June Foray (1917-2017)

The animation world lost one of its greatest talents and advocates with the passing of June Foray yesterday.

Known as the "queen of voice talent" and the "queen of animation," June Foray provided the voice for many beloved animated characters, working with many luminaries of the animation industry. June passed away at the age of 99, just weeks shy of her 100th birthday.

After getting her start in radio, her first film role was the "voice" of Lucifer the cat in Walt Disney's 1950 animated feature Cinderella. She also voiced a witch in the 1952 Donald Duck short Trick or Treat and the squaw in Disney's 1953 feature Peter Pan. From Disney, she worked with Tex Avery, Walter Lanz, and Chuck Jones. At Warner Bros., she famously voiced the recurring Looney Tunes' characters Witch Hazel and Granny, the owner of Tweety and Sylvester. Again with Chuck Jones, she was the voice of Cindy Lou Who in his beloved 1966 TV special Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

She was immortalized with her work with Jay Ward Productions as the voice for most all of the female characters in The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, which originally aired on TV from 1959 to 1964. She was the voice of Rocky the Flying Squirrel, Natasha Fatale, and Nell Fenwick (from the "Dudley Do-Wright" segments), among others.

June never retired from doing voice over work. She provided voices for countless other animated TV shows. She was the voice of Grandmother Fa in Disney Animation's 1998 feature Mulan. She even reprised her role as Rocky in DreamWorks Animation's 2014 short film Rocky and Bullwinkle. In a 2013 interview with Variety, Foray said: “I’m still going. It keeps you thinking young. My body is old, but I think the same as I did when I was 20 years old.”

Foray was a tireless advocate for the animation industry and helped to provide important recognition to the creative people working in animation. She helped found the ASIFA (International Animation Film Association) and was a driving force in establishing ASIFA-Hollywood's annual Annie Awards which honors individuals that have made outstanding contributions to animation. She also worked for many years with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to finally establish the Best Animated Short and Best Animated Feature categories for the annual Academy Awards.

Animation historian and president of ASIFA Jerry Beck said about June Foray's passing, "On behalf of ASIFA-Hollywood, of which June was a founder, we are mourning the passing of animation’s best friend. She has touched so many lives: with her voice that of so many classic cartoon character, 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 trailblazer, a great talent and a truly wonderful person. We will never forget her.”

Animator Tom Sito had a great tribute to June on his Facebook page, stating that she had a "full joyous life, well lived. She and Chuck [Jones], and Mel [Blanc], and Jay [Ward], and Stan Freberg, Steve Allen and Jane Meadows are probably all having a drink together tonight in animation Heaven."

To learn more about June, her autobiography Did You Grow Up with Me, Too? is available on Amazon. A documentary about her life entitled The One and Only June Foray was also produced in 2013 (and I could only find this link about the documentary).

For me, I just want to express gratitude to June for providing countless hours of entertainment throughout my lifetime. Nothing makes me smile like hearing Natasha Fatale/June Foray saying "moose and squirrel" in her glorious "continental Russian" accent. Thanks for everything, June.

Source: Variety; photo source unknown, used without permission; images © Jay Ward Productions, Chuck Jones Productions, Disney

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