“The Little Mermaid”  live-action remake is swimming into theaters this holiday weekend.

Orange native, and longtime Hollywood producer John Deluca, along with life partner and director Rob Marshall, say they wanted to add a modern twist to the beloved 1989 Disney animated classic.

“I instantly associated with this ‘outsider’ theme,” Deluca said. “That to me was very, very important.”

The filmmakers compare the new movie to an underwater version of Romeo and Juliet, with Halle Bailey in the title role of Ariel. When the casting choice of Bailey was announced in 2019, it was met with strong reactions.

“When we were making this, we feel the world more divided and divisive in a way,” Marshall said. “It was this wonderful anecdote this entire time about not being afraid about what’s on the other side of the border, not being afraid of someone different than you.”

Due to the heavy reliance on CGI, Marshall says that they spent years preparing for the film, a “daunting” task, he admitted.

“We all had to learn and to collaborate,” added Deluca. “We had to have these methodology meetings to figure out how to do it. It is such a balancing act, the way the stunt people had to move and flow, and the actors, the whole thing was a musical exercise.”

Deluca and Marshall, both former choreographers and dancers, credit members of the Alvin Ailey Dance Company, who replicated the movements of sea creatures to help them visualize certain scenes.

“We thought we’d at least start with something tangible, and we needed to really physicalize it to understand how we were going to do it,” Marshall said.

“The Little Mermaid” is in theaters May 26th. The Clairidge theater in Montclair is holding a sensory friendly screening of the film June 3rd at 10 a.m.

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