RIP Samuel E. Wright the voice of Sebastian

I am sad to announce that Samuel E. Wright, the voice of Sebastian from The Little Mermaid, has passed away today at the age of 74.

Here are some facts about his role as Sebastian the crab.

  1. When Samuel E. Wright auditioned for the role of Sebastian, he didn’t know it was for a Caribbean crab. He was told Disney wanted a Sammy Davis Jr. type of character.
  2. When he auditioned for the role, he went into his audition and “gave it all he got” from the stance of a Broadway singer, which he had been doing since 1971. He had just been nominated for a Tony Award in 1984 for Best Featured Actor for his performance in The Tap Dance Kid. After auditioning for the role, he didn’t hear back from Disney for a year and thought he blew it in the audition.
  3. Some of the look of Sebastian’s face was copied from Sam.
  4. The accent Sebastian has isn’t even Jamaican. Samuel had said he did a Trinidadian accent because he didn’t know how to do a Jamaican one. Howard Ashman had spent time in Trinidad and liked the accent and decided to keep it.
  5. The line, “Hm. Teenagers. They think they know everything. You give them an inch, they swim all over you.” was improvised by Samuel. He was brought back into the studio after all his recordings were done and they asked him to just improvise lines for three hours and this was one of the lines that made it into the final film.
  6. There was a spin-off television series created by the Jim Henson Company called Little Mermaid’s Island (1990-1991). The project was created while the company was in talks to sell to Disney. Jim Henson himself originally didn’t back the project but the pilot and the first episode were filmed. Two months after the pilot was completed, Jim Henson passed away. The opening and ending credits weren’t even added to the show yet. Actress Matilda DePrima was Ariel, Jim Cummings (voiced a character in The Little Mermaid movie, series, and later as King Triton in Ariel’s Beginning, and is also well known for voicing Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Razoul, Ray the firefly and 150 other Disney characters) voiced Scales the singing dragon, Buddy Hackett returned to voice Scuttle, Samuel reprised his role of Sebastian, and Clive Revill was Grimsby, a seafaring captain in this show. Clive is known for voicing the Emperor in the original Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980). Flounder even got a twin sister named Sandy. The puppet that was used for Max was the reused puppet that was Ambrosius the sheepdog in Labyrinth (1986). The project was scrapped after Jim Henson’s death and Disney went ahead with the animated series The Little Mermaid (1992-1994) instead. The two episodes are titled Sebastian’s Birthday (1990) and Tell the Truth (1991).

  7. Sebastian had two solo albums released on CD and cassette after the release of the movie in his Calypso and reggae style. The first one was called Sebastian From the Little Mermaid and was released in 1990 and the second was Sebastian: Party Gras! which was released in 1991. There was a third album released in 1992 called The Little Mermaid: Songs from the Sea that was done in the style of pop music and had the music set to be before the events of the movie. Samuel sang as Sebastian in all the CDs.
  8. There was a 30-minute home video release called Sebastian’s Caribbean Jamboree (1991) where Sebastian was composing a musical in Disney World with the help of his friend Sam Wright. Sam was on stage with a bunch of kids singing in his Sebastian voice. There would be cutaways wherein Sam would interact with Sebastian.
  9. Aside from Sebastian, Sam voiced Kron in Disney’s first original and computer-animated movie, Dinosaur (2000).
  10. The songs “Kiss the Girl” and “Under the Sea” were the only songs nominated for an Academy Award. Both of them were sung by Sam.

  11. In 1998, The Lion King Musical won Best Musical at the Tony Awards. Sam was nominated for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical for his role as Mufasa.
  12. Sam didn’t just voice Sebastian in this movie, he would also voice him in a myriad of movies, television series, shorts, and video games. His last acting role ever was as Sebastian in the third film of The Little Mermaid franchise.
  • The Little Mermaid (1989)
  • Disney Ariel and the Mysterious World Above (Read-Along) (Short) (1990)
  • Sebastian’s Caribbean Jamboree (Video short) (1991)
  • Little Mermaid’s Island (TV Series) (1990-1991)
  • Disney’s Ariel the Little Mermaid (Video Game) (1992)
  • Raw Toonage (TV Series short) (1992)
  • Marsupilami (TV Series short) (1993)
  • The Little Mermaid (TV Series) (1992-1994)
  • Disney’s The Little Mermaid 2 (Video Game) (2000)
  • Giggles (Video) (1999)
  • Arcade Frenzy (Video Game) (1999)
  • Ariel’s Story Studio (Video Game) (1997)
  • The Little Mermaid 2: Return to the Sea (Video) (2000)
  • House of Mouse (TV Series) (2001-2002)
  • The Little Mermaid DVD Read-Along (Video short) (2002)
  • The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning (Video) (2008)

About the Author

Joshua Shaffer
I am a two time published author of Disneyland history and fun fact books. My second edition has over 3,700 fun facts in it about Disneyland and Disney movies. In my spare time, I work on my next book. I also design Disney Fantasy Pins. For a brief time, I was a co-host on the Magic Behind The Ears podcast. I am also the Public Relations Manager for Gina Rock, the longest flying Tinker Bell in Disneyland history. She flew across the skies for the nightly fireworks from 1983-2005. I had a booth at D23 in 2017 where I premiered my books 2nd edition. It was nicknamed "The Disney Bible" because it is 700 pages long. I basically stood from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm every day for 3 days straight just talking about Disney stuff. I love all things Disney. If you have any questions about Disneyland or Disney Movies feel free to contact me and I will try to answer all your questions. If you haven’t already picked up a copy of my book, you need to do so. [email protected]

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