|First appearance||The Little Mermaid (1989)|
|Last appearance||The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning (2008)|
|Created by||Ron Clements & John Musker (story)|
|Voiced by||Samuel E. Wright (all appearances except the Kingdom Hearts series and Disney Parks until 2008)
Kevin Michael Richardson (Kingdom Hearts series)
Keith Ferguson (Disney Parks)
Sebastian is an animated anthropomorphic crab in Disney's The Little Mermaid film franchise. He is a red crab from the Caribbean island of Jamaica and a servant of King Triton. Apart from his role in the film trilogy, Sebastian features in the animated series, in the Kingdom Hearts series of video games, and even has music albums based on him.
The character was developed solely for the film, and is not derived from the original Hans Christian Andersen story. Early on in the writing and development of The Little Mermaid, the character that would later become Sebastian was originally an English-butler crab named Clarence; songwriter Howard Ashman proposed changing Clarence to a Jamaican Rastafarian crab and shifting the music style throughout the film to reflect this. Duncan Marjoribanks served as Sebastian's supervising animator. Sebastian is voiced by Samuel E. Wright, who auditioned for the role as though he were trying out for a stage musical. Wright could not do a Jamaican accent, so he did a Trinidadian accent during his audition, which Ashman decided to keep. His physicality impressed co-director Ron Clements, who videotaped a repeat performance in order to inspire the animators.
The Little Mermaid
When the film opens, Sebastian is announced as the "royal court composer", his full name being "Horatio Thelonius Ignatius Crustaceus Sebastian", and he conducts a concert that King Triton's seven daughters are supposed to perform. Ariel fails to show up for the concert, and later Sebastian joins King Triton in scolding her, blaming her for his humiliation. Sebastian is tasked by King Triton to follow Ariel and keep her out of trouble, and so witnesses Ariel saving Eric from drowning, which horrifies him as contact between the human world and merworld is forbidden. Sebastian accidentally lets this information slip to King Triton, who confronts Ariel and destroys her collection of human things in a rage. Feeling guilty for having betrayed Ariel's confidence, Sebastian follows Ariel when she visits Ursula the sea witch for help, and later helps her quest to win Prince Eric's affections. After Ursula disguises herself as the human Vanessa and wins over Prince Eric, Sebastian goes down to inform King Triton, and later becomes instrumental in helping Ariel and Prince Eric defeat Ursula.
The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea
The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning
In the 2008 prequel, Sebastian is initially shown as a strict enforcer of King Triton's rules that all music has been banned from Atlantica. But it is later revealed that Sebastian has been secretly performing music as the leader of The Catfish Club Band, which performs in an underground club. When the underground club is revealed to Triton, Sebastian and his band are put in jail, but they manage to escape with Ariel's help. As part of a premeditated plan, Sebastian leads them far away from Atlantica to a specific spot where Ariel finds her mother's discarded music box. Sebastian wants music to return to Atlantica so Triton can regain his happiness, and he returns with Ariel to convince Triton to change his mind. When the film ends, music is restored to Atlantica, and Sebastian becomes the "royal court composer", setting up his role in the original film.
Sebastian appears in almost every episode of the prequel television series. Sebastian is shown as being a good friend of Ariel and Flounder. He is sometimes strict and often critical of Ariel's adventurous ways, but often ends up going on her adventures with her. Throughout the series, Sebastian's character is further developed via dialogue and entire episodes dedicated to him. In the episode "Tail of Two Crabs", Sebastian has a rivalry with a crab named Zeus, and they both try to one-up the other. According to dialogue in this episode, Sebastian was born in Jamaica and went to Music Academy in Trinidad prior to joining King Triton's staff as his assistant; in "Eel-Ectric City" he also reveals he had the stage name "Dizzy Crustace" (krust-AY-she).
In the Broadway stage musical adaption, Sebastian's role is similar but modified from that in the film. He is not in the scene where Ariel saves Prince Eric, and his song "Under the Sea" is moved to after Triton destroys Ariel's treasures instead of before it. Sebastian also provides vocals for the new song "If Only". The role was originated by Tituss Burgess, and has also been performed by Alan Mingo Jr. and Rodgelio Douglas Jr.
Sebastian is part of the song called "A New Day is Dawning" and made a brief appearance in Aladdin: When the Genie, while trying to find the right "recipe" for turning Aladdin into a prince, is looking at the Royal Recipes book, he pulls out Sebastian (clamped to his finger) and flicks him off. He also appears in the Aladdin video game in a cameo scene, as a prisoner in the level "Sultan's Dungeon". Sebastian is also one of guest star in Raw Toonage and as the main character of the spin-off in 9 episodes from the series Disney's Marsupilami which is located out of the sea, after the wedding of Ariel and Eric. Sebastian was featured as a guest in Disney's House of Mouse. Sebastian also appeared in the finale to the 101 Dalmatians (TV series) in which he pinches a puppy's tail. He is also a remote-controlled playable character in Disney Princess: Enchanted Journey seen holding a bucket in his claws with your help to catch Ariel's falling human artifacts. The film Moana makes a reference to Sebastian when a large coconut crab named Tamatoa asks if people would like him more if he was a Jamaican crab named Sebastian.
Two reggae albums featuring Samuel E. Wright performing in-character as Sebastian were released under the Walt Disney Records label. The first was Sebastian From The Little Mermaid, featuring songs from The Little Mermaid, along with covers such as Three Little Birds, and original tunes. The second, released in October 1991 is Sebastian: Party Gras! This album consists of reggae covers of classic songs such as "Iko Iko", "Octopus's Garden", "Twist and Shout", and "What a Wonderful World", as well as a few original tunes.
- Weis, Judith S. Walking Sideways: The Remarkable World of Crabs. Cornell University Press, 2012, p. 211.
- (2006) Audio Commentary by John Musker, Ron Clements, and Alan Menken Bonus material from The Little Mermaid: Platinum Edition [DVD]. Walt Disney Home Entertainment.
- Corine Cohen (2013-09-24), Interview with Actor Samuel E. Wright: Little Mermaid, The Lion King, Dinosaur and more., retrieved 2017-08-17
- Grant, John (1998). Encyclopedia of Walt Disney's Animated Characters (Third Edition). Hyperion. pp. 344–345. ISBN 0-7868-6336-6.
- Entertainment Weekly article about Sebastian's second album