Ursula the Sea Witch is now a classic Disney Villain. It is hard to imagine her looking or sounding any different than she did in The Little Mermaid.
However, Ursula almost looked like this:
And she almost sounded like Broadway Legend Elaine Stritch. Ms. Stritch was originally cast as the evil Ursula and actually started recording her part in the studio. Ms. Stritch proved to be too difficult to work with and never caught on to how an animated film is produced. Elaine Stritch was fired from the role.
With alot on the line, the studio scrambled to find their new Ursula. They thought they'd found her in Beatrice Arthur, who starred in The Golden Girls, which was produced by Disney-Owned Touchstone Television. They made an offer to Ms. Arthur's agent who refused to pass it onto Bea. She felt that it would be insulting to ask Bea Arthur to play a witch and forbade Disney to even mention it to the Golden Girl. Not wanting to anger the star of Touchstone's biggest hit, the company followed the agent's advice. Needless to say, Bea Arthur was very angry when she found out that her agent refused to pass the offer along.
So Disney turned to Pat Carroll, a versatile character actress whose husky voice and attitude made Ursula a memorable presence on the screen. Ms. Carroll helped make Disney Magic in the biggest role of her career, igniting Disney Animation's second golden age.