by Mattel, made quite a splash with mermaid fans of all ages. The Mermaid Ariel doll was meticulously crafted in the likeness of the film’s character portrayed by Halle Bailey, down to the detail of the small mole on her face.
“’The Little Mermaid’ is such a beautiful, colorful film and all of the characters are really diverse,” said Launi King, director of product design, hardlines, for Disney’s consumer products division. “That really inspired us to want to go further when it came to the hairstyles that were developed.”
Launi’s team helped bring to life tons of fun options, such as a singing Ariel mermaid doll, sets including Ariel and her sisters, and even dolls for King Triton, Ursula and Prince Eric. Attendees got to experience these toys firsthand in some fin-tastic, interactive water and sand play areas, and many families shared how meaningful it was for them to see toys that looked like their kids.
“This completely changed the game for us, and it’s something we’re going to be able to have generation after generation,” Launi added.
Launi also noted that achieving diversity and inclusion requires everyone to have a seat at the table, and that a diverse group of executives and designers contributed to this beautiful product line. The most rewarding part of her work is when she hears fans say, “She looks like me.”
Celebrating Black Stories
The representation extended to Flounder’s Learning Alcove, where guppies were treated to a special reading of “Make A Splash,” by author Ashley Franklin and received signed copies of her book. While “Make A Splash” is filled with beautiful illustrations, perfect for readers between ages 3-5, “The Little Mermaid Live Action Novelization” and “The Little Mermaid: Against the Tide” by J. Elle are great options for more advanced readers.
Other highlights included products created in collaboration with Black-owned and founded brands that celebrate the power of Black joy, including Black Girl Sunscreen, a 30 SPF lotion formulated for women of color to protect skin without leaving behind a white cast, and Carol’s Daughter, a pioneer of natural hair products created to let your curls sing.
These are only the tip of the trident, as we have a full assortment of products to maintain your mermaid mania.
You can learn more about Disney’s commitment to amplifying underrepresented voices at reimaginetomorrow.disney.com.