‘Little Mermaid Live!’: ‘Moana’ star Auli’i Cravalho is a Disney princess again

Auli'i Cravalho plays Ariel in "The Little Mermaid Live." File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI

Nov. 5 (UPI) — As the voice of Disney’s first islander princess Moana, Auli’i Cravalho never thought she’d get to play another Disney princess. But now she’ll play Ariel in a live performance of “The Little Mermaid.”

“I’m not a greedy person,” Cravalho told UPI in a recent interview. “I figure, ‘Oh my gosh, one Disney princess, I’m set for life’ and I truly am. I get to say that I am Moana for the rest of my life and now I’m honestly very honored.”

“The Little Mermaid” has another “Moana” connection, too. Ron Clements and John Musker directed both the animated “Little Mermaid” and “Moana.”

“Because it’s Ron Clements and John Musker, my wonderful directors from Moana, I get to pay homage to them for that 30th anniversary of ‘Little Mermaid,'” Cravalho said.

Released in 1989, “The Little Mermaid” kick-started Walt Disney’s animation renaissance, which continued through the ’90s with “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin,” “The Lion King” and “Mulan.” Cravalho is 18, so she never saw “The Little Mermaid” in theaters.

“I only saw it at home,” she said. “It definitely came out before I was born. It definitely shaped my childhood, but I can’t remember exactly when I saw it.”

Based on the Hans Christian Andersen story, little mermaid Ariel lived in the sea with her friend Sebastian, the crab. Queen Ursula gave Ariel the chance to be human and walk on two legs. She fell in love with Eric, but Ursula had nefarious plans all along.

“The Little Mermaid Live!” not only will be a new princess role for Cravalho, but it also will challenge her to perform a live show in front of an audience.

“I didn’t really get cast in many live musicals or live plays in high school, so I’m putting in a lot of extra work,” Cravalho said. “I’m really excited for it, though, but it’s very different from live-action or anything that’s ever on tape.”

Cravalho said even the question about a live performance gave her butterflies.

“Talking about it makes me even more nervous,” she said.

The cast is filled with musicians who have entertained live audiences for their entire career, and Cravalho is relying on them.

“I have the most incredible people on my side,” she said. “We’ve got Shaggy playing Sebastian and Queen Latifah as Ursula, so I know that I’ve got a lot of support from very experienced and wonderful people in the industry.”

Cravalho will sing Ariel’s song, “Part of Your World.” Jodi Benson’s rendition in the animated film has been famous for three decades.

“I get to sing it in my own voice,” Cravalho said. “I, of course, listen to the incredible Jodi Benson in her gorgeous voice, but I myself sound a little bit different, so I can’t wait to work with [songwriter] Alan Menken and let him hear what I’ve got.”

Disney also is producing a live-action feature film adaptation of The Little Mermaid.

Halle Bailey will play Ariel in the film, so between the live-action movie and the live special, there will be a black and islander Ariel. Cravalho is Hawaiian.

“It’s definitely time to make representation count, and I think it’s beautiful to have different mermaids,” Cravalho said. “I absolutely love that Halle is being cast. I myself am very honored to play this role as Ariel, and I think there’s so much room for so many different types of Ariels, as well.”

Cravalho had a regular role on NBC’s short-lived “Rise” and an episode of Jordan Peele’s “Weird City.” She will play Wendla Bergman in a film adaptation of “Spring Awakening.” During this time, she managed to finish high school, too.

“I graduated from high school in 2018,” Cravalho said. “I got my diploma from my school in Hawaii, which is a very big win for me. I did all of my schooling online, as well as communicated with my teachers back at home to make sure that I graduated from my original school.”

The roles keep coming, so Cravalho is holding off on college plans.

“I’m excited about the prospect of college,” Cravalho said. “I don’t exactly know what I want to go in for yet. I’ve also been told, excuse the pun, to ride the wave of this incredible journey that I’m on as far as acting and, well, the industry of entertainment, and I truly love it. It’s definitely in my future. Just not right now.”

Although Cravalho wrapped Moana years ago, it still plays daily in many children’s homes.

“Whenever I hear kids say, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re so inspiring’ and I say, ‘Yeah, Moana really is,'” Cravalho said. “I still find my inspiration in her, as well.”

“The Wonderful World of Disney Presents The Little Mermaid Live!” airs Tuesday at 8 p.m. EDT on ABC.



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