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Voice Actor Behind Beloved Sebastian Is Dead

Samuel E. Wright voiced crab in 'Little Mermaid' film, appeared in 'Lion King' musical
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted May 26, 2021 2:20 AM CDT
Updated May 26, 2021 6:17 AM CDT

(Newser) – Samuel E. Wright, the actor behind two iconic Disney characters and much more, died Monday night at his home after fighting prostate cancer for three years, his daughter tells the Hollywood Reporter. Wright voiced Sebastian the crab in 1989's The Little Mermaid; he performed such hits as "Kiss the Girl" and "Under the Sea," the latter of which won the Oscar for best original song, BuzzFeed reports. He went on to play Mufasa in The Lion King on Broadway starting in 1997, and was nominated for a Tony for the role. He first appeared on Broadway in Jesus Christ Superstar in 1971 and Pippin later in the 1970s, and received his first Tony nomination for his performance in The Tap Dance Kid in 1984.

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Wright also appeared in films (including playing Dizzy Gillespie in Clint Eastwood's Bird in 1988), on television (he guest starred on many shows including The Cosby Show, and starred in a few as well), on albums (he recorded some for Disney in the voice of Sebastian), and in commercials (he memorably portrayed the bunch of grapes in a series of Fruit of the Loom advertisements). In Walden, New York, where he lived, he also helped form the Hudson Valley Conservatory performance and event venue. "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," the town of Montgomery writes in a Facebook tribute. (Read more obituary stories.)

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