Samuel Wright, Voice of Sebastian in The Little Mermaid, Dead at 74

Samuel Wright, voice of The Little Mermaid’s fan-favorite crustacean Sebastian the Crab and Broadway’s original Mufasa, has passed away aged 74.

Voice actor, Broadway performer, and singer, Samuel Wright, best known as the voice of Sebastian the Crab in Disney’s The Little Mermaidhas passed away aged 74. The 1989 animated classic, The Little Mermaid, was Disney’s 28th animated feature film and was based on the 1837 fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen. Winning Academy Awards for Best Original Score and Best Original Song for Under the Sea which was sung by Wright, the film’s release heralded what has come to be known as “Disney’s Renaissance” from 1989 to 1999. This was when the studio returned to producing critical and commercial hits with their animated films mostly based on well-known stories, as they once did under the control of studio founder, Walt Disney, up until the 1960s.

Wright, who released his own soul music single, There’s Something Funny Going On, in 1973, originated the role of Sam in the Over Here! musical on Broadway in 1974, and was nominated for two Tony Awards for Best Featured Actor in a Musical in 1984, and again in 1998 as the original lead actor of Mufasa in The Lion King stage show. Wright also has a handful of live-action screen credits, including the short-lived Dukes of Hazzard spin-off series Enos, and as Jazz legend, Dizzy Gillespie, in Clint Eastwood’s 1988 film, Bird. When The Little Mermaid songwriters, Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, were unsuccessful in casting the role of Sebastian in Los Angeles, the pair turned to New York and were stunned by Wright’s energetic Broadway-style audition, and he was quickly snapped up.

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Wright passed in his sleep at his home in Walden, New York on May 24. It is reported that Wright had been battling prostate cancer before his death. Wright’s passing was announced via the Town of Montgomery’s Facebook page, which stated the following:

Sam and his family have impacted countless Hudson Valley youth always inspiring them to reach higher and dig deeper to become the best version of themselves. On top of his passion for the arts and his love for his family, Sam was most known for walking into a room and simply providing PURE JOY to those he interacted with. He loved to entertain, he loved to make people smile and laugh and he loved to love.

Sebastian the Crab in Disney's The Little Mermaid

This will come as sad news not only for the countless Disney fans who grew up at the time of The Little Mermaid’s release, but for the millions of others who have managed to experience Wright’s delightful vocals via home video releases over the decades. Wright’s enduring legacy is indelibly connected with the fan-favorite crustacean, for whom he continued to provide the voice in two other films, connected musical albums, and video games. Sebastian would also prove to be Wright’s final role before he retired, where he voiced the character for the 2008 direct-to-video prequel, The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning.

Wright is survived by his wife, Amanda, and three children, Keely, Dee and Sam. The Little Mermaid actor was an amazing talent whose legacy will continue to inspire music lovers and Disney fans alike for generations to come, and his loss will be sorely felt.

R.I.P. Samuel Wright: November 20, 1946 – May 24, 2021

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Source: Town of Montgomery

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