Flounder 1989 The Little Mermaid (l) Flounder 2023 The Little Mermaid (r)

Disney Plus/The Little Mermaid Disney/The Little Mermaid Remix by Caterina Cox

Flounder enters his flop era in ‘The Little Mermaid’ live-action remake

A more photorealistic version of Ariel’s fish isn’t going over well.


Michelle Jaworski

Internet Culture

Disney’s overall decision to make its non-human characters in live-action remakes look as photorealistic as possible has often been met with derision, especially when those characters are inevitably compared to their much more expressive, animated counterparts. With The Little Mermaid remake’s release on the horizon, we’re seeing that play out, memes and all, again as the film unveils what those animal characters look like.

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In the 1989 original film, Flounder is a round and bright yellow fish with blue stripes. He’s protective of Ariel (Halle Bailey) but also anxious about almost everything around him. The remake’s take on Flounder (voiced by Jacob Tremblay) still appears to have all of his anxieties intact, at least from the brief clip where we see him talk. But the look of Flounder is vastly different from the animated version: He’s slimmed down so much that he’s almost flat, his scales look silver with only hints of that original yellow hue, and those stripes are black instead of blue.

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Flounder was far from the only character who got a poster. We also saw a smoothed-over close-up of Ursula (Melissa McCarthy), Sebastian (Daveed Diggs), and Scuttle (Awkwafina), who’s in the water for some reason, among others.

But the photorealistic live-action treatment of Flounder is the problem with Disney’s live-action remake in a nutshell. It takes a colorful and animated character and strips him down to his most realistic attributes; the animated Flounder wasn’t designed to be a specific species of fish, but the “live-action” one is made to look closer to his namesake (although Disney doesn’t fully commit to having both eyes on one side of his body). The design also made it almost impossible for any of the heightened emotions Flounder will probably feel to appear on his face. In doing so, The Little Mermaid sucked the life out of him. To add another wrinkle, Disney still doesn’t look like it’s quite nailed making a talking, VFX-engineered animal character look natural.

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So naturally, the memes started cooking, including some that suggested that Disney was fat-shaming Flounder by making him skinny.

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Even if the design might not work, it’s certainly conveying that Flounder has seen some shit.

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There was even a joke about how the version of Flounder we’re seeing resulted from backlash toward a fanart rendition of Flounder that some people thought was real.

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Then again, it could’ve been way more disturbing.

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Flounder in his flop era will arrive on the big screen on May 26.

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