Samuel E. Wright, the voice behind The Little Mermaid’s Caribbean crab pal, Sebastian, has passed away. Wright was 74 years old.
Wright’s daughter, Dee, confirmed the news of her father’s passing with The Hollywood Reporter. Wright died in his Walden, New York home after a three-year fight with prostate cancer. “He was the brightest light,” Dee stated.
Although many of us know Wright for breathing life into the Trinidadian crab, Wright’s career started long before his 1989 voice work for Walt Disney. He began his career on Broadway in 1971 in Jesus Christ Superstar. He also replaced Ben Vereen in the original production of Pippin and starred as Mufasa in The Lion King in 1997
In 1984, Wright earned his first Tony nomination for his role in the musical The Tap Dance Kid. It would be 15 years before Wright would receive his second nomination for The Lion King.
In 1988, Wright transitioned to the silver screen, appearing as jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie, in Clint Eastwood’s Bird.
For his work in The Little Mermaid, Wright received two Oscar nominations for Best Original Song for his performances of “Kiss the Girl” and “Under the Sea.” He won for the latter.
In a 1991 interview, Wright told The Los Angeles Times, “Maybe not every actor would say this, but if I didn’t want to be immortal, I wouldn’t be acting. I do want to make my little mark on the world.”
Wright continued, “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.”
Our thoughts are with Wright’s loved ones at this time.