Disney animated films are known for their recognisable, unmistakable voices, but few fit that bill quite as much as Samuel E. Wright. Wright voiced Sebastian, the loveable crab in the 1989 smash The Little Mermaid, unforgettably singing the Oscar-winning song, “Under the Sea.” And while Wright’s voice will live in our hearts forever, he died this week at the age of 74.
Besides the voice of Sebastian, Wright originated the role of Mufasa in the stage version of The Lion King (for which he was nominated for a Tony for Best Featured Actor in a Musical) and voiced Kron the Iguanodon in Dinosaur. He also reprised the Sebastian role in numerous other projects. If you heard the character in a game or direct-to-video sequel, it was usually him.
Wright had been acting for several years before he began working with Disney, appearing on TV series like The Cosby Show and Enos. After The Little Mermaid, he used his fame to great success, promoting the arts in and around New York’s Hudson Valley, where he and his family lived, at the Hudson Valley Conservatory, a nonprofit organisation that puts on all kinds of shows and offers opportunities in the arts. The local Montgomery, New York Facebook page first reported the news of his passing.
“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,” the post said. “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.”