Samuel E. Wright, the actor who voiced “Sebastian” the crab in Disney’s The Little Mermaid and sang the film’s Oscar-winning song “Under the Sea,” has died at the age of 74.
Wright’s role as a Trinidadian-accented crab and adviser to King Triton in the much-loved 1989 Disney film marked a highlight of his cinematic career.
His death was confirmed by the town of Montgomery, New York, where Wright had founded a cultural center with his family. His daughter also confirmed his death to The Hollywood Reporter, describing her father as “the brightest light.” She said that Wright died peacefully Monday night at his home in Walden, New York, after a three-year battle with prostate cancer.
The town of Montgomery wrote on its Facebook page, “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,” adding,
“As we say goodbye to a pillar in our community and ask everyone to share a memory and help us celebrate the life of this great man.”
Wright’s vocals adorn one of Disney’s best-loved musical numbers, “Under the Sea,” which won the Oscar for Best Original Song and also earned a Grammy Award. “Kiss the Girl,” another Little Mermaid song, was nominated for an Oscar in the category as well:
“Maybe not every actor would say this, but if I didn’t want to be immortal, I wouldn’t be acting,” he told the Los Angeles Times in a 1991 interview. “I do want to make my little mark on the world. An actor’s worst nightmare is to hear, 10 years from now, ‘Sam Wright? Who was Sam Wright?’ If you have that kind of attitude, you tend to take each role and make it the best role you’ve done. You don’t know what people are going to judge you by. It doesn’t matter if it’s a cartoon, Dizzy Gillespie or Othello, I’m going to play it with the same fervor — just in case anybody’s watching.”