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RIPVoice Acting

June Foray, Voice Of Rocket J. Squirrel and Natasha Fatale, Dead At 99

Voice acting legend June Foray died today at age 99. The news was confirmed on Facebook by a family friend, Dave Nimitz.

She was one of the leading voice actresses of the Golden Age of Hollywood theatrical animation, and later transitioned to television series, commercials, movie dubbing, and narration, with a career that lasted into the current decade. Among the hundreds of cartoon characters she brought to life, her iconic roles included Rocky the Flying Squirrel and Natasha Fatale in The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, Witch Hazel and Granny in the Looney Tunes theatrical shorts, Nell Fenwick in The Dudley Do-Right Show, Ursula in George of the Jungle, Lucifer the cat in Disney’s Cinderella, Cindy Lou Who in How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, Ma Beagle and Magica De Spell in Ducktales, and Grammi Gummi in Adventures of the Gummi Bears.

Her prolific body of work as a voice actor often drew comparisons to her colleague Mel Blanc, but animation director Chuck Jones set the record straight once when he said, “June Foray is not the female Mel Blanc. Mel Blanc is the male June Foray.”

To learn more about her life and work, we recommend picking up her autobiography Did You Grow Up with Me, Too?

The longevity and range of June Foray’s career in animation is legendary, but what also shouldn’t be overlooked is her tireless and selfless boosterism of the animation art form. She was one of the founders of ASIFA-Hollywood, and when she was president of the organization in the 1970s, she started the Annie Awards, an event that will celebrate its 45th anniversary next year.

Further, the reason the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has an animated feature Oscar category is due in no small part to her decades-long lobbying effort. She was on the Academy’s board of governors for 26 years, and spent the majority of those years pushing to have the Academy recognize feature animation, which they finally did in 2001.

Foray advocated for animation to be taken seriously as an art form long before such thoughts had entered mainstream consciousness. “Animation has come out of its adolescence,” she told The Los Angeles Times back in 1965. “It has grown into a medium for adults…Along with this is the fact that animation has become an art form. It has become an industry filled with people who at one time would have become painters, sculptors, writers for other fields. Animation once was considered a stepchild of the motion picture industry. It has become an industry in its own right.”

This year, as we get set to begin our annual coverage of awards season, it’s worth remembering that a big reason we even have so much attention directed toward animation nowadays is due to the efforts of a single remarkable woman, the one and only June Foray.

June Foray at a Warner Bros. recording session with Chuck Jones (left) and Mel Blanc, ca. mid-1950s.
June Foray at a Warner Bros. recording session with Chuck Jones (left) and Mel Blanc, ca. mid-1950s.
June Foray recording "St. George and the Dragonet" with, from left, Walter Schumann, Daws Butler, and Stan Freberg, 1953.
June Foray recording “St. George and the Dragonet” with, from left, Walter Schumann, Daws Butler, and Stan Freberg, 1953.
June Foray with San Diego Comic-Con founder Shel Dorf, 1973.
June Foray with San Diego Comic-Con founder Shel Dorf, 1973.
June Foray dancing (center) at a Format Films holiday party, ca. early-1960s.
June Foray dancing (center) at a Format Films holiday party, ca. early-1960s.
June Foray with (l. to r.) Tex Avery, Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, and Art Babbitt at the 3rd Annie Awards ceremony, 1974.
June Foray with (l. to r.) Tex Avery, Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, and Art Babbitt at the 3rd Annie Awards ceremony, 1974.
In addition to her voice acting, Foray was one of the mermaid models in Disney's "Peter Pan." In this photo, Foray is on the right. Photos via Andreas Deja)
In addition to her voice acting, Foray was one of the mermaid models in Disney’s “Peter Pan.” In this photo, Foray is on the right. Photos via Andreas Deja)
June Foray, RIP.
  • Man, I will really miss her as the second incarnation of the voice of Granny; another legend has passed. :(

    R.I.P.

  • Frank Coufal

    Her voice has really touched our hearts. May she always be remembered.😰😰😰😰

  • Vincent Alexander

    So sad. One of the greatest voices of all time. I drew a little tribute to her here.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/eed22f91c1447db30a5f153b51bdfd1248cb14e2f0441f07d029cf1160862ab8.jpg

  • Christina Bishop (Maryk)

    I named my Norwegian Forest Cat Natasha because she turned 99 on the day I got her, she will be missed by the animation and voice acting community. I had to give her a ferocious name for such a wild little beast so I gave her a notorious one instead. If I ever get a small dog I’ll name him Boris.

  • Inkan1969

    Oh, my. I found out about this just now. My condolences to her family, and to her enormous legacy. She was an icon of animation.

  • Erin T. Aardvark

    So close to 100, too. The voice acting world will never be the same without Ms. Foray. Though I’m a little surprised to see my video in this write up. Yes, that “The Voices of June Foray” video is mine. When I made that, I just chose some of my favorite voices Ms. Foray had done, for two resons. 1. I’m biased, and 2. if I used every voice she had ever done, it would be an extremely loooooong video.

    We’ll miss you, June!

  • bigg3469

    A legend is gone just two months shy of her 100th birthday, I grew up listening to her voice from her two versions of Witch Hazel for Disney and Warner Bros, to The Phantom Tollbooth to Grandma Fa in Mulan. She will be sorely missed by all. RIP.

  • Glowworm

    I absolutely adored this woman! She voiced so many wonderful characters such as Witch Hazel, Granny, Rocky, Natasha, and Jokey Smurf–just to name a few. The best part was that she just kept on voice acting, and she was always great at it!

  • Pedro Nakama

    I met June and the late Bill Scott at an ASIFA Hollywood cel sale at the Sherman Oaks Galleria back in the early 80’s. Two very nice people.
    RIP

  • I will miss her charm and presence in animation. She has made a great impact in the industry and with those who enjoy this great medium. Thank you June – may those who appreciate her and have collaborated with her find comfort.

  • “THE WOMAN WAS TEACHING US.”
    “THE WOMAN WAS TEACHING US.”
    “THE WOMAN WAS TEACHING US.”

    REST IN PEACE, PARADISE AND POWER,
    MA’AM.

  • rodso64

    My life-mate was fortunate enough to work for June when she was president of ASIFA-Hollywood. I myself was fortunate to meet and chat with her at several ASIFA events. Ever gracious.

    Blessed Be, my lady.

  • I have always been a fan of June Foray. You can imagine my great honor when we cast her as Grandma Fa in Disney’s Mulan. I got to be the director to work with her in LA to record most all of her dialogue. I remember how appreciative June was of being cast in a Disney feature. She never had a part in a Disney feature and it was a “bucket list” dream of hers. We were the ones that felt honored to have a legend like June in our movie playing the crazy Grandma Fa to Mulan. Soon after, we cast legendary singer/ actress Marnie Nixon to be Grandma Fa’s singing voice and the dream was complete. Two legendary actresses on one character! That was the coolest! One of my fondest memories of working with June was her preparation for the sessions. She would come into the studio, dressed very nicely with half her body weight in dangly jewelry, greet everyone warmly and then make her way to the microphone. She had done this a million times and even worked out in advance to have a tall bar stool to prop her up to the mic (she was less than 5 feet tall). As we started to record, the engineer and I would here a cacophony of dinging and tingling during her lines. We had to stop her and ask her if she didn’t mind taking off the pounds of gold necklaces, dangly ear rings and bracelets off for the recording. It happened every time! She always acted surprised. “You can hear that?’, she would ask, “hmm, I have never had a problem in the past…” It was like recording the queen and asking she remove her crown. And why not? We were recording animation royalty and it was my privilege to have known her. I am deeply saddened by her passing.

  • V.E.G.

    Well done, June Foray. Rest in peace.

  • The weird thing is that I was watching Raggedy Ann the other morning without realizing this piece of news. Goddamn, RIP

  • GOATmaybe

    “People called her the male Mel Blanc. I say Mel was the Female June Foray” – Chuck Jones according to rob paulsen

  • Jessie

    She was related on my dad’s side. Her real last name is Forer but she changed it to Foray. Forer is hard to pronounce unless you hear it: FOR-ER.