Samuel E. Wright, Voice of ‘The Little Mermaid’s Sebastian, Dies at 74
The voice of one of the most beloved animated characters in history has died. Samuel E. Wright had a long career in film, television, and theater. But he is best known as the voice of Sebastian, King Triton loyal crab servant from The Little Mermaid. Sadly, according to The Hollywood Reporter, “Wright died peacefully Monday night at his home in Walden, New York, after a three-year battle with prostate cancer.” He was 74 years old.
Wright got his start on Broadway in the early 1970s, appearing in productions like Jesus Christ Superstar and Pippin. After voicing Sebastian, he returned to Broadway with Disney, originating the role of Mufasa in the stage production of The Lion King. His other film and TV credits include Bird, Law & Order, and Disney’s Dinosaur. (There, he provided the voice of Kron the Iguanodon.)
Without question, though, it is his numerous performances as Sebastian — Wright voiced the character in the original Little Mermaid, two direct-to-video sequels, the animated Little Mermaid TV series, and in several video games — that he will be remembered for. As the voice and spirit of Sebastian, Wright provided the lead vocals on “Kiss the Girl” along with “Under the Sea,” one of the all-time great musical numbers in film history — in or out of the world of animation.
In this interview, Wright talks about getting cast as Sebastian. It turns out Wright was a lifelong Disney fan; in his first Little Mermaid audition, he had no idea he was up for the role of Sebastian the crab. He didn’t even know he was auditioning for The Little Mermaid. All he was told was the production wanted “a Sammy Davis Jr. type.”
It’s amazing to hear how many of the little moments from The Little Mermaid were improvisations he brought to the role. Wright may be gone, but the energy and enthusiasm he brought to Sebastian will live on forever.