Brandy ran in glass slippers as Cinderella, so Halle Bailey could swim in the ocean as the Little Mermaid.
Cinderella’s fairy godmother must have left out this minor detail during her song because no one could have predicted this day would come. While Bailey is adding color to the movie screens, she is not the only Black mermaid in the sea. It is a momentous time in Black girl magic history.
Disney Cruise Line’s newest ship, The Wish, honors the inclusion of Black representation from its design to its onboard activities. The hallways near the Untangled Salon are home to artwork featuring beautiful Black children dressed as princesses and princes. The ship also has a The Bayou lounge, inspired by Disney’s first animated Black princess, Tiana, and her hometown, New Orleans.
The ship’s musical performances of The Little Mermaid
In Travel Noire’s experience of the musical in the summer of 2022, we watched as Princess Ariel’s understudy, her best friend Sebastian, and her arch nemesis Ursula were played by Black women and men.
The performance gave us chills, wondering if we missed the collection plate between all the amens and hallelujahs geared towards Sebastian – played by Montel Butler – who takes you to church during the iconic number “Under The Sea.”
Janae Hammond was a familiar face onboard for those who witnessed her talents early on as she played Princess Tiana from the Princess and the Frog on the Disney Wish and the Princess Ariel understudy.
And while we’re all supposed to be upset with Ursula — played by Rachel Fobbs — for manipulating our beloved Ariel, you’ll find that you can’t help but to want more as Fobbs serenades the audience with her incredible voice.
In an interview with Travel Noire, Rachel Fobbs shares the inspiration behind her dream-come-true role.
TN: What inspired you to audition for this role?
Rachel Fobbs: I worked with our wonderful director, Amy Corcoran, before. She is really an advocate for girl power … a feminist through and through, and it’s amazing. I asked her, ‘where are you going next? I’ll follow you anywhere?’ She told me was going to Disney, and I said I’m going to audition.
TN: What was your reaction when you got the call?
RF: I auditioned in August 2021 and got the call the following November. It’s a dream come true. Every girl grows up wanting to be a Disney princess, but, of course, I wanted to be the Disney Sea Witch.
I’m blessed that I made it through, and I’m excited to be here. It’s my first time working for Disney.
TN: Do you feel like you’re carrying a weight on your shoulders knowing that many people don’t get to see many Black women playing Ursula?
RF: I feel like Disney’s very conscious decision to reflect the world we live in and let every child see themselves on the stage. It’s exciting to be a part of that vision and this new age of what Disney is all about.
TN: What do you hope people experience when they see the show?
RF: This is a new retelling of The Little Mermaid. It’s more modern and more focused on Ariel finding her voice and identity in this world.
I think it’s an exciting chance for kids to come and see themselves to figure out what they want to stand for and who they want to be.
For people who love The Little Mermaid, you’ll still have everything you know and love about the musical. Every song is still there. It’s still the same story but feels fresh in a way where Ariel is not a damsel in distress. She takes charge and creates a path for herself, which feels really good.
TN: Is there anything else you want people to know about this show that you feel is important?
RF: I’m always going to plug Ursula because she’s my girl. She’s going to be doing a lot of exciting new things. She’s also going to be using her magic a lot more.
This article has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.