- “I should be writing symphonies. Not tagging along after some headstrong teenager!”
Sebastian is a major character in Disney's 1989 animated film The Little Mermaid. He is a red, Jamaican-accented crab that serves as King Triton's advisor and "distinguished" court composer. Despite holding an esteemed position, Sebastian is regularly tasked with watching over Triton's youngest daughter, Princess Ariel.
According to dialogue in "Tail of Two Crabs", Sebastian was born off the coast of Jamaica ("hence the accent") to Claud and Claudia Crab. He went to Music Academy in Trinidad (sometime around the time of "the great typhoon of '43" according to a statement of his made in the episode "Stormy") prior to joining King Triton's staff as his assistant.
Like most of the supporting cast in The Little Mermaid, Sebastian did not appear in the original Hans Christian Andersen story of which the film is based. Instead, he was a character exclusive to the Disney iteration, though his initial conception was much different than his final characterization. Sebastian, then known as Clarence, was originally intended to be almost Grimsby-like: posh, British, and uptight. However, lyricist and screenwriter Howard Ashman suggested portraying a more entertaining, fun-loving Sebastian. He was rewritten as Jamaican, which gave the songwriters the opportunity to incorporate calypso and reggae influences into the movie's score; one song in particular, "Under the Sea", went on to win the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1990. Ashman was also largely responsible for adding depth and heart to Sebastian's character, particularly in regards to Sebastian's developed relationship with Ariel.
During the casting process for Sebastian, Samuel E. Wright was told that the role (which was undisclosed, as was the film) was a Sammy Davis Jr.-type of character. Being a self-proclaimed Disney fan, Wright has gone on record to say that he "flipped out" upon learning that the role was for Disney's adaptation of The Little Mermaid. Wright auditioned for the role in New York, where he met Alan Menken and Howard Ashmen, who provided an early version of "Under the Sea". According to Wright, the original version of the song was rather slow, akin to a ballad. Wright requested that they speed up the song, which Ashmen obliged. The results were received positively, and a year later, Wright was officially brought into the project as Sebastian. Ironically, Wright could not perform a Jamaican accent, and instead performed with a Trinidadian accent, which Ashmen loved.
Following the release of The Little Mermaid, Disney released several reggae albums and videos starring Samuel as Sebastian under the Walt Disney Records label, covering classic songs and performing a few new ones. The first was simply titled Sebastian, while the second was titled Sebastian: Party Gras! (released in 1991).
- “This is a catastrophe! What would her father say? I'll tell you what her father'd say, he'd say he's gonna kill himself a crab, that's what her father'd say! I'm gonna march meself straight home right now and tell him just like I shoulda done de minute... and don't you shake your head at me, young lady. Maybe there's still time. If we could get that witch to give you back your voice, you could go home with all the normal fish, and just be... just be... just be miserable for the rest of your life. All right, all right. I'll try to help you find that prince.”
- ―Sebastian's many traits from anxious to short tempered, to compassionate, during his nervous breakdown in the film.
Sebastian is a multi-layered character. He is generally carefree and fun-loving, especially when dealing with his most-beloved profession: music. He can be so high-spirited, in fact, that it can sometimes overwhelm the more solemn King Triton. However, the urgency of his job, as the king's most sought after assistant, requires Sebastian to be strict and no-nonsense often. This is sometimes a point of contention; being as how Sebastian is less staunch than Triton, the two rarely see eye-to-eye when it comes to Triton's laws. However, as Triton's advisor, Sebastian must uphold the king's regulations no matter how upsetting they may be. This makes Sebastian out to be "the bad-guy" in some situations (mainly those involving Ariel), but his moral compass has the tendency to push Sebastian to follow his heart, rather than the law. The greatest example of this comes when Ariel is transformed into a human. Rather than alerting the king about Ariel's transformation, Sebastian chose to support Ariel throughout her adventure upon the surface, knowing she'd just be miserable if she returned to the sea.
Sebastian's most striking traits are his loyalty and kindness. He would risk life and limb for his loved ones and has done so many times in the past. In regards to the royal family, Sebastian genuinely respects King Triton even when they disagree. In The Little Mermaid television series, their relationship is explored even further; one episode showed that Sebastian values his friendship with the king so much that he was visibly depressed when Triton apparently did not reciprocate his feelings. Of all King Triton's daughters, Sebastian is undoubtedly closest to Ariel. Having been forced to watch over her so many times, Sebastian gradually developed a paternal bond with Ariel and has went against King Triton's orders multiple times for the sake of her happiness. As a surrogate father figure, Sebastian can still be strict with Ariel, but as is the case for King Triton, this is purely out of love.
Sebastian shows great disdain for Ariel's adventures and fascination with the human world, due to the danger that comes with them. As his attempts to turn Ariel against her more controversial passions are often futile, however, Sebastian is a frequent—albeit, reluctant—participant of Ariel's adventures, mainly to protect her as best he can. So many near-death experiences has left Sebastian riddled with anxiety. He occasionally suffers from nervous breakdowns, which in turn makes him high-strung and irritable.
For all his accomplishments, Sebastian has struggled with an inferiority complex; he is especially sensitive about his size and the fact that his tiny arms prevent him from swimming as fast as Ariel and Flounder. This makes it difficult to tag along on adventures which is why he'll just grab onto Flounder's tail fin. He also worries over his usefulness to his friends and the king, which drives him to go above and beyond to prove his worth. Sebastian tries to mask his insecurities with a pompous and haughty demeanor. He even lied to his parents about his job by claiming himself to be the King of Atlantica (though this was eventually debunked). Those close to Sebastian—specifically Ariel, Flounder and King Triton—are aware of his low self-esteem. They typically deal with the issue by feeding Sebastian's ego and reminding him of his own self-worth.
Sebastian is first introduced during the start of a royal concert occurring within King Triton's palace. The performance is a failure, however, as the star of the musical, Ariel, is nowhere to be found. Sebastian is subsequently faced with humiliation throughout the kingdom and berates Ariel for this upon her return to Atlantica. King Triton does the same, and further adds to the argument once he learns Ariel missed the performance due to traveling to the surface again. After the princess storms off in despair, Sebastian shows no remorse, feeling teenagers to be too trouble-making for their own good, and should be given constant supervision. This comment gives Triton the idea to assign Sebastian as Ariel's supervisor, tasked with keeping her out of trouble and under close watch at all times.
Sebastian angered over the new position, heads out of the throne room to find Ariel, eventually doing so and discovering a hidden grotto owned by the princess and used to store various human objects that have sunk into the sea. Sebastian scolds Ariel on the obsession with the human world and tries to take her home, only to be interrupted by a passing ship carrying the handsome Prince Eric. The ship is soon caught within a hurricane, and Eric falls into the sea, nearly drowning. He is rescued and swam to shore by Ariel, with Sebastian and Ariel's best friend, Flounder, following behind. Horrified by Ariel interacting with the then unconscious Eric, the crab suggests keeping the entire situation a secret, and simply return home and act as if nothing's happened; that way, he would "stay in one piece."
Unfortunately for Sebastian, Ariel has fallen in love with Eric, and obsessively focuses on him from that moment forward. Sebastian tries to convince the princess that the human world is undesirable through the musical number "Under the Sea", but once again, his attempts are futile.
Just then, Sebastian is summoned to the palace by King Triton, who has learned Ariel has fallen in love (though he believes it to be a merman, as opposed to a human). Triton playfully confronts Sebastian on the matter, wanting to know the identity of Ariel's crush, but Sebastian's anxiety blinds the obvious joy Triton feels, resulting in the former revealing Ariel's act of saving and falling in love with a human. Sebastian is then forced to reveal Ariel's grotto, where Triton destroys most of the artifacts in hopes of getting his message across to his daughter. Sebastian shows remorse for accidentally revealing Ariel's secrets to Triton, and is told to leave the grotto by the princess, which he sadly obliges to. As he tries to explain himself to Flounder, Sebastian spots Ariel leaving the grotto with Flotsam and Jetsam, minions of Ursula, the Sea Witch. Though Sebastian and Flounder try to prevent it, Ariel makes a deal with Ursula to become human for three days; in during which, she must have Eric fall in love with her and bestow a kiss of true love. Otherwise, Ariel will belong to Ursula for eternity.
After the transformation, Sebastian and Flounder aid Ariel to shore, where the former has a nervous breakdown over the situation. He makes an attempt to return to Atlantica to inform King Triton of what's happened, despite his fears of the sea king's "going to kill himself a crab!" However, Ariel begs for Sebastian's sympathy, which wins the prawn over as he knows Ariel's life would return to misery should she become a mermaid once more. Sebastian then vows to help find Eric, delighting the princess and setting the stage for further events.
Eventually, Eric comes across Ariel, and she is taken to his seaside castle with Sebastian tagging along. Sebastian is soon separated from Ariel and comes across the manic Chef Louis who tries to cook the former. Sebastian manages to escape and returns to Ariel, expressing his exasperation over the entire ordeal, only to soften once he sees Ariel's happiness and satisfaction over living above the surface. Over the course of the following days, Sebastian works with Flounder and Ariel's seagull friend, Scuttle, to form a romantic relationship between the princess and Eric, hopefully leading to a kiss. The morning of the third day, however, Sebastian and Ariel learn Eric has found his "true love", and has assembled a wedding to take place that afternoon.
However, Scuttle discovers this new woman is actually Ursula in disguise, urging Sebastian to rush off to Atlantica to finally alert Triton. By the time they find Ursula, she has now taken Ariel (once again a mermaid) as prisoner and offers her freedom in exchange for Triton's soul. Triton agrees and is turned into a polyp, much to Sebastian's sorrow. Just then, Prince Eric arrives to battle Ursula, though Flotsam and Jetsam are sent to capture him. Sebastian and Flounder intervene to free him, while Ariel deals with Ursula, in a scuffle that results in the deaths of Flotsam and Jetsam. An enraged Ursula then turns to a monstrous size to kill Ariel out of revenge, horrifying Sebastian, who can only watch alongside Flounder as Ursula ultimately meets her end at the hands of Eric, reviving Triton.
Afterward, Triton finally sees the goodness in humanity as a result of Eric's bravery and genuinely selfless love for Ariel, expressing his softened feelings towards Ariel's situation to Sebastian. Triton then magically transforms Ariel back into a human to be with Eric, and the two have a wedding sometime following this event. Sebastian is present at the ceremony, crying tears of joy as he watches the newlyweds side by side. The moment is short-lived as Chef Louis returns for revenge, only to be foiled and humiliated by Sebastian's quick-thinking, allowing the prawn to triumphantly return to the sea alongside Scuttle, Flounder, and Triton, who sees the happily married Ariel and Eric off.
Sebastian appears in every episode of the prequel television series, which follows the adventures of Ariel when she is still a mermaid. In the series, Sebastian's occupation is King Triton's assistant, adviser and confidante, just as he was during Ariel's Beginning. Sebastian is shown as being a good friend of Ariel and Flounder, as well as Urchin, a new character unique to the television series. He is sometimes strict and often critical of Ariel's adventurous ways but often ends up going on her adventures with her.
In one adventure, in the episode "Island of Fear", he accompanies Ariel as she tries to find the source of a pollutant that is sickening the fish. He befriends a human boy named Daniel and helps the boy to escape from the evil scientist the boy is forced to work for. This makes it one of the few times in the series that a character directly interacts with a human.
Throughout the series, Sebastian's character is further developed via dialogue and entire episodes dedicated to him. In the series, Sebastian is said to have come from a large Jamaican family. In "King Crab" his parents visit him, and it is revealed that he had lied and told them he was the King of Atlantica. In the episode "Tail of Two Crabs", Sebastian has a rivalry with another prawn named Zeus, and they both try to one-up the other. "T'ank You for Dat, Ariel" reveals that he is somewhat insecure regarding his small size.
Sebastian is tasked by King Triton to watch over Ariel's daughter, Princess Melody, repeating his role from the original film. Sebastian disapproves of Melody's obsession over the sea, knowing the dangers that lie within them (namely Ursula's vengeful sister Morgana, who seeks to unleash her wrath upon Melody and her family), but the headstrong princess fails to listen, finding herself completely captivated by the world of the ocean.
One evening, during a ball, Sebastian accidentally finds himself in the ballroom, amongst the crowd of royals, and more importantly, the psychotic Chef Louis, who tries to murder the crab out of spite. Sebastian manages to escape, but unintentionally embarrasses Melody in the process, reinforcing her fear of being an outcast amongst her fellow royals. Later that night, Sebastian tries to cheer up the child, but it results in her leaving into the sea. Sebastian quickly informs Ariel and Eric, and a search breaks through. King Triton is informed of this and, after turning Ariel back into a mermaid, the team takes the search into the waters. Eventually, the family finds themselves battling Morgana at the sea witch's lair. She soon meets her defeat at the hands of Melody, and with her out of the way, peace can be restored to land and sea.
In the 2008 prequel, Sebastian is King Triton's attache and is initially shown as being a strict enforcer of the sea king's rules. All music has been banned from Atlantica, but it is later revealed that Sebastian has been secretly performing music as the leader of The Catfish Club Band, which performs in an underground club. Technically this makes Sebastian the first character in The Little Mermaid universe to break a major law of Triton's.
When the underground club is revealed to Triton, Sebastian is placed in jail with the rest of his band. Thanks to Ariel, they manage to escape. As part of a premeditated plan, Sebastian leads them far away from Atlantica to a specific spot where Ariel finds her mother's discarded music box. Sebastian wants music to return to Atlantica, and he returns with Ariel to convince Triton to change his mind. When the film ends, music is restored to Atlantica, and Sebastian becomes the "royal court composer", setting up his role in the opening of the original film.
According to this film, Sebastian is the oldest of Ariel's friends, having been present since she was a small child all the way to her own parenthood in The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea. There is also evidence in the second film about this; by the time Melody is 12 years old, Sebastian has already become an elderly prawn in terms of age.
Sebastian was one of several guest stars in Raw Toonage. He would later star in his own series of shorts in the spin-off television series titled Marsupilami, set after the wedding of Ariel and Eric as seen in the first film of the Little Mermaid trilogy. One particular Sebastian short on Marsupilami was made from his host segments of a Raw Toonage episode.
Sebastian was featured as a recurring guest in House of Mouse. He is usually seen with Ariel.
In the beginning of the episode "Big Bad Wolf Daddy", Sebastian was served alive as Ariel's dinner. This was the only time in the series where Sebastian was treated this way, unlike Flounder, who was frequently treated this way in the series.
One of his most notable appearances is in the episode "The Mouse Who Came to Dinner" where Mortimer Mouse acts as if he's the critic (when the real critic was Lumiere) and demands Goofy to make him shellfish for dinner. Goofy claims they're all out and uses Sebastian as a substitute. Sebastian and Goofy end up in a comical chase (similar to the Chef Louis vs. Sebastian chase in the Little Mermaid films) for the rest of the episode until Mortimer's charade was exposed.
In "Max's Embarrassing Date" Sebastian begins to perform "Kiss the Girl" for Max and Roxanne (like he did to Ariel and Eric in The Little Mermaid), but is stopped when Max loses his temper, because he didn't want all this attention. He only wanted privacy.
He also made a brief appearance in Aladdin. When the Genie, whilst trying to find the right 'recipe' for turning Aladdin into a prince, is looking at the Royal Recipes book, he turns to "Alaskan King Crab", and he pulls out Sebastian (clamped to his finger) and flicks him off. For a few seconds during his appearance, "Under the Sea" can be heard. (Genie's response: "I hate when I do that.")
Sebastian briefly appeared in the movie version of "Dalmatian Vacation", the series finale to 101 Dalmatians: The Series, in which, during the; "Surf Puppies " Musical Number, he pinches a puppy's tail. However, the song sequence containing this cameo was often cut from televised broadcasts of the episode.
Sebastian and Flounder also starred in commercial bumpers for the Disney Junior along with an octopus, a karp, a snail, and a fluke who are Sebastian's musicians. These short showcase Sebastian and Flounder engaging in activities, accompanied by a song from an off-screen singer.
In the original Kingdom Hearts, Sebastian is tasked with keeping Ariel under tight supervision, as King Triton believes her fascination with the worlds outside Atlantica have gotten out of hand. After Ursula uses this dream to seize control over the ocean, Sebastian accompanies Ariel with Sora, Donald, and Goofy on their mission to defeat Ursula, restoring peace once her death comes to fruition.
Sebastian would appear in the official sequel, Kingdom Hearts II, where Ariel becomes infatuated with the human world, prompting the king to have Sebastian join Ariel in his orchestra for an upcoming concert. Sebastian does so, but getting Ariel's mind off the surface proves to be difficult, resulting in the king finding out Sebastian's efforts to follow orders have failed, much to the prawn's dismay. Like in the film, Ariel goes to Ursula for assistance, leading to her human transformation, her romance with Eric, and finally having her father realize the human world isn't as bad as it seems.
Sebastian also plays a minor role in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories.
Other video games
Sebastian briefly appears in the Aladdin Sega Genesis video game as a prisoner in the level "Sultan's Dungeon".
In Disney TH!NK Fast, Sebastian appears as the guest questioneer in the Undersea Grotto. He asks a few questions about The Little Mermaid, and then leaves.
Sebastian appears in various components of the Disney theme parks, globally. He is a fairly obscure walk-around character, but has made such live appearances during Move It! Shake It! Dance and Play It! Street Party, the discontinued Pirate and Princess events, as well as Disneyland Paris' Christmas events.
Sebastian appears as a puppet in Mermaid Lagoon Theater (which changed to King Triton's concert where he changed his size and appearance), The Golden Mickeys, and Mickey and the Magical Map. The performer operates the trigger connected to the head to move the mouth with his right hand and he operates the rod on the left. In the US versions, he includes a blinking mechanism.
Sebastian appears in World of Color at Disney California Adventure. Sebastian appears following Ariel's sequence singing "Under the Sea". A larger than life puppet for Sebastian was also featured for the Carnival of Color; the World of Color pre-show.
In Mickey's Soundsational Parade, Sebastian is seen riding his chariot of seahorses while waving to the park guest as he did in the opening of the original film.
For The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure, an audio-animatronic version of Sebastian joins the ride's cast of characters from the film. As plan since the original idea of the attraction in the 1990s, Sebastian appears in the attraction's colossal "Under the Sea" sequence conducting the dozens of sea creatures dancing to the music. He also appears in the "Kiss the Girl" sequence, as well as conducting some sea creatures in the finale.
Sebastian also appears in Mickey and the Magical Map as a puppet.
Sebastian makes an appearance on The Little Mermaid's float in the Paint the Night parade as well, waving to guests. However, unlike the other puppets from the World of Color pre-show, he and Mike Wazowski were not seen in the opening of the parade, due to them appearing on the floats inspired by their films.
In Fantasmic!, Sebastian makes a cameo appearance in the bubble sequence dancing to "Under the Sea".
In Voyage of the Little Mermaid, Sebastian appears in the opening sequence with Flounder and a band performing the song Under the Sea. Sebastian later reappears, in the end, celebrating Ariel and Eric's love for each other.
Sebastian is also featured in the interactive game Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom. Here, Sebastian is the first to learn that Ursula was restored from her death by Hades and plots to rule the seas and flood the Magic Kingdom. Sebastian guides the park guests on a quest to defeat her alongside Merlin the Wizard in Fantasyland.
Sebastian's likeness can be seen as part of Ariel's wall carving display inside of Enchanted Storybook Castle. A puppet version of Sebastian also appears during Ariel's segment in Golden Fairytale Fanfare. Sebastian can also be seen conducting his crustacean band in Voyage to the Crystal Grotto.
Sebastian appears as a puppet in the show Wishes. Here, he performs "Kiss the Girl" in order to have two of the three leads fall in love.
- In animation, Sebastian's eyes are white, but in print and merchandise, his eyes are yellow.
- In the Aladdin TV series, Genie transforms into a prawn that resembles Sebastian in the episode "Elemental, My Dear Jasmine".
- Because Sebastian has tried to give/been sought after for advice, (a few times throughout the films and TV series), it's implied that he also serves as a court advisor.
- Sebastian's line, "Teenagers, they think they know everything. You give them an inch, they swim all over you!", was ad-libbed by Samuel E. Wright.
- Sebastian is referenced by name by Tamatoa in the after-credits scene of Moana.