The Wonderful World of Disney presents The Little Mermaid Live! on ABC on Tuesday night, which stars Auli’i Cravalho as Ariel. While the two-hour musical interpretation is being performed live in front of a studio audience on the Disney lot in Los Angeles, viewers can’t help but wonder about Cravalho, and where the show’s talented lead actress is originally from.
The 18-year-old singer, who made her Hollywood debut voicing the titular role in Disney’s hit movie Moana, is American. Cravalho was born in Kohala, Hawaii, but raised in Mililani. Cravalho is also of Portuguese, Chinese and Irish descent.
In a simple twist of fate, four years before being cast as Ariel, Cravalho told People that Ariel was the Disney princess that she always felt the strongest connection.
In 2015 she said, “When I was younger I lived on Hawai’i, in the small town of Kohala… There were the trees and rolling green hills. It was beautiful and quaint but at the same time, I always wanted to just venture out. It wasn’t necessarily as difficult as it was for Ariel to give up her voice and walk on land, but it was still a challenge for me to change schools and change the place I had known so much, to go to someplace totally different. But in the end I’m really glad that I did!.”
Cravalho Got To Meet With Jodi Benson, The Original Voice of Ariel
While speaking at the Television Critics Association alongside Little Mermaid Live! producer Hamilton Hamish, and the movie’s original music composer Alan Menken, Cravalho said, “There are so many similarities I can relate to,” when it comes to playing the iconic young mermaid. “I’m curious to know what’s just beyond my reach.” When asked about the first time she ever saw the movie, with a laugh she said, “I think we had a VHS.”
Disney is honoring the 30th anniversary of The Little Mermaid film with the live hybrid presentation, which include airing original parts of the movie, and their new Ariel got meet Jodi Benson, the original actress who voiced the red-headed heroine.
Benson, who’s now 57, and has two children with husband Ray Benson, told The Today Show that she loves that the film has stood the test of time. She said, “I love to hear where [people] were the first time they saw the movie, what they were wearing, what they were feeling, who they were with. It connects them to this magical memory that they get to keep inside.”
As for whether or not Cravalho feels the pressure of being compared to Benson, she seemed unbothered by the inevitable. She said, “I had the honor meeting Jodi Benson, who brought this character to life, but I share that joy Ariel has and there’s so much to play with that. I don’t have to worry too much what I’m bringing to character because I bring myself and that’s enough.”
Much like Cravalho, Benson described having an immediate deep understanding of Ariel. She said, “There’s nothing impossible for her. And that’s who I am. I’m very tenacious. I will knock on a closed door until it slams literally in my face. So that’s how we connect.”