Pat Carroll, Voice Of Ursula In The Little Mermaid, Has Died At 95

Pat Carroll, Emmy-winning actress and voice of the Disney villain Ursula in "The Little Mermaid," has died at the age of 95. Carroll's daughter Kerry Karsian confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that she had succumbed to pneumonia at her home in Cape Cod, Massachusetts on Saturday, July 30, 2022. Her talent rep, Derek Maki, separately confirmed the news to Variety, adding that Carroll had her best friend by her side when she passed.

Carroll was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, in 1927; at an early age, she uprooted with her family to Los Angeles. After performing with stock companies and in nightclubs and army productions, the multitalented thespian and comedian began appearing off-Broadway and on television. She received a Tony Award nomination for her Broadway debut starring in the 1955 musical "Catch a Star," and her Emmy win came in 1957 for her sketch-comedy work on "Caesar's Hour." She also won a Drama Desk Award for her 1979 one-character play as the eponymous author in "Gertrude Stein Gertrude Stein Gertrude Stein." The same performance as Stein earned her a Grammy Award in 1981 for Best Spoken Word, Documentary or Drama Recording.

Carroll appeared on numerous variety shows and game shows such as "The Carol Burnett Show" and "The $10,000 Pyramid," and she had memorable guest roles as a hospital patient on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and Shirley's mom on "Laverne and Shirley." Her many other TV credits included "The Love Boat," "Designing Women," and "ER." 

Poor unfortunate souls

In 1989, Pat Carroll voiced the scene-chewing, octopus-tentacled sea witch Ursula in "The Little Mermaid," opposite Jodi Benson (seen posing with her in front of the Ariel's Undersea Adventure attraction at Disney California Adventure in the top photo). The film served as a major turning point for Disney animation, kicking off what is now known as the Disney Renaissance period. Using a sea pun to describe her interest in the role, she was later quoted as saying (via THR), "It was a lifelong ambition of mine to do a Disney film. So, I was theirs hook, line and sinker."

Carroll won the part of Ursula after representatives for Joan Collins and Bea Arthur turned it down and she beat out other well-known names like Roseanne Barr and Heart's Nancy Wilson. A key advantage she had was her ability to belt out the burlesque-style tune "Poor Unfortunate Souls" (see the official Disney video above). She credited lyricist Howard Ashman's demo recording of the song as an important influence on her performance.

Carroll reprised her role as Ursula on the CBS "Little Mermaid" series and in the "Kingdom Hearts" video game series. Through her long and fruitful career, she brought laughter and joy to many people and left an unforgettable mark on the world of animation as one of the best Disney villains.

Carroll is survived by her daughters Kerry and Tara and her granddaughter Evan.