In 1989, The Little Mermaid opened in theaters, and thanks to its outstanding critical reception and box office performance, it launched the Disney Renaissance. Included among the animated movie’s cast was Samuel Wright, who voiced Sebastian the crab. Sadly, it’s been announced that Wright has passed away at the age of 74.
This news comes to us from the Town of Montgomery Facebook page, with Samuel Wright having lived in the New York town at the time of his death. Here’s what the post had to say about Wright’s impact on the community:
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.
Samuel Wright’s acting career stretched back to 1971, when he appeared on Broadway in Jesus Christ Superstar in multiple roles. Three years later, he took over as the Leading Player on Pippin, and his later Broadway credits included Over Here!, The Tap Dance Kid, Welcome to the Club. Wright also spent his early professional years appearing on various TV shows, including Ball Four, Enos and All My Children.
As far as film work goes, Samuel Wright’s first cinematic role was playing Dizzy Gillespie in Bird, the Clint Eastwood-directed biopic about jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker. However, as already indicated, Wright is best known for the role of Sebastian in The Little Mermaid, with the character serving as King Triton’s advisor and court composer. Sebastian belted out the musical numbers “Under the Sea” and “Kiss the Girl” (written by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman), the former of which won Best Original Song at the 62nd Academy Awards and the latter of which also scored an Oscar nomination.
If you want a reminder of how great Samuel Wright’s pipes were, rewatch the “Under the Sea” sequence from The Little Mermaid below.
Sebastian wasn’t a one-and-done role for Samuel Wright, as he reprised the character in projects like The Little Mermaid animated series, The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea, The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning and Disney’s House of Mouse. But Wright’s Disney contributions didn’t end with Sebastian; he also played Mufasa as part of The Lion King’s original Broadway cast, as well as voiced Kron in 2000’s Dinosaur.
The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning, which was released direct to video in 2008, marked Samuel Wright’s last acting role, while three years prior, he appeared in seven episodes of the short-lived TV series Jonny Zero. We here at CinemaBlend offer our condolences to Samuel Wright’s family and friends over their loss.