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The History Behind Ariel’s Red Hair from Disney’s “The Little Mermaid”

Ariel was suppose to be blonde

The Little Mermaid was released in 1989 and for many redheads, it was a staple in our childhoods. Ariel was the first redhead Disney princess and for many little redhead girls, seeing a princess that looked like them was magical. It has been close to thirty-five years since the original movie has released and like the world, Ariel has evolved into who she is today. Take a scroll through the history of her red hair:

Blonde Ariel

Did you know that Ariel was originally supposed to be blonde? TikToker @arthurhia covers all things dolls and recently let us in on some interesting info about the original Ariel. According to a video by this creator, the original concept art for Ariel shows her as a blonde. After a simple Google search, she is right.

Source & Full-Credit: Disney

The blonde mermaid looks nothing like the Ariel we know and love today, but it does resemble the mermaid from Splash (played by Daryl Hannah) that came out in 1984.

The video goes on to talk about how this original concept for Ariel was too close to the Splash mermaid and the designers wanted to differentiate Ariel, so her red hair was born.

We can’t imagine Ariel without her red hair, but not everyone felt the same way back in the 80s. Tyco Toys was contracted to make the official Ariel doll and when they saw the hair color change, they didn’t like it!. According to the video, the company didn’t think a redhead doll would sell. TikToker @arthuria explains that this is “odd” because in the 80s there were plenty of other redhead dolls on the market made by other companies. Tyco Toys actually made Ariel a blonde in the first model.

Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” Ariel COOL TEEN PEARL Mermaid Doll Tyco 1992

Strawberry Blonde Ariel

Tyco Toys was not the only toy company to alter Ariel’s hair. The video goes on to say another company called Applause released an Ariel doll with strawberry blonde hair, but with more of a natural ginger color, unlike Ariel’s fire-engine red hair in the movie.

Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” Ariel Applause 1995 Doll

Fire Engine Red Ariel

One other place Ariel’s hair color didn’t really translate was in the Disney theme parks. In 1989, the year the film was released, her character was seen with light orange/strawberry blonde hair. Of course, people loved the movie and Ariel, and viewers expected the dolls and the character actors to match the movie. This is why Ariel was soon represented with the same shade of red hair in every way possible.

Watch the entire TikTok video here:


#dolls #disney #ariel #thelittlemermaid #disneyland #wdw #tyco

♬ Under the Sea – Michael Hanley & Disney Peaceful Piano & Disney Peaceful Guitar

Ariel with red locs! 

In 2019, Disney announced its casting of Chloe x Halle singer Halle Bailey as Ariel in their live-action remake of The Little Mermaid. In 2022, we got a sneak peek of how Halle will be portrayed in the film releasing May 2023. We absolutely love it. “As a Black woman, hair is spiritual, especially locs. It was really cool for them to make Ariel a version of me with my locs,” Halle said in a recent interview.

When we received a sneak peek trailer of Halle Bailey in The Little Mermaid, it took everyone’s breath away. We loved this trending video on Instagram: 

But the news of the 22-year-old singer/actor landing the role didn’t sit well with everyone. In a new interview with The Face, Halle reflected on the racist backlash occurring during the announcement and release of the trailer, “As a Black person, you just expect it, and it’s not really a shock anymore,” she said.

In an effort to stay positive, Halle does see this as a moment of celebration. ”It makes me feel more grateful for where I am,” Halle said, referencing the videos of little girls’ positive reactions to her rendition of Ariel.

Halle aims to portray a version of Ariel that everyone can enjoy despite the backlash. “I just want to continue to heal through my art. Each project I’ve done has taught me something about myself, has given me something to live off,” Halle concluded. ​“If somebody can take something away from whatever character I’m playing, that’s all that matters to me.”

We love and appreciate that Ariel’s hair will continue to evolve and give representation to many. What do you think?

Rock it like a Redhead!


READ: Halle Bailey Will Play Ariel in ‘The Little Mermaid’ Remake

READ: Celebs Are Dyeing Their Hair Siren Red Like “The Little Mermaid” And It’s Okay