Hollywood Star Who Voiced Disney’s Ursula In “The Little Mermaid” Dead At 95
One of Disney’s classic princess movies tells the tale of a mermaid who wants to be human. The Disney movie “The Little Mermaid” hit theaters in 1989, and little girls are still dressing up like Ariel and pretending to be a mermaid today.
Every princess movie needs a good villain, and in “The Little Mermaid,” the villain was an octopus sea witch named Ursula. The larger than life character with a memorable booming voice was brought to life by comedic actress Pat Carroll.
Carroll had a long career before landing the role of Ursula. Her career started way back in 1948. Her most memorable roles include Bunny Halper on “The Danny Thomas Show” and Rita Simon on “Getting Together.” Other TV credits include “Cinderella,” “The Red Skelton Hour,” “Lavern & Shirley,” “Busting Loose,” “The Love Boat,” “Trapper John, M.D.,” “Galaxy High School,” “Too Close for Comfort,” “Pound Puppies,” “She’s the Sheriff,” “Designing Women,” and “Rapunzel’s Tangled Adventures” just to name a few.
Carroll never officially retired from acting. In fact, her most recent credit is from 2020. However, her acting career is now officially over. On July 30, 2022, the actress died at her home in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Her daughter, Kerry Karsian, told The Hollywood Reporter that the cause of death was pneumonia.
Acting in a Disney movie was always one of Carroll’s dreams. She once told Allan Neuwirth, “It was a lifelong ambition of mine to do a Disney film.” She added, “So, I was theirs hook, line and sinker.”
Although Carroll was excited about the prospect of voicing a character in a Disney film, the audition process was anything but easy on the Disney side. They had already approached multiple actresses about the role and been turned down. Then they went on to audition other actresses, but nobody was quite right.
The studio’s first pick for Ursula was Joan Collins, but her agent said no. Then they approached Bea Arthur’s agent, but her agent didn’t like the idea of Arthur being compared to a witch. Other actresses who auditioned for the role include Roseanne, Nancy Wilson, Nancy Marchand, Charlotte Rae, and Elaine Stritch.
Before Carroll auditioned for Ursula, she watched a video that the film’s producer and lyricist, Howard Ashman, made of himself singing the song “Poor Unfortunate Souls.” She immediately understood the character and copied a lot of what Ashman did in his recording. She explained, “He gave me that performance! Come on, I’m honest enough to say that. I got the whole attitude from him. … His shoulders would twitch in a certain way, and his eyes would go a certain way. … I got more about that character from Howard singing that song than from anything else.”
Carroll went on to reprise the role of Ursula in a TV series called “The Little Mermaid” as well as a direct to TV movie called “The Little Mermaid II.” She also voiced Ursula for multiple video games and most recently in the TV series “The Wonderful World of Mickey Mouse.”
Watch the video below to hear Carroll speak in the voice of Ursula. It seems like it came easily for her.