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 is surrounded by stellar talents in this 1995 shot: Stan Freberg, with
whom she worked so memorably on comedy records and radio, and longtime
friends Ray Bradbury and Norman Corwin. It’s hard to believe they’re all
gone now.

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.

Angela Lansbury and June Foray had never met until I introduced them at the
Academy Governors Awards dinner…and then snapped this photo

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.”)

Three of the great vocal talents of our time: Jeanette Nolan, Janet
Waldo, and June Foray, at a luncheon given by Bob Ahmanson in 1995.

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.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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July 2024