“What I want from you is your voice.” How can we forget the dread of the phrase that is one of the most striking of Ursula, the sea witch in The Little Mermaid? In the original, the character was brought to life by award-winning American actress Pat Carroll.
Now 94 years old (Pat was born on May 5, 1927), Pat entered the entertainment world at age five, encouraged by his parents. Extremely charismatic – and with a remarkable voice – Pat participated more in TV series and specials than in movies, even winning an Emmy in 1956.
On TV, by the way, Pat made his first important stint in the fairytale universe, well before The Little Mermaid It’s just that, in 1965, she was in the cast of the American TV special, Cinderella, from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, playing one of the heroine’s evil sisters.
In the 1970s, Pat Carroll excelled in theater, performing from Shakespeare’s classics and also collecting awards, including a Grammy for the play Gertrude Stein. His great vocal power as well as remarkable laugh became almost a trademark.
Pat’s journey to Ursula was a long one. Pat has always been a fan of Disney’s work and, as a child, fell in love with 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Lucille Laverne‘s work as the Evil Queen. It was there that the dream of one day working with the studio was born. When she was finally asked to audition in 1989, more than 50 years later, Pat didn’t bat an eyelash.
Still, it was tense. As he told in interviews, he auditioned for three – all singing – and remained unaware of the production team for almost a year. Just as he was getting used to the idea of rejection, the phone rang. It’s just that Disney had actually chosen another actress (we don’t know the name), and it wasn’t working out. Would she agree to come work with them? Do I help them? Yes, indeed.
One of the things that Pat Carroll liked most about Ursula was the possibility of exaggerating the interpretation. For her, Ursula had the flamboyant theatricality of a Shakespearean actress, mixed with the speech of a car salesman and scammer.
Due to budget limitations, despite being an octopus, she doesn’t have eight tentacles (only six) and the Divine drag-inspired look.
There are many who compare Ursula to another Disney villain, Medusa, by The Rescuers. In fact, Medusa also has a connection with Cruella DeVil (and the crazy way they drive cars) as they came to think of using Cruella as the villain in the show. What makes Medusa resemble Ursula is the similarity of her cronies. It’s just that Medusa has the crocodiles Nero and Brutus, and Ursula has the eels Flotsam and Jetsam.
Pat still lends her voice to the videos, spin-offs, and attractions at Disney parks, but she won’t be the villain in the movie being shot. The role went to Melissa McCarthy, who will surely bring new insights from the ironic and very bad villain of The Little Mermaid.