A childhood memory for a whole generation, Samuel E. Wright, the actor who voiced Sebastian the crab in Disney’s The Little Mermaid, has died aged 74.
Born in Camden, South Carolina, Wright would bring his talents to the big screen as Dizzy Gillespie in Clint Eastwood’s 1988 biopic, Bird. He would follow that performance with an Oscar-winning performance, singing “Under the Sea” from the animated classic The Little Mermaid. While the film marked the high point of his lengthy career in cinema, he would go on to join the original cast of Broadway’s The Lion King musical as Mufasa.
“Under the Sea” is arguably one of Disney’s best-loved musical numbers. It won the Academy Award for Best Original Song and also earned a Grammy.
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.” “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,” the town wrote on its Facebook page.
It was there where he and members of his family set up the region’s first performing arts school, the Hudson Valley Conservatory. “The greater Town of Montgomery Community mourns together today. 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,” another post on the town’s Facebook page said.
The center thanked followers in its own Facebook post, writing, “We are overwhelmed with the love being sent our way.”