Remembering June Foray: The Queen of Animation

It seems like every day more and more stalwarts of the pop culture world keep shuffling off this mortal coil. On Wednesday, July 26th, another star was lost. June Foray, the first lady of voice actors, passed away at the age of 99 from cardiac arrest. Her career is one that spans the decades, with credits in radio, TV, movies, commercials and video games. But it was her work as a voice actress for which so many knew her, and so many will remember her by.

Born June Lucille Forer on September 18, 1917 in Springfield, Massachusetts, June was destined to work with her voice. Breaking into local radio at the age of 12, she was doing regular work for various programs by the age of 15 until her family moved out to Los Angeles after her father fell on hard times finding work. The late 1930’s found her working as the star of her own radio program Lady Make Believe before branching out further in the industry.

During The Golden Age of Radio, June found work on hit shows like Lux Radio Theater and The Jimmy Durante Show. Her work in radio would lead to recording voices for children’s records for Capital Records, paving the way to the industry that became her home and where she was most known and loved for many years, cartoons and voice acting.

June has been the beloved voice of many animated characters over the years, chiefly famous for her roles as Granny on the Looney Tunes, Nell on The Adventures of Dudley Do-Right, Witch Hazel in several Looney Tunes shorts, and most famous of all, Rocky Squirrel and Natasha Fatale on The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle. Other noted credits include Jokey Smurf (for The Smurfs), Grammi Gummi (The Adventures of the Gummi Bears), Magica De Spell (DuckTales) and Grandma Fa for Disney’s 1998 hit film Mulan.

For her work as the voice of Cindy Lou Who in the 1966 animated Christmas classic How The Grinch Stole Christmas, June received a Grammy Award. But her fame in the industry extends beyond voicing so many beloved characters. June was instrumental in the creation of the Best Animated Feature Award for the Oscars, with the board finally creating the category in 2001. In addition, she was the founder of the Annie Awards in 1972, an annual ceremony that honors various achievements in the field of animation. One of the Annie’s top awards is named after her and is given regularly at the Annie’s in recognition of a person who has made significant impact to the animation industry.

June’s passing leaves a looming legacy of a wide variety of voices contributing to a multitude of shows and animated features over the many years. Her dedication to the industry and to making sure other voice actors, actresses and other persons who make it their job to bring cartoons to life are recognized, is what also set her apart from other members of the profession.

To try and entirely sum up the quantity and quality that was June Foray’s life and work as a voice actress would be almost like doing a disservice to her in and of itself. So in closing, this quote from June about her favorite character and being a voice actress should give all dear readers a sense of the caliber of woman and performer she was. Rest in peace June Foray, you made everyone you touched laugh with your gift and will always be loved for it.

I love the [Rocky and] Bullwinkle show because it’s so mordantly witty. … But I love everything I do with all of the parts that I do because there’s a little bit of me in all of them. We all have anger and jealousy and love and hope in our natures. We try to communicate that vocally with just sketches that you see on the screen and make it come alive and make it human– June Foray.