The Auteurs Are Coming For Your Childhood, And That’s a Good Thing

By  · Published on March 19th, 2014

Credit: Andrew Durham

Whosits and whatsits galore can only provide fulfillment and amusement for so long, at least that’s what Ariel the mermaid princess learned in Disney’s The Little Mermaid, an appropriately sanitized spin on the classic Hans Christian Andersen tale. If you’re familiar with any of Andersen’s works, you’re most likely aware that plenty of his works have been retooled for a wider audience – basically, kids we’re trying to keep from having horrible nightmares – though that doesn’t exactly reflect the spirit of the original works. Honestly, they’re pretty terrifying.

Andersen’s take on the lovelorn mermaid princess will next hit the big screen care of an auteur who has made her bread and butter by portraying the particular ennui and pain of privilege, making it a pretty canny match. Deadline reports that Sofia Coppola will next direct a live action version of the story for Universal Pictures and Working Title, which comes complete with a script that’s been through a number of screenwriters, including Kelly Marcel (50 Shades of Grey), Abi Morgan (Shame), and Caroline Thompson (Edward Scissorhands).

The outlet does, somewhat strangely, report that “this is a departure for Coppola in that her projects are usually focused on adult themes. She’s got kids and it wouldn’t be shocking if she wanted to please them with a movie they can see and understand.” A quick refresh of the original Andersen story should pretty handily dispel any notions that this next Coppola feature will be family friendly, despite the familiarity of the Disney project so loosely based on the source material.

Basically – Andersen’s Little Mermaid is not for kids, and we suspect that Coppola’s will not be either. Although the Disney version of the film came with (spoiler alert?) a big happy ending, Andersen’s story doesn’t end on such a high note. Whereas the animated take on the tale imagined that the evil “Sea Witch” (that would be Ursula in Disney talk) attempted to trick the dashing prince by posing as a beautiful (but obviously nefarious) princess to take away his affection for the mute but mobile Ariel, Andersen’s story doesn’t boast such deception. Instead, there’s the Witch, the mermaid, and an actual (non-evil) princess. The prince goes for the princess. The mermaid dies. Roll credits. (If you’d like to read Andersen’s version, here you go.)

Coppola is not the only auteur going after beloved childhood favorites for a big-time (if retooled and reimagined) feature. Elsewhere, Joe Wright is tackling the world of Peter Pan with his already slightly problematic Pan (interestingly, he was also rumored for this Little Mermaid gig), David Lowery is penning his own take on Pete’s Dragon, and David Gordon Green is working on a big screen version of “Little House on the Prairie.” Although it’s dead easy to bemoan that such new films are destroying precious childhood memories, when such skilled and accomplished talents are the ones behind said new films, it’s hopeful to assume that the final product will be worth it. If you love Laura Ingalls Wilder and her, well, wild tales of life on the prairie, why wouldn’t you want someone like Green to bring it back to the big screen? (Assuming, of course, that he doesn’t cast Jonah Hill in a role.) Like Disney’s Little Mermaid? Coppola’s film isn’t going to threaten that. Always thought that Peter Pan was too white? (Well, nevermind on that one.)

What these new projects can do is both reignite old loves and spark new ones, by reminding fans what they loved about the originals and giving them a fresh perspective, while also ensnaring a brand new audience. It’s a win-win, at least in the best case scenario. Don’t you want to share something you love with lots of receptive people?

Deadline also reports that “the intention is to move quickly” on Coppola’s Little Mermaid, so here’s hoping that information is actually true, because we can’t wait to see Coppola’s splashy version of maniacal fairy tale love on the big screen.