A rumor has begun to swirl that Disney’s Hollywood Studios is soon getting another major character change. We have heard that live-action Ariel, from the upcoming “The Little Mermaid” (2023), will be replacing Sulley at Walt Disney Presents.
Note, as with all rumors, nothing is true until confirmed by Disney themselves. While nothing has been specifically announced, we feel this rumor does have some merit.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios has been in a flurry of character offerings recently. This park has recently added The Mandalorian and Grogu, meet and greets with Mr. and Mrs. Incredible, sightings with Frozone and Edna Mode, meet and greets with Chip ‘N Dale Rescue Rangers, returned the meet and greets of Goofy, and added in new meets with Powerline Max. And just last year, we got the return of Fantasmic! with its updated projections and heroes storyline.
As Disney goes back to 100%, after major changes during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems Disney’s Hollywood Studios is leading the charge for character entertainment offerings. This is great to see, as the park appears to continually being adding something new. Sometimes after a large new offering, like Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, a park can stagnate for a few years. Instead, this park has continued to offer more, like Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, updated Fantasmic! and soon the Toy Story Roundup Rodeo BBQ.
Sulley, and other fan favorite Pixar characters, were brought back after the 2020 park closings as part of the Pixar Pals Motorcade. Sulley then moved to his pre-Covid spot at Walt Disney Presents. That is where he is today. But before Sulley, this location offered Moana meets as well as chances to visit Starlord and Baby Groot.
We have heard it’s time for Sulley to go, as a new film takes this spot inside of the Walt Disney Presents attraction. Sulley continues to be popular though, and is currently holding a 30 minute wait as this article is written. Ariel could be replacing Sulley, or he could be moved elsewhere.
Sulley currently meets inside of Walt Disney Presents, at approximentally the yellow circled area. The Walt Disney documentary (which is often replaced with seasonal Walt Disney Animation Studios previews) is located at the pink circled area. The green circled area is the still-closed Voyage of the Little Mermaid show.
Some had thought this show could be remade for the upcoming movie to include the new look of the live-action Ariel. Guest popularity could also make that a possibility, as it is sad to see a large theater building sitting vacant. But, rumors we have heard suggest the Sulley meet and greet is being replaced as part of a marketing move by Walt Disney Pictures.
This space where Sulley meets, and previously Moana, Star Lord and Baby Groot, each coincided with a film or Disney+ release. We believe it is quite possible this is happening again. And, this would allow Disney to advertise the African American live-action Ariel separately from the white cartoon version of Ariel. Many park fans were vocal online both for and against the idea of Ariel having an ambiguous race at the theme parks, much like Santa Claus is now.
Back in January, Disney was holding auditions for live-action Ariel look alikes. While it isn’t confirmed as to where Ariel will be meeting, it is assumed these auditions are lining up for the May 26, 2023 film debut. We highly suspect Ariel will be showing up in the theme parks within the next few months. Perhaps live-action Ariel could even get a special welcome, like Princess Elena of Avalor.
Again, take this information as a rumor, because it is. Disney’s live-action films have continually drawn large crowds to the theater, such as the the 2019 “Lion King” remake that grossed over 1.6 billion dollars in the box office. We expect this version of “The Little Mermaid” will also be a huge hit in theaters. Disney’s marketing teams could be teaming up with the parks and resorts division for some synergy under the sea.