COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — For local movie goers, going to see Disney’s new live-action version of “The Little Mermaid” has special significance. Mothers, daughters, friends and groups going into the AMC Classic 15 movie theater noted the importance of seeing an African American Ariel.

Bailey’s casting has faced controversy since it was announced in summer 2019, but in Columbus, where the population is 46.4% Black and 60.8% non-white according to the 2022 U.S. Census, viewers seemed to see it positively or were otherwise neutral.

“It’s a great representation for little girls of color – to see their hero look just like them,” said Alexis, who came prepared for an advance showing of the movie with a Disney princess t-shirt.

She felt more passionately about Bailey’s, a Georgia-native, casting than her movie-going partner Andy, who said Bailey as Ariel did not make a difference to him.

“I’m just gonna go and see it,” Andy said as the two entered the theater to see the movie, which does not officially release until tomorrow, May 26.  

As Sideeqah strode up to the theater with her daughter Aninah for the 5 p.m. showing of “The Little Mermaid,” she expressed similar thoughts as Alexis.

The mother said, “I like that she [Halle Bailey], you know, made the movie to just open up the kids’ eyes and just show them that they can do and be whoever they want to be, [that] this is their world.”

Although four-year-old Aninah wasn’t particularly concerned with Bailey’s casting as Ariel, she was excited for the show. She wore a skirt decorated with mermaids representing an array of skin-, hair- and tail colors.

Other guests were also excited to see Bailey in the role.

Mother and daughter pair Tamara and Jaleah Zachery were leaving an earlier showtime and felt enthusiastic about seeing a Black Ariel.

“It was amazing. It was beautiful,” said Tamara Zachery, and her teenage daughter agreed with a wide smile as they walked to the parking lot.

Jaleah Zachary said, “Love it. Absolutely…so beautiful.”

Before entering the theater, teenagers Zoey, Jacqueline and Fiona expressed positive sentiments toward seeing a childhood favorite as a woman of color.

“You know, Little Mermaid was definitely one of my childhood movies,” said Fiona as the group entered the theater, “I love the Little Mermaid, so seeing somebody of color represent, I love it.”

Most participants quoted in this article declined the use of their last names. Some declined the usage of their photos as supplementary to this article.