Original voice of Ariel shows support for Halle Bailey amid ‘Little Mermaid’ backlash

Jodi Benson, who voiced 'The Little Mermaid' in the 1989 animated film says Disney made the right choice in casting a Black actress for the role

In the wake of the controversy that has ensued since it was announced that Halle Bailey would be playing the part of Ariel in Disney’s upcoming live-action remake of The Little Mermaid — Jodi Benson, the character’s original voice, has spoken up in support of the young singer.

According to ComicBook.com, Saturday, Benson weighed in on the debate about having a Black actor in the title role at the Florida Supercon convention.

“The most important thing is to tell the story. And we have, as a family, we have raised our children, and for ourselves, that we don’t see anything that’s different on the outside,” she said graciously, differing racially charged opinions flying around social media.

READ MORE: Halle Bailey will play Ariel in Disney’s live-action remake of ‘The Little Mermaid’

“I think that the spirit of a character is what really matters. What you bring to the table in a character as far as their heart, and their spirit, is what really counts. And the outside package — cause let’s face it, I’m really, really old — and so when I’m singing ‘Part of Your World,’ if you were to judge me on the way that I look on the outside, it might change the way that you interpret the song. But if you close your eyes, you can still hear the spirit of Ariel.”

For Benson, who voiced Ariel not only in the 1989 movie but also in the two subsequent direct-to-video sequels and followup television series hopes audiences can get past their opinions on appearance and give Bailey a chance to continue the legacy of the beloved classic.

“We need to be storytellers. And no matter what we look like on the outside, no matter our race, our nation, the color of our skin, our dialect, whether I’m tall or thin, whether I’m overweight or underweight, or my hair is whatever color, we really need to tell the story,” she continued as the audience applauded in agreement.

“And that’s what we want to do, we want to make a connection to the audience. So I know for Disney that they have the heart of storytelling, that’s really what they’re trying to do. They want to communicate with all of us in the audience so that we can fall in love with the film again.”

READ MORE: Black Ariel casting choice for new ‘Little Mermaid’ inspires fan art depicting Halle Bailey in role