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Samuel E. Wright

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Samuel E. Wright
Wright in 2008
Born(1946-11-20)November 20, 1946
DiedMay 24, 2021(2021-05-24) (aged 74)
  • Actor
  • singer
Years active1968–2008
Amanda Wright
(m. 1974)

Samuel Ernest Wright (November 20, 1946 – May 24, 2021)[1] was an American actor. He was best known as the voice of Sebastian in Disney's The Little Mermaid, for which he provided the lead vocals to "Under the Sea",[2] which won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. He played Dizzy Gillespie in Bird, the biographical film about Charlie Parker. Wright also played the part of Mufasa in the original cast of The Lion King on Broadway and voiced Kron the Iguanodon in the 2000 CGI/live-action film Dinosaur.

Early life[edit]

Wright was born on November 20, 1946, in Camden, South Carolina.[1][3] Wright was a student at Camden High School, where he was involved with sports and the arts.[4]


In 1968, Wright moved to New York City to pursue his acting career full time.[3] Wright originated the part of "Sam" in Over Here! on Broadway[5] (1974). In addition, on Broadway, Wright replaced Ben Vereen as the Leading Player in Pippin[1] (1972).

Wright played Enos' partner Officer Turk Adams in the TV series Enos, the Dukes of Hazzard spin-off in 1980–81.[6] Wright was nominated for a Tony Award in 1984 for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his performance in The Tap Dance Kid.[3] He portrayed jazz trumpeter and composer Dizzy Gillespie in the 1988 Clint Eastwood film Bird.[7]

He originated the role of Mayor Joe Clark in Mule Bone (1991).[8] He was nominated for a Tony Award again in 1998 for Best Featured Actor in a Musical as the original lead actor for Mufasa in The Lion King, the Broadway version of Disney's animated classic of the same name.[3]

He also played the part of Jericho on the short-lived Fox television program Jonny Zero in 2005.[6]

Music and voice-over work[edit]

Wright narrated the 1988 documentary film Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser, produced by Clint Eastwood.[9]

Wright performed and recorded several songs for the Walt Disney Pictures animated film The Little Mermaid, as Sebastian the Crab,[10] and is widely known for the songs "Under the Sea", and "Kiss the Girl". He voiced Sebastian in The Little Mermaid's sequels and spin-offs, including The Little Mermaid 2: Return to the Sea and The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning (the latter being his final voice role), and recorded several albums in reggae style, among them Sebastian from The Little Mermaid and Sebastian: Party Gras!.[11] Wright also voiced Kron, the leader of the Iguanadon herd, in another Disney animation Dinosaur.[6]

He released a soul music single in 1973, "There's Something Funny Going On" backed with "Three Hundred Pounds of Hungry" on the Paramount Records label.[12]

Personal life and death[edit]

Wright met his wife Amanda Wright, a dance director, at a production of William Shakespeare's The Two Gentlemen of Verona in London's West End.[3] They married on June 14, 1974.[4] Together they had three children: Keely, Dee, and Sam Jr.[10][13]

Wright died from prostate cancer at his home in Walden, New York on May 24, 2021, aged 74. The cancer had been diagnosed three years earlier.[14]



Year Title Role Notes Ref(s)
1988 Bird Dizzy Gillespie [15]
Me and Him Paramedic #1
1989 The Little Mermaid Sebastian (voice) [6]
1993 Strapped Dave [16]
2000 Dinosaur Kron (voice) [15]
The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea Sebastian (voice) Direct-to-video [15]
2008 The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning Direct-to-video; Final role [15]


Year Title Role Notes Ref(s)
1976 Ball Four C. B. Travis 5 episodes [1]
1979 Hollow Image Scotty Television film [17]
1980–1981 Enos Officer Turk Adams 18 episodes [6]
1982 The Neighborhood Moving Man Television film [17]
1985 Brass Captain Michael Shore
1986 The Gift of Amazing Grace Morris Episode: "The Gift of Amazing Grace"
The Cosby Show Dr. Dan Morgan Episode: "Close to Home" [1]
1991 Separate but Equal Artis Patterson TV mini-series [17]
Sebastian's Caribbean Jamboree Sebastian (voice) Television special
Sebastian's Party Gras! [18][19]
1992–1994 The Little Mermaid 31 episodes [7][6]
1992 Raw Toonage Episode: "Draining Cats and Dogs/Mars vs. Man" [20]
1993 Alex Haley's Queen Alfred 2 episodes [21]
Marsupilami Sebastian (voice) 8 episodes [22]
1994–2000 Law & Order Jerome Osborn, Dubois, and Morris Stokely 3 episodes [16]
1997 New York Undercover Gil Jefferson Episode: "Fade Out" [23]
2001–2002 House of Mouse Sebastian (voice) 6 episodes [24]
2003 Mickeypalooza Television special [25]

Video games[edit]

Year Title Role Ref(s)
1992 Ariel the Little Mermaid Sebastian [24]
1997 Ariel's Story Studio [22]
1999 Disney's Arcade Frenzy
2000 The Little Mermaid II: The Video Game


Year Title Role Notes Ref(s)
1971 Jesus Christ Superstar Reporter, Leper, Apostle Broadway
1971, 1973 Two Gentlemen of Verona Valentine, Performer Broadway, West End [26][8]
1972 Pippin Leading player Broadway [25]
1974 Over Here! Sam [5][8]
1983 The Tap Dance Kid William Sheridan [7][5]
1989 Welcome to the Club Bruce Aiken [26]
1991 Mule Bone Mayor Joe Clark [8]
1997 Promises, Promises Mr. Kirkeby Off-Broadway [26]
The Lion King Mufasa Broadway [7]



  1. ^ a b c d e Barnes, Mike (May 25, 2021). "Samuel E. Wright, Voice of Sebastian the Crab in 'The Little Mermaid,' Dies at 74". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 26, 2021.
  2. ^ Victorian, Brande (October 10, 2013). "'What More Is You Looking For?' Meet Samuel E. Wright, The Voice Of Sebastian On 'The Little Mermaid'". Madame Noire. Retrieved July 30, 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d e Morales, Christina (May 26, 2021). "Samuel E. Wright, the Voice of Sebastian in 'The Little Mermaid,' Dies at 72". The New York Times. Retrieved May 29, 2021.
  4. ^ a b "Samuel Wright Obituary (1946 - 2021) - Walden, NY - Times Herald-Record". legacy.com. Retrieved June 4, 2021.
  5. ^ a b c Meyer, Dan (May 26, 2021). "Tony Nominee Samuel E. Wright Dies at 74". Playbill. Retrieved June 1, 2021.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Evans, Greg (May 25, 2021). "Samuel E. Wright Dies: 'The Little Mermaid's Sebastian The Crab, Broadway's Mufasa Was 74". Deadline Hollywood.
  7. ^ a b c d "Samuel E Wright: Tributes paid to actor who voiced crab in The Little Mermaid". BBC News. May 26, 2021. Retrieved June 1, 2021.
  8. ^ a b c d "Samuel E. Wright". Playbill. Retrieved June 1, 2021.
  9. ^ See film credits on IMDB.
  10. ^ a b Granville, Kari (December 23, 1989). "Without Him, Sebastian Would Be Speechless". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 25, 2019.
  11. ^ Lenker, Maureen Lee (May 25, 2021). "Samuel E. Wright, voice of Sebastian the Crab in 'The Little Mermaid,' dies at 74". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved June 1, 2021.
  12. ^ "Samuel E. Wright – There's Something Funny Going On (1973, Vinyl)". Discog.com. 1973. Retrieved June 1, 2021.
  13. ^ Heffley, Lynne (November 16, 1991). "As a Crab or 'Bird,' Wright Gives 100%". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 25, 2019.
  14. ^ Sinha, Charu (May 25, 2021). "Samuel E. Wright, Voice of The Little Mermaid's Sebastian, Dead at 74". Vulture. Retrieved May 25, 2021.
  15. ^ a b c d Holmes, Adam (May 25, 2021). "Samuel Wright, Voice Of The Little Mermaid's Sebastian, Is Dead At 74". CinemaBlend.
  16. ^ a b Welsh, Daniel (May 26, 2021). "Samuel E Wright, The Little Mermaid Star, Has Died Aged 74". HuffPost.
  17. ^ a b c "Samuel E Wright". Turner Classic Movies.
  18. ^ "Discover More About the First Year of Life on Family Channel Documentary". The Los Angeles Times. November 17, 1991. Retrieved June 19, 2023.
  19. ^ "As Crab or 'Bird,' Wright Gives 100%". The Los Angeles Times. November 16, 1991. Retrieved June 20, 2020.
  20. ^ "Raw Toonage". TV.com.
  21. ^ "Alex Haley's Queen". TV.com.
  22. ^ a b "Sebastian Voices (Little Mermaid)". Behind the Voice Actors.
  23. ^ "FADE OUT NEW YORK UNDERCOVER SEASON 3". Rotten Tomatoes.
  25. ^ a b Garner, Glenn. "Samuel E. Wright, Known as the Voice of Sebastian in The Little Mermaid, Dead at 74". People. Retrieved May 25, 2021.
  26. ^ a b c "Nominees for Best Featured Actor in a Musical". Playbill. June 4, 1998.

External links[edit]