Legendary voice of The Little Mermaid’s Ursula, Pat Carroll, dies age 95
The Little Mermaid and Cinderella star Pat Carroll has died aged 95.
The Emmy-winning voice actor, best known for her voice as Ursula in The Little Mermaid, died of pneumonia at her home in Cape Cod, Massachusetts on Saturday (30 July), her daughter Kerry Karsian told The Hollywood Reporter.
Born in 1927, Carroll first graced the big screen in her 1948 debut film Hometown Girl. her tenacious work ethic and unprecedented acting chops landed her role after role as excitably witty characters both on film and television.
Her laugh-a-minute sketches on Caesar’s Hour cemented her as an actor no one should miss, with her performance on the show even winning her an Emmy in 1956. She was also known for her time in The Danny Thomas Show and Laverne & Shirley.
In 1988, she delved into voice acting with her first animated role, playing Granny in Disney’s English dub of the award-winning Miyazaki classic My Neighbour Totoro.
She then starred in arguably her most well-known and iconic role – as the villainous witch Ursula in 1989s The Little Mermaid.
Ursula was heavily queer-coded – the character design was inspired by the legendary drag queen Divine (real name Glenn Milstead) – and remains and LGBTQ+ icon to this day.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Charlotte Rae and Elaine Stritch auditioned for the role of Ursula but only Carroll could hit the mark that directors Ron Clements and John Musker were looking for.
She would reprise Ursula several times for various media formats, including the sequel The Little Mermaid 2: Return to the Sea, several Mickey Mouse movies including Mickey’s Magical Christmas and Mickey’s House of Villains, the short-lived Little Mermaid 1993 television show, and the Kingdom Hearts Disney video games.
Carroll also played stepsister Prunella in the 1965 TV production of Cinderella. She played the Fairy Godmother in a theatrical adaptation in 1989, having starred in many off-Broadway plays since the 1950s with shows like Come What May.
Her first foray into Broadway brilliance was in 1955 in Catch a Star! which earned her a Tony Award nomination. In his 1979 review for The New York Times, Walter Kerr said that Carroll “gives us the bizarre, close-cropped, richly robed woman who could be – and once was – mistaken for a bishop with a zest that is awesome”.
The star married Lee Karsian in the same year, remaining together until their divorce in 1976. She had three children – casting director Kerry Karsian, actress Tara Karsian, and their late son Sean Karsian who died 13 years ago. She also had a granddaughter named Evan.