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 peacefully in his sleep Monday night at his home in Walden, New York, his daughter Dee Kelly told The Hollywood Reporter. She said his death followed a three-year battle with prostate cancer.
“My beautiful, strong, loving daddy is off to his next adventure,” Kelly wrote in a tribute on Facebook. “My heart has so much to say but I’m still processing the fact that the light that was and is my daddy will not be able to physically be here with me.”
“Please continue to wrap us in love and please, please keep talking about my daddy,” she added. “Speak his name today, tell his stories, make someone smile by sharing something you learned from him. That is what he would want. Today we celebrate Samuel E Wright, my daddy.”
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.”
This story originally appeared in ETOnline. It includes additional reporting by Brian Dakss.
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