Iconic voice of ‘The Bullwinkle Show’s’ Rocky and Natasha was a founder of ASIFA-Hollywood and the driving force behind The Annie Awards.
Today all of ‘Toon Town mourns. June Foray, widely known as the First Lady of Voice Acting, and the driving inspiration behind animation’s biggest night, The Annie Awards, passed away on Thursday at the age of 99.
Dave Nimitz, a longtime close friend of Foray, confirmed her death on Facebook, writing, “With a heavy heart...I want to let you all know that we lost our little June today at 99 years old.” The cause of death is still to be announced.
ASIFA-Hollywood president Jerry Beck also shared the news, writing, “On behalf of ASIFA-Hollywood, which June was a founder of, we are mourning the passing of animation’s best friend,” in a statement posted to Facebook Thursday night. “She has touched so many lives -- her voice was so many classic cartoon characters -- her efforts to create ASIFA, to maintain the Academy’s Oscar for Best Animated Short -- and her leadership in crafting the category of Best Animated Feature. She was one of a kind. A trail blazer, a great talent and a truly wonderful person. We will never forget her.”
Born on September 18, 1917 in Springfield, Massachusetts, Foray was 12 years old when she landed her first job in a local radio drama, and by the age of 15 was doing regular radio voice work. In addition to her iconic roles as Rocky the Flying Squirrel and the villainous Natasha Fatale in The Bullwinkle Show, and its spinoff Boris and Natasha, Foray voiced countless other characters in Looney Tunes and Hanna-Barbera cartoons. Her various roles included Witch Hazel, who first appeared in Chuck Jones’ 1956 cartoon “Broom-Stick Bunny,” Nell from Dudley Do-Right, Granny from the Tweety and Sylvester cartoons, Cindy Lou Who in How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Mother Magoo in the Mister Magoo series. She also lent her voice to the iconic “Chatty Cathy” doll, and later voiced the demonic doll Talky Tina in the “Living Doll” episode of The Twilight Zone in 1963. Her performance as Mrs. Cauldron on The Garfield Show earned her a Daytime Emmy in 2012, and she was awarded the TV Academy’s prestigious Governor’s Award in 2013.
Foray also voiced several roles in feature films, including Lucifer the Cat in Cinderella, a mermaid in Peter Pan, Grandmother Fa in Disney’s Mulan, and Wheezy and Lazy Hyena in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, in addition to reprising her roles as Witch Hazel and Granny in the 1996 Warner Bros. hybrid feature Space Jam.
She worked well into the 21st century, reprising her role as Rocky in 2000’s The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle and the 2014 DreamWorks Animation short film, Rocky and Bullwinkle.
Watch Foray discuss voicing Rocky and Natasha on The Bullwinkle Show in the video player below:
Widely credited as the mind behind The Annie Awards, which recognizes achievement in animation, Foray was an avid supporter of the medium and worked tirelessly to have animated films recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Beginning as a small dinner event in 1972, The Annies grew into the annual gala recognizing top talent in animation that continues to this day. In 1995, the Annies created a juried award named after Foray that recognizes individuals who have made significant or benevolent contributions to the art and industry of animation, and she was its first recipient.
Rest In Peace, June Foray. Your spirit, kindness and wit are greatly missed.