‘The Little Mermaid’ Makeup Artist Responds to Ursula Criticism

Credit: Instagram/@disneylittlemermaid

Audience members have shared their disappointment in Ursula’s underwhelming makeup look, and the artist is responding to the reviews.

“It wasn’t based on any drag acts at all.”

British artist Peter Swords King is an Oscar-winning makeup artist with over four decades of experience. He won his award in 2003 for his work on the classic film, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. However, his latest project, Disney’s live-action retelling of The Little Mermaid, did not receive the same praise.

As many fans of the fairytale know, the evil sea witch Ursula is inspired by the legendary drag queen Divine. Animator Rob Minkoff said the original character sketch showed Ursula as a thin, bony woman with lionfish-inspired features. But then he decided to go a different direction. “Divine seemed like such a great, larger than life character, and it just seemed like a funny and quirky idea to take [Ursula] and treat her more like a drag queen.”

Seeing one of the most villainous Disney characters brought back to life in 2023 made many fans eager to snatch a ticket to the film’s premiere. Until they saw a sneak peek of Ursula’s on-screen look. Many queens on Twitter were quick to point out a few flaws in the details.

RuPaul’s Drag Race star Kerri Colby, wrote on Twitter, “Absolutely why we should hire up and coming queer artists with a pulse on the present and a vision for the future more often. Yes I agree, this is that.”

King Responds to Ursula Controversy

In an interview with Insider, King said he found all of the flack, “very offensive.”

“Why can’t I do as good a job as a queer makeup artist?

“That’s ridiculous. That’s trying to claim it and that’s fine, if that’s what they wanna do, but don’t put people down because they’re not what they want it to be,” he added.

King said he worked closely with Melissa McCarthy to create a cohesive villain for the film, but did not pull any inspirations whatsoever. Not even from the original 1989 animation.


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A post shared by Melissa McCarthy (@melissamccarthy)

“It was me. I didn’t really draw on anything. I played around quite a lot with different colors, different shapes, and stuff,” he said. “It just was sort of Melissa and I talking and creating. So I didn’t really draw on anything at all.”

“I personally don’t get it, he continued. “Yes, I’m very old now, so that’s fine, I get that too, but, you know, a makeup artist or makeup designer could design makeup, they don’t have to have an attachment to the nature of what they’re doing,” he added.

Though McCarthy has spoken openly about how important a role drag played in creating her Ursula, King said he did not take the same approach.

“We discussed everything. I mean, we both laughed about how much we love drag queens and drag makeup and stuff. But it wasn’t based on any drag acts at all,” he said.


Melissa McCarthy Defends Drag Queens on IG

In March, McCarthy shared an image on Instagram showing many mainstream films like Mrs. Doubtfire and Some Like it Hot, saying, “You’ve been entertained by drag all your life. Don’t pretend it’s a problem now.” To The Guardian, she elaborated on her stance and said she finds it “absolute lunacy” that lawmakers focus on drag performances rather than other more serious concerns.

“Of all the scary and dangerous things going on in the world, they want to concentrate on this? To anybody who has a real problem with drag, I need to ask: have you been to a drag brunch? It’s delightful.”


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A post shared by Melissa McCarthy (@melissamccarthy)

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‘The Little Mermaid’ Makeup Artist Responds to Ursula Criticism
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