A sequel you’ve never seen almost sank the original ‘Little Mermaid’

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This image released by Disney shows Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric, left, and Halle Bailey as Ariel in “The Little Mermaid.” (Disney via AP)

(NEXSTAR) — Disney’s latest live-action remake is set to make a splash in theaters this weekend — the much-anticipated “The Little Mermaid.” But the new film, which stars R&B music star Halle Bailey as Princess Ariel, has some big (water) shoes to fill.

The original 1989 film ranks among Disney’s most beloved films and has gone on to get its own animated TV prequel series, two direct-to-video sequels and a hit Broadway musical. But did you know the movie — credited with jumpstarting the Disney Renaissance — was not an immediate hit among creators when it was pitched as a potential new Disney film?

And it’s all because of Tom Hanks and Darryl Hannah.

Back in 1984, Hanks and Hannah teamed up for the mermaid-human romantic comedy “Splash,” directed by Ron Howard. Produced by Touchstone Pictures, Disney’s now-defunct adult-targeted films division, the film was a massive hit and took home nearly $70 million globally, according to Box Office Mojo.

THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO — Pictured: (l-r) Actor Tom Hanks with host Jay Leno on June 11, 2004. A DVD copy of 1984’s “Splash” can be seen (Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images)

As explained by “The Little Mermaid” co-director/co-writer writer Ron Clements, though Clements’ two-page treatment (based the original Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale) was a hit with the creators’ room during a massive 1985 massive pitch meeting called “The Gong Show,” then-Disney CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg nixed the idea.

Clements explains in “Treasures Untold: The Making of ‘The Little Mermaid,'” a special feature on many editions of the movie, that Katzenberg thought the idea was too similar to a “Splash” sequel that was in development at that time. Thankfully, the decision was short-lived.

“The next day, I got a call from Jeffrey Katzenberg who said he’d read the treatment and actually thought it had potential — and it was put into development,” recalled Clements.

For “The Little Mermaid,” the rest is history. The film released Nov. 17, 1989 and earned over $84 million at the global box office in its initial run, in addition to earning two Academy Awards.

Now, in case you’re wondering whatever happened with the “Splash” sequel that nearly jeopardized the existence of “Part of Your World,” you may be surprised to know the film actually did get made.

Ultimately, Walt Disney Studios did not produce the movie for a theatrical release and the film landed in the company’s television division. The made-for-TV film “Splash, Too,” aired on ABC in two parts, as part of “The Disney Sunday Movie” programming block on May 1 and 8, 1988.

Although none of the original “Splash” stars returned, the movie followed the same characters years later, as Hanks’ character (who chooses to live an underwater life at the end of the first film) begins missing life back in New York City.

Little information about the film exists online and though it received a European and Australian VHS release in 1988, “Splash, Too” was never released in the United States. The film later went out of print and has yet to see another home video or streaming release — though it could potentially be seen uploaded to a certain Google-owned video hosting site, if you’re curious.

“Splash, Too,” currently holds a 44% Audience Score on Rotten Tomatoes (out of 250 ratings) and a 2.2 rating average on review site Letterboxd. “Possibly the worst film I’ve ever seen, but enjoyed seeing EPCOT used as a set. One star for location,” reads one recent review.

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