Veteran Disney actor, Samuel E. Wright, who garnered worldwide fame for providing the voice of Sebastian the Crab in the 1989 film, The Little Mermaid, has died at the age of 74. He died peacefully on Monday night at his home in Walden, New York, after he battled prostate cancer for the past three years.
The performer’s death was confirmed by the town of Montgomery, New York, where he founded the Hudson Valley Conservatory, a performance and event venue and cultural center, with his family. One of his children, daughter Dee, also publicly confirmed the news of her father’s passing.
In The Little Mermaid, Wright notably performed the song Under the Sea, which won the Grammy Award for Best Song Written for Visual Media. The track also received the Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Original Song. He also sang Kiss the Girl, which was also nominated in the same category at both ceremonies.
After the release of the hit animated musical fantasy film in the late 1980s, Wright reprised his role of Sebastian the Crab when he recorded reggae-infused albums for Walt Disney Records. He also returned as the courtier for Ariel’s father, King Triton, in the 1992-94 Little Mermaid prequel for CBS, as well as for the 2000 straight-to-video sequel, The Little Mermaid 2: Return to the Sea.
Besides garnering fame for voicing Sebastian in The Little Mermaid, the actor was also known for his work in theater. He made his Broadway debut in 1971 in Jesus Christ Superstar, and later received his first Tony Award nomination in 1984 for his portrayal of stern father William Sheridan in the musical, The Tap Dance Kid. He was nominated for another Tony in 1998 for playing Mufasa in his last Broadway production, The Lion King, in 1997.
Wright’s other most well-known film role was his big screen debut as jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie in the 1988 biopic, Bird, which was directed and produced by Clint Eastwood. On television, he’s also remembered for appearing as the purple bunch-of-grapes character in a series of commercials for Fruit of the Loom underwear.
The performer was survived by his wife, Amanda, with whom he would have celebrated their 49th wedding anniversary next month. Besides Dee, he’s also survived by his two other children with Amanda, Keely and Sam.