An animation legend that will live on forever
July 27th, 2017
Before the days of streaming, kids woke up on Saturday mornings to enjoy a bowl of cereal with their cartoons. It topped the to-do list over chores and church. Chances are that some cartoons had the same voice. Even off camera, said voice would share their passion for their job like the stories told around a knight’s table after slaying a dragon. That powerful voice best describes the first leading lady of voice artists, June Foray.
Throughout her 70 plus year career as a voice actress, she spread her talent across multiple animation studios: Disney, Warner Brothers, Hanna-Barbera, Rankin/Bass, and Jay Ward Productions. Nothing was sacred except the stories she told of her colleagues like Mel Blanc, Paul Frees, and Bullwinkle himself Bill Scott:
Foray voiced so many characters that it would take a week just to list them all. But some of her most notable roles include Lucifer the Cat in Walt Disney’s Cinderella, Rocky the Flying Squirrel, Nell Fenwick and Natasha Fatale in The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, and Granny and Witch Hazel from Looney Tunes. After Termite Terrace disbanded in the 1960’s, Foray continued her longtime collaboration with legendary animator, Chuck Jones. Her roles included Mother Wolf in The Jungle Book, which took a more faithful approach compared to the Disney film, Cindy Lou Who in 1966’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Jane Kangaroo in Horton Hears a Who. She later earned her blue card as the mischievous Jokey Smurf in The Smurfs, based on the comics by Peyo and voiced the smoking weasel Wheezy in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Yet not even old age would deter her dedication to voice acting when the Disney Afternoon dawned on a new generation. In The Adventures of the Gummi Bears she voiced Granni Gummi while in Ducktales she voiced Ma Beagle and Magica De Spell: the latter role she reprised before her death in the video game Ducktales Remastered alongside costar Alan Young. Though some saw her talent as just recording lines, she marketed memories as if traveling to another planet.
Her love for animation surpassed her vocal cords as she became the founder of the Annie Awards recognizing the accomplishments in the animation industry. In fact, the June Foray Award is one of the three honorary categories named after animation legends like Winsor McCay and Ub Iwerks. Even Rodger Bumpass, the voice of Squidward in SpongeBob SquarePants, bared no jealousy when he lost an Emmy to her in 2012: “…There wasn’t really a competition because one of the other nominees was June Foray (Rocky and Bullwinkle) and she is royalty in the animation world. So, what that award was really a lifetime achievement award because she’s like 94 years old. There was no way any of the other three guys had a chance. In fact, if any of us had one, there would have been a riot in that studio. So, I’m happy to lose to June Foray. I’m very pleased and grateful to get a nomination.”
Along with Bumpass, Jones ranked Foray higher than the man of 1000 voices himself, Mel Blanc: “June Foray is not the female Mel Blanc; Mel Blanc is the male June Foray.”
With so many accomplishments under her belt, it’s heartbreaking to lose her two months shy of her 100th birthday. It’s not often someone comes around and brings their gift to multiple generations. What she left behind is a voice that brought many emotions to iconic animated character. “I don’t regret anything and would do it again if there ever was a second chance”. Farewell, June Foray, and thank you for giving us so many childhood memories.
The Many Voices of June Foray