The live-action The Little Mermaid’s Melissa McCarthy had some big tentacles to fill when she took on the role of Ursula, but the actress absolutely went for it and exceeded expectations. With the movie now available to watch over and over again with a Disney+ subscription, I have to talk about the time I spoke with McCarthy about playing the sea witch, and she shared the hilarious things that helped her slip into playing the Disney character.
Ahead of the theatrical release of The Little Mermaid, I asked Melissa McCarthy, on behalf of CinemaBlend, how she found her voice for Ursula while making the live-action Disney movie. Ariel’s voice, or lack thereof, often gets the spotlight, but I loved what she had to say about how the villain’s likeness came to her. Check out her answer:
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As Melissa McCarthy shared in the interview, while observing the choreography for “Poor Unfortunate Souls” and so forth, a vision came to her that reminded Ursula of a cabaret performer sliding off a piano. As she visualized Ursula, her voice for the character continued to become lower. And, as she pointed out, she figured the character was not a stranger to “many drinks and cigarettes.” Of course, she had to throw out a no-smoking PSA for the kiddies, but McCarthy’s reading of Ursula is both hilarious and dead-on to what kind of energy the villain gives off.
Pat Carroll's original vocal performance as Ursula in the 1989 classic surely had something to do with McCarthy’s take on the character as well, because it’s just too iconic, isn’t it? Then there’s also the fact that the villain’s trademark look was actually inspired by the drag queen legend Divine. McCarthy shared with Yahoo! that she herself is a “huge fan of drag” and most certainly took inspiration from Divine and channelled her too when becoming Ursula.
While I’m still not over the fact that the live-action The Little Mermaid cut the “Poor Unfortunate Souls” reprise, Melissa McCarthy’s Ursula was one of many highlights of the remake that contributed to it being one of the best live-action Disney movies I’ve ever seen. Yes, part of me even wants a Little Mermaid spinoff between Ursula and Javier Bardem’s King Triton, which the two actors have shared their interest in making.
When The Little Mermaid hit theaters early this summer, it performed below expectations at the box office, with a $569.5 million worldwide box office haul. With The Little Mermaid’s arrival on Disney+ this past week, it hit a huge record for the streaming service by earning 16 million views in its first five days on the platform. That number eclipsed the record Hocus Pocus 2 received in that window when it premiered on Disney+ last fall.
If you missed Melissa McCarthy’s Ursula in theaters, there’s no better time than the present to see what she did with the beloved Disney villain.