Samuel E. Wright — who delighted audiences voicing the beloved Sebastian the Crab in Disney’s The Little Mermaid — has died. He was 74.
Wright died Monday night, peacefully in his sleep, at his home in Walden, New York, his daughter told The Hollywood Reporter. His death comes following a three-year battle with prostate cancer.
Before his performance in The Little Mermaid, Wright was an accomplished stage star, making his debut in the 1971 production of Jesus Christ Superstar, and had a lead role in Pippin on Broadway in 1972.
He earned his first Tony Award nomination in 1984 for his role in The Tap Dance Kid. In 1997, he began his run as Mufasa in the Broadway adaptation of The Lion King. He earned his second Tony nomination for this role in 1998.
As for his performance as Sebastian in 1989’s The Little Mermaid, Wright sang the Oscar-winning song “Under the Sea” — from composer Alan Menken and lyricist Howard Ashman — as well as “Kiss the Girl,” with also earned an Oscar nom.
He would go on to voice Sebastian in The Little Mermaid TV show, and the film’s subsequent direct-to-DVD sequels — The Little Mermaid 2: Return to the Sea in 2000, and The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning in 2008.
Among his many screen credits, Wright gave a memorable performance as jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie in Clint Eastwood’s 1988 biopic Bird.
The town of Montgomery, New York, paid tribute to Wright with a touching Facebook post. Wright was instrumental in the founding of the Hudson Valley Conservatory in Montgomery, and the town honored his memory on Tuesday.
“Today, the Town of Montgomery mourns the loss of Sam Wright. Pictured here with Town Supervisor Brian Maher and his brother Patrick in Walden in the early 1990’s. Sam was an inspiration to us all and along with his family established the Hudson Valley Conservatory,” the post shared. “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.”
“The greater Town of Montgomery Community mourns together today,” the post concluded. “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.”
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