Advertisement

'The Little Mermaid' star Jacob Tremblay says 'it's OK to feel skeptical' about the Disney remake

"It's a big part of my childhood, a big part of other's childhoods," the 16-year-old Canadian actor said

Canadian actor Jacob Tremblay arrives for the world premiere of Disney's
Canadian actor Jacob Tremblay arrives for the world premiere of Disney's "The Little Mermaid" at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California, on May 8, 2023. (Photo by VALERIE MACON / AFP) (Photo by VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images)

From acting in movies like Room and Wonder, and even starring in a Justin Bieber music video for the song "Lonely," Canadian actor Jacob Tremblay takes part in the live action remake of one of Disney's most beloved animated films, The Little Mermaid (now in theatres), voicing the character of Flounder.

"Definitely a pinch me moment," Tremblay told Yahoo Canada about taking on such a well-known role. "It felt very surreal that they had thought of me for this role and to be part of this film."

"It's a big part of my childhood, a big part of other's childhoods. I don't even remember watching it for the first time just because I was shown it at such a young age, but it was it was very exciting."

'It's OK to feel skeptical'

The Little Mermaid cast is filled with massive stars, including Tremblay, Halle Bailey as Ariel, Melissa McCarthy as Ursula, Javier Bardem as King Triton, Daveed Diggs voicing Sebastian and Awkwafina voicing Scuttle. But there's always some skepticism from the public when something so iconic and beloved is reinvented.

For Tremblay, while he understands that trepidation around what this new version will look and feel like, he's confident that this remake "genuinely works," and is a great way to introduce the story to a new generation.

"It's OK to feel skeptical," Tremblay said. "What I love about this film is that I think it genuinely works and I think it genuinely was a good adaptation."

Something that has been a pattern in Disney's live-action remakes is that the public has been quite vocal about is what these characters look like, for better or worse. When the first images of Flounder were released, it was clear that the character is a far cry from the animated character we saw in the 1989 film.

"I really like it," Tremblay said about what Flounder looks like in this version of The Little Mermaid. "I actually was shown the original design for the remake when I went in for the audition, and I have to say, I really liked what they did."

"What's really cool about it is that these are all real animals. ... All the animals included are real animals that you can find under the ocean. So I think that was just so cool that they did that."

Flounder, voiced by Jacob Tremblay, in Disney's The Little Mermaid (Disney)
Flounder, voiced by Jacob Tremblay, in Disney's The Little Mermaid (Disney)

'Unrecognizable' childhood voice

Unlike most animated projects, Tremblay and his cast mates didn't have to do their voice recording alone in a booth. The actor got to work with his co-stars in person, and cameras were set up to capture their facial expressions to help influence the final versions of the characters.

"[Director Rob Marshall] is a genius," Tremblay said. "I remember just watching his whole process during rehearsal and he had everything thought out, very organized, ... very creative."

"He just does a great job at making you feel confident and making you feel confident to try new things, and experiment with it, and make you feel welcome to mess up."

This is also the first time Tremblay is singing in a project, alongside a cast of award-winning musicians and iconic vocalists. With this film taking years to actually be released, Tremblay said his younger voice is so "unrecognizable" that sometimes he's even forgotten that it's his voice.

"My voice back then was very different than it is now, which has been a topic lately," Tremblay said. "Since my voice was so different, I could hit a lot higher notes."

"So they typically had me doing the higher pitched part of 'Kiss The Girl' in the background, which was really cool. ... I was pretty nervous but ... Rob and Halle and everyone on set, everyone just was so warm and welcoming, and just made you feel at home."

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 15: (L to R) Jonah Hauer-King, Jacob Tremblay, Melissa McCarthy, Halle Bailey, Rob Marshall, Javier Bardem and Daveed Diggs attend the UK Premiere of
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 15: (L to R) Jonah Hauer-King, Jacob Tremblay, Melissa McCarthy, Halle Bailey, Rob Marshall, Javier Bardem and Daveed Diggs attend the UK Premiere of "The Little Mermaid" at Odeon Luxe Leicester Square on May 15, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Hoda Davaine/Dave Benett/WireImage)

'I now get to look back at different parts of my childhood'

Tremblay has come an impressively long way in his career, moving from a child actor to a teen star. He has also seamlessly been able to transition to animation work like a pro, assisted by the COVID-19 pandemic that halted many other opportunities.

"I definitely personally prefer to kind of be there in-person, with a costume and on set," Tremblay said, "I think that helps me develop in the character more."

"[For animation] you have to really make sure you're displaying each of those emotions with how you say the lines, which is challenging, but it's really cool and I've really enjoyed doing that."

Jacob Tremblay seen on stage at WE Day on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016, in Toronto. (Photo by Arthur Mola/Invision/AP)
Jacob Tremblay seen on stage at WE Day on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016, in Toronto. (Photo by Arthur Mola/Invision/AP)

Born and raised in British Columbia, 16-year-old Tremblay is happy to have an archive of his childhood to look back on, between his on screen roles, and footage of himself in interviews and award shows.

"What's really cool is that I now get to look back at different parts of my childhood with these films," Tremblay said. "For example, Wonder, ... I completely remember that whole experience on that film during that summer."

"So it's really cool to kind of look back at that, and just remember those memories. ... I'll always have that."