‘The Little Mermaid’ is sprayed in China and South Korea after racist backlash

The little Mermaid is being doused in some overseas markets amid a racist backlash over the casting of black actress Halle Bailey as Ariel.

The film earned just $3.6 million in its first 10 days of release in China, by far the worst showing among Disney’s live-action adaptations. The film is also struggling in South Korea, where it has grossed $4.4 million through June 4. Sources familiar with the film, as well as box office analysts, say Disney knew Little Mermaid might face challenges, but is surprised by the magnitude of the backlash and its impact.

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The social media outcry over Bailey’s casting has been particularly loud in both markets. Sources believe this resulted in unverified audience reviews bashing the film. In South Korea, such criticism even made the headlines.

Negative public reviews have also taken over social media in China. And just before the film opens in that country, the government-affiliated company world times published an op-ed castigating Disney’s motives.

“The controversy surrounding Disney’s forced inclusion of minorities in classic films is not about racism, but about its lazy and irresponsible storytelling strategy,” the editorial said. “Many Chinese netizens said that like ‘Snow White’, the image of the mermaid princess in Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales has long been rooted in their hearts, and it takes a leap of imagination to accept the new cast.”

The editorial further questioned whether Disney’s “political correctness” was driven by financial interests or a genuine concern for representation.

Bailey landed the role in the summer of 2019 after an extensive search that included hundreds of actresses.

“She immediately set the bar so high that no one exceeded it,” said director Rob Marshall. THR last month. “We saw all ethnicities. There was no program for choosing a woman of color. It was really just, “Let’s find the best Ariel,” and Halle claimed the role.

Bailey’s performance was widely praised by critics and audiences alike (verified).

In China, Hollywood revenues have fallen dramatically since the pandemic. America’s biggest hits so far this year have been x fast And Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, both nearing the end of their runs with current totals of around $125 million and $78.8 million, respectively. Those are solid numbers, but far less than each franchise’s predecessors. F9: the fast saga (2021) earned $217 million and F8 (2017) took $392.8 million in China; while Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) grossed $100 million. And every other American tent pole has done much worse this year.

But even in a collective context of diminishing Chinese potential, the scale of The little MermaidThe flop of is remarkable. King of the jungle (2016) and The Lion King (2019) were bona fide blockbusters in China, earning $150 million and $120 million respectively, while Aladdin (2019) grossed $53.5 million. Even Cruelwhich was released during the pandemic, grossed $24 million, far more than Little Mermaid eventually will.

“It’s disappointing,” said the Little Mermaid initiated.

Adds a source outside the studio who follows the performance of the Hollywood event photos: “We did not expect the racist reaction and therefore, the image to underperform internationally.”

In the USA, The little Mermaid did a good business despite protests from some regarding Bailey’s casting. The film made north of $186 million in its first 10 days and is on par with live-action success. Aladdin. On his second weekend, Little Mermaid fell about 58% in North America as Spider-Man: Through the Spider-Verse entered the market.

Box office analysts believe Little Mermaid could reach 350 million dollars in the domestic market. AladdinDomestic haul was $355.6 million.

Abroad, Aladdin hit $695.1 million for a worldwide total of $1.05 billion. South Korea, however, accounted for $91 million, while China contributed $53.5 million. It remains to be seen where Little Mermaid lands internationally. It ended June 4 with a foreign tally of $140.5 million after debuting a week earlier for a disappointing $68.3 million (Disney had counted on at least $80 million ). The good news: the female bias has held up well in a number of markets, and it continues to play particularly well in Latin America.

Japan is another key market for Little Mermaidwhere it opens in the next few days (Aladdin earned $112.5 million in this territory).

Disney’s latest marketing push in Japan heralds the film’s strong verified viewership score on Rotten Tomatoes, as well as the film’s promising start in North America. The studio also continues to focus on the praise Bailey has earned.

As for fighting bad faith user reviews, observers say that’s harder to do internationally.

“At the national level, you can search by verification [audience] reviews,” notes a box office analyst. “Internationally, you can’t.”

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