Little did I dream, when I began watching Rocky and his Friends and The Bullwinkle Show, that the day would dawn when I could call June Foray—the voice of Rocket J.Squirrel and Natasha Fatale—a friend. She was indomitable and seemingly indestructible, working into her 90s and winning an Emmy award in the midst of her 9th decade. Accepting the reality of her death, at age 99, will take some time.
I first met her at the Zagreb Animation Festival halfway around the world in 1974. When my wife and I moved to Los Angeles we saw her more often; she even attended our daughter Jessie’s Bat Mitzvah.
June loved what she did and loved to work, even if she didn’t always get credit. She dubbed telephone operators and other incidental voices in Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, among many other feature films.
One day I prevailed upon her and writer-producer-actor Bill Scott (the voice of Bullwinkle) to recreate one of their original Rocky scripts for the Entertainment Tonight cameras, and they happily obliged, morphing into their familiar characters without a moment’s hesitation.
What her many fans may not know is that she chaired the short subject branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for many years, and fought tooth-and-nail to keep animated shorts a part of the annual Oscar broadcast. Though she was diminutive in size, she stood her ground year after year. Animators will forever be in her debt.
I loved her many voices, including the raspy old-lady she often did in Jay Ward’s Fractured Fairy Tales. She revealed one day that it was a parody of character actress Marjorie Main—which made perfect sense once she pointed it out. She also played a more benign Granny in Warner Bros.’ Tweety and Sylvester cartoons.
June represents the best of a golden era of animation—not to mention radio and comedy records, where she also left an indelible mark. (This would be a perfect time to listen to Stan Freberg’s “St. George and the Dragonet” and “Little Blue Riding Hood.”)
She was a great talent and, as anyone who knew her can testify, a force of nature. She deeply cared about animation and devoted herself to promoting the medium.
Farewell, Rocky… Adios, Natasha… we’ll never forget you or the woman who gave you life.