Pat Carroll, voice of Disney villain Ursula in The Little Mermaid, dies aged 95

The comedy actor, who started out as a regular on variety shows and became a prolific voice actor, died at home on Saturday of pneumonia

Pat Carroll, the Emmy award-winning actor and voice of the memorable Disney villain Ursula in The Little Mermaid, has died aged 95.

Carroll died on Saturday of pneumonia at her home in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, her daughter Kerry Karsian told the Hollywood Reporter.

Born in Louisiana in 1927, Carroll’s family moved to Los Angeles when she was five, and she began acting soon afterwards. Her big screen debut arrived in 1947, in the film Hometown Girl, but it was her presence on variety shows that made her name over the next three decades. She won an Emmy for her work on Caesar’s Hour in 1957 and performed comedy roles alongside the likes of Jimmy Durante, Mickey Rooney, Steve Allen and Charley Weaver on their variety shows.

She got her first voiceover work in 1966, for the animated television series The Super 6. By the 1980s she was ever-present in cartoons, voicing roles in shows including Yogi’s Treasure Hunt, Scooby-Doo, Garfield and Superman, as well as the English dub of 1988 film My Neighbor Totoro. But it was her lifelong dream to work in a Disney film, and the opportunity came in 1989 with The Little Mermaid.

“It was a lifelong ambition of mine to do a Disney film,” she told author Allan Neuwirth in Makin’ Toons: Inside the Most Popular Animated TV Shows and Movies. “So, I was theirs hook, line and sinker.”

Carl Reiner, winner of best supporting actor for Caesar’s Hour, with Carroll, winner of best supporting actress for Caesar’s Hour, at the Emmy awards in 1957.
Carl Reiner, winner of best supporting actor for Caesar’s Hour, with Carroll, winner of best supporting actress for Caesar’s Hour, at the Emmy awards in 1957. Photograph: NBC/NBCUniversal/Getty Images

Critics singled out Carroll’s performance as particularly strong in the box office hit. The New York Times said Ursula, “played to the hilt by Pat Carroll, is a fabulously campy creation embodying the film’s well-developed sense of mischief”, while Roger Ebert deemed the gigantic octopoid woman “[Disney’s] most satisfying villainess since the witch in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”.

Carroll loved the role, and reprised it in several other works, including the spinoff TV shows, the Kingdom Hearts games and rides and attractions at Disney theme parks.

Over her career she landed regular parts across the gamut of US television, making small parts memorable in shows like Too Close for Comfort, She’s the Sheriff, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Laverne & Shirley, The Love Boat and ER.

Her successful one-woman show Gertrude Stein, Gertrude Stein, Gertrude Stein won several awards in the late 1970s; the recorded version netted her a Grammy in 1980.

Carroll is survived by her two daughters and a granddaughter.


Sian Cain

The GuardianTramp

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