Ursula is the main antagonist of Disney's 1989 animated feature film The Little Mermaid and its 1992-94 spin-off television series in the saga. She is voiced by Pat Carroll.
Over the years, Ursula has become one of the most popular and iconic of all the Disney Villains and is one of the franchise's primary members.
Ursula is based on the "sea witch" character in Hans Christian Andersen's story The Little Mermaid. In the original story, the sea witch is a neutral enabler, but for Disney's animated adaptation, the character was modified into a full-fledged antagonist and plays a larger role in the overall story. Ursula is a cecaelian sea witch who "helps" unfortunate merfolk to achieve her own goals.
Her appearance is of a plump light lavender-skinned, white-haired female human and from the waist down has black octopus-like tentacles. The character has been compared to Madame Medusa from The Rescuers in terms of style, dramatics and choice of minions.
During pre-production, Ursula was not originally designed as a Cecaelia; a legendary hybrid of human and octopus. It was thought that she would be another sea creature, such as a rockfish or lionfish, or would have a snake-like appearance, as revealed in The Disney Sketchbook. The production team then saw a documentary about octopi, and decided that their multiple arms and imposing appearance would be perfect for the character they were creating. Ursula is only drawn with six tentacles, due to the studio's budget and difficulty in coordinating eight tentacles (though she has eight limbs if you include her arms). Pat Carroll has stated that this makes her a squid, though biologically she still resembles an octopus far more than any other sea-creature. Her basic look was based on the Drag performer Divine, but Divine died before they could get his voice.
Pat Carroll, Ursula's voice actress, envisioned the character as "part Shakespearean actress, with all the flair, flamboyance and theatricality, and part used-car salesman with a touch of con artist." Carroll, who is a contralto, deliberately deepened her voice for the role.
Ursula is a very dark and sinister villain with a wicked sense of humor. Ursula is very manipulative and has a talent of making great sense and making persuasive points when trying to strike a deal. Unlike many Disney Villains, most of whom care very little for their followers, Ursula puts her henchmen Flotsam and Jetsam before anything and everyone else. Ursula treats the eels like beloved pets and refers to them as her "babies" or "poopsies". When the eels are accidentally killed by Ursula because of Ariel, she mourns and takes all of her rage and sadness out on Ariel and attempts to kill her once and for all. She is known to fill the heads of merpeople with deceptions; she feeds Ariel with the lie (or at best half-truth) that men on the surface like silence in women. In fact, Prince Eric loved Ariel's voice, and Ursula manipulated her into giving up precisely the thing that would have let him recognize the mysterious girl who had saved him from the sea. Despite using contracts to get her way, Ursula has little regard for following her end of the bargain. This is demonstrated when immediately after Triton signed away his freedom for Ariel's safety, Ursula claims she'd have no qualms killing Ariel, despite being implied to have promised to not harm Ariel as a condition of the contract, and gleefully tries to in the final battle. The latter instance is possibly due to Ariel being the cause of Flotsam and Jetsam's deaths. She also expects standards in her home, even telling Ariel "We mustn't lurk in doorways. It's rude."