June Foray, one of the most prolific figures in classic animation, has passed away after 99 years of life. She will go down in history as one of the most iconic voice artists the medium of animation has ever had.
It’s going to be hard to top Foray’s record. Her career spans a record 71 years and over 300 roles, most of them animated characters. She performed her first voice acting gig on the radio when she was just 12 years old. Her big break came courtesy of Stan Freberg, who cast her in several of his comedy records. Her first big role in animation came courtesy of Disney, who cast her as Lucifer the cat in Cinderella (uncredited).
It was in 1959 that Foray would pick up the role that made her famous, giving voice to Rocket J. Squirrel as well as nearly every female character that appeared in Rocky And His Friends (including Natasha Fatale). The landmark show stayed on for years in reruns, going through several name changes and introducing an entire generation to meta humor. Foray voiced Rocky from 1959 all the way until his most recent appearance in 2014, in the short that ran before the Peabody and Sherman movie.
For several decades her “Granny” voice was heard coming from every animated old woman, including Granny from Looney Tunes, and just about every cartoon witch had Foray’s cackle (including Witch Hazel from Looney Tunes and Magica De Spell from DuckTales). She voiced the evil doll Talky Tina from The Twilight Zone, and she was the original Karen on Frosty the Snowman for exactly one airing before she was dubbed over with an actual kid (you can still hear Foray on the record). From the late 60’s through the early 90’s you would be hard-pressed to find a single animated production that Foray’s voice wasn’t a part of.
Foray is not only responsible for voicing cartoon characters, but for elevating the medium itself. According to Variety she came up with the Annie Awards, and there is now a category in that yearly ceremony named in her honor. She was a founding member of ASIFA-Hollywood back in the late 1960’s. She also led the fight to introduce an Animated Film category for the Oscars, which was introduced in 2001.
Upon news of her passing, animation historian Jerry Beck said “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.”
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