The Little Mermaid 2023 remake pulls major plot point from DVD sequel

Lucy-Jo Finnighan
The Little mermaid 3 and live-action ariel

The Little Mermaid live-action remake doesn’t just pull from the 1989 animated film – it also pulls a plot from a DVD sequel.

As of late, Disney has been re-imagining many of its most famous animated films and transferring them into the live-action world. From Cinderella and Aladdin to Beauty and the Beast, and now The Little Mermaid is the next classic to be given the live-action treatment. Audiences will no doubt be piling in to see the remake, which we encourage in our review of the film.

The plot of the film is as such: “The youngest of King Triton’s daughters, Ariel is a beautiful and spirited young mermaid with a thirst for adventure. Longing to find out more about the world beyond the sea, Ariel visits the surface and falls for the dashing Prince Eric.”

Now, the 1989 original helped kickstart the Broadway-esque formula of the Disney renaissance and its many movies. However, there was another trend that Disney tried in the early 2000s, that being a stream of direct to DVD sequels. These sequels have been somewhat forgotten over time, but now the live-action movie has referenced one of these sequels in a major way.

The Little Mermaid 2023 references the 2008 threequel

The Little Mermaid 3: Ariel’s Beginning was a second sequel to The Little Mermaid, coming after The Little Mermaid 2: Return to the Sea.

The plot is as such: “Set before the events of the original film, when Ariel is still young, all music has been banned from the underwater kingdom of Atlantica by King Triton after being heartbroken at his wife’s death. Ariel attempts to challenge this law.” Yes, that’s right – it’s underwater Footloose.

You can watch the promotional clip below, and the film is even available to watch in full on YouTube.

Now, these Little Mermaid sequels, like most of the direct to DVD sequels, weren’t necessarily good – The Little Mermaid 3 has a 33% rating on Rotten Tomatoes – but they were a large nostalgic part of many a childhood, so it’ll be interesting to see how many people spot the reference to the third film in the live-action version. But what reference are we talking about exactly?

The Little Mermaid 3 explains why Triton hates humans in the live-action movie

A big conflict of the original story is that King Triton won’t let Ariel go to the surface, despite how badly she wants to. Not much reason is given in the 1989 animated version; Triton simply states how it’s too dangerous. But in The Little Mermaid 3, we find out why.

As can be seen in the clip above, merfolk used to go to the surface all the time, but this abruptly stopped once Ariel’s mother was killed by sailors. Because of this trauma, Triton doesn’t want the same fate befalling his daughters.

Ultimately, the live-action 2023 film combines both of these stories, as it has Triton (played by Javier Bardem) state explicitly why Ariel (Halle Bailey) can’t go up to the human world. He explains that it’s dangerous, that humans will kill Ariel just like they killed her mother. We don’t see the mother die like we do in the sequel, but it will likely have been the same situation.

Now, Triton’s not entirely wrong, as the film actually opens with sailors attempting to harpoon what they think is a Mermaid – which is likely what happened to Ariel’s mother – and the humans are also just as fearful of merfolk, calling them dangerous “Sea Gods.”

However, Ariel rebuffs Triton’s beliefs, stating that humans like Eric wouldn’t hurt her, and that her mother wouldn’t want Triton to resent all of humanity.

This argument leads to Triton destroying all of Ariel’s human treasures, which is one of the most devastating parts of the film. However, Ariel doesn’t cry in this scene, which is actually a reference to the original written fairy-tale version of The Little Mermaid, which we explain more about here.

So, does Triton get over his hatred for humans? Well, you’ll have to watch the movie to find out.

The Little Mermaid will splash in cinemas on May 26. To read more of our Little Mermaid coverage, click here.

About The Author

Lucy-Jo is a Movies and TV Writer at Dexerto, and has previously written for Screen Rant and Girls on Tops. After earning a Master's Degree in Film and Literature, Lucy-Jo now loves covering films, TV shows, and anime, especially if it's something by Mike Flanagan, or anything drenched in camp. You can contact her at