Pat Carroll, Emmy-Winning Actress and Voice of ‘The Little Mermaid’s Ursula, Dead at 95

by Craig Garrett

Pat Carroll, a classic TV trailblazer and iconic voice actor of Ursula in Disney’s The Little Mermaid, has died. She passed away at her home in Massachusetts this weekend while recuperating from pneumonia, Deadline reports. The actress was 95 years old.

Carroll was born in Louisiana in 1927 and got her start as an actress in 1948’s Hometown Girl. She continued to work as a bit player in a few TV series through the next several years. Carroll appeared in early television shows like Goodyear PlayhouseGeneral Electric Theater, and Studio 57. She was the recipient of an Emmy for her work on Caesar’s Hour, a sketch comedy series. That program won every major acting category at the 1957 Emmys, establishing a record that would last for decades. Pat Carroll later had regular roles on The Danny Thomas Show and The Red Skelton Hour.

In later decades, Pat Carroll had parts in Love, American StyleBusting Loose, and Laverne & Shirley. She also performed in the one-woman play Gertrude Stein, Gertrude Stein, and Gertrude Stein in the 1970s. It was inspired by the life of the literary figure. In 1980, she received a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word, Documentary, or Drama for her show’s recording. Carroll transitioned to a voice actor in the ‘80s, with parts in Galaxy High SchoolYogi’s Treasure HuntFoofur, and Pound Puppies. She also performed the original English dub of My Neighbor Totoro

Pat Carroll becomes a voice-acting legend

This all led Pat Carroll to her most iconic role. Disney struggled for a year to find the perfect fit for the heavy in Ron Clements and John Musker’s The Little Mermaid. Eventually, Carroll was brought in to read for Ursula and instantly got the part.

She gave the character —as she had stated it over the years—the energy of a Shakespearean actor crossed with a used car dealer. The character’s appearance was heavily inspired by drag queen Divine. Pat Carroll made history with the role. The song “Poor Unfortunate Souls” sung by Ursula was the first musical number performed by a female Disney villain.

As part of the Disney Renaissance, Pat Carroll was asked to return many times over the years. Disney had her come back projects to play Ursula in TV appearances and sequels and spin-offs. She even returned as recently as 2020 in a short for Wonderful World Of Mickey Mouse. She’s also lent her voice to the Kingdom Hearts video game series as Ursula. Carroll also lent his voice to the animated adventure film Rapunzel’s Tangled Adventure.