Miami Producer Brings “The Little Mermaid” to Life

Poppy Drayton as Elizabeth the mermaid

We’ve all grown up with the animated Disney film “The Little Mermaid,” and on Friday a Miami producer will be bringing it to life.

Armando Gutierrez, who produced the film (and also had an acting role), has been working on the story with his crew for three years, and after laborious shooting and CGI wok, it’s finally coming to the big screen in South Florida.

“The Little Mermaid” stars Shirley McClain, who is a grandmother reading the storybook to her two grandchildren—one played by Claire Crosby, who went viral with her rendition of “Part of Your World”—taking them to a river town in Mississippi, where the locals are enchanted by the capture of a mermaid (Poppy Drayton) at the circus.

When you see it, you’ll understand why we were all just fascinated to make it,” Gutierrez said.

And by the looks of the Youtube trailer, with more than 14 million views, the public is excited, too. Before the premiere, Boca mag had a chance to talk with Gutierrez about the fantastical fairy tale.

Loreto Peralta as Elle

What inspired you to bring “The Little Mermaid” to film?

The trend now is to re-explore these classic fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales, the Brothers Grimm, so we had been talking about doing a live-action retelling of one fo the classics and Blake Harris, who wrote the script, just had such a really cool twist on the mermaids in the traditional environment of a castle. He took it in a different direction where she was trapped in a in a circus, and obviously circuses are inherently very mysterious and very exotic. When you see it, you’ll understand why we were all just fascinated to make it.

Many people have grown up with the Disney animated film, how does this story differ from that?

We stay true to the story behind the mermaid, coming from the underwater world, but then as soon as she gets to land it’s a completely new twist. I don’t want to spoil the end, but we surprise the audience with giving them little story-driven points taking you back to the classic tale that everyone loves. We do have music, she does sing, you’ll get a little bit of that and of course everyone wants to see the mermaid sing. And then the mermaid swimming underwater, we actually had her swim in the mermaid tail in Weeki Wachee, the mermaid village. You’ll be able to see very very authentic mermaid scenes that a lot of people have really responded to.

Why did you decide to bring the mermaid to the South, in Mississippi?

The south always has that level of mystery to it and mystique. We talked about putting the circus in a lot of places but we said, you know what, just picture a circus along the Mississippi River. It just gave us a lot more ways we can turn the story. 

Shirley McClain plays the grandmother, how did she get involved?

Shirley McClain, she’s a legend, it’s a once in a lifetime kind of thing. The grandmother role was critical because the movie is done in  away where the grandmother is reading the story to her grandkids. We knew from day one it had to be somebody that would just drive you emotionally to stay connected to the story, kind of like Columbo did in “The Princess Bride.” And when Shirley’s team said she was available, obviously everyone was like, woah, let’s go for it!

Armando Gutierrez as Locke

Not only are you the producer, you play the role of Locke.

I play the bad guy, or like the internet is calling me, “Ursulo!” That was fun, I’m the circus ringleader that’s trapped the mermaid. 

I would get to set and if i was acting that day I would be the bad guy and be all suited up in wardrobe as a ring leader, and then the next day i would be in my regular civilian clothing as producer. 

You are a University of Miami graduate, what did you study?

I studied English because I thought I wanted to be a lawyer. But then I ended up taking a different track in business. But I always wanted to make movies, that was always the plan, to give it a shot to make a few movies.

The film will be played at local AMC theaters, including CityPlace 20 in West Palm Beach and Pompano Beach 18.