Biography

While few filmgoers or TV fans have ever seen June Foray, a healthy majority of them are quite familiar with her work. June Foray was one of the leading voice artists of the golden age of animation, working with both the Warner Bros. animation department and the Disney studios, and later gained her greatest fame as the voice of Rocket J. Squirrel on the classic television cartoon series The Bullwinkle Show. Born in Springfield, MA, on September 18, 1917, Foray began her career as an actress at the age of 12 -- appropriately enough, by appearing in a radio drama at a local station in Springfield directed by her voice teacher. By the time Foray was 15, she was a regular at Springfield's WBZA, and two years later she was living in Los Angeles, hoping to break into the big time as an actress. At 19, Foray was both writing and starring in a radio series for children, as Miss Makebelieve, and soon became a frequent guest performer on a number of top-rated radio shows, working with the likes of Danny Thomas and Jimmy Durante. It was in the mid-'40s that Foray finally broke into the movies, but while she scored occasional onscreen roles (most notably as High Priestess Marku in the exotic drama Sabaka), she soon discovered there was a ready market for her vocal talents in Hollywood. Her first animation voice work was for Paramount's Speaking of Animals comedy shorts, in which animated mouths were superimposed on live-action footage of animals. The Speaking of Animals shorts spawned a series of records for children, recorded with a number of other noted voice actors, including Daws Butler and Stan Freeberg. The records made her a hot property with casting agents for cartoon voice work, and she found herself working for many of the biggest names in animation. For Chuck Jones at Warner Bros., Foray provided the voice of Granny in the Sylvester and Tweety cartoons, as well as the cackling Witch Hazel and dozens of other female characters. She recorded voices for several Tex Avery cartoons at MGM, as well as some Woody the Woodpecker shorts for Walter Lantz. And she made her debut at Disney as Lucifer the Cat in Cinderella. With the rise of television in the 1950s, a new market for cartoons appeared, and Foray's career kicked into high gear. She was cast as Rocky on The Bullwinkle Show, and also voiced a number of female characters on the series (most notably the villainous Natasha); she was also the voice of sweet-natured Nell Fenwick on the show's side series Dudley Do-Right. Foray stayed busy doing voice work on a number of other cartoon series as well, including Hoppity Hooper, Yogi the Bear, George of the Jungle, and the new Tom and Jerry shorts produced for TV in 1965. In addition, Foray did occasional work on The Flintstones, though she was passed over for the role of Betty Rubble after voicing her in the show's pilot. (Foray also appeared, uncredited, as the voice of Cindy Lou Who in Chuck Jones' classic animated version of How The Grinch Stole Christmas). In the 1980s and 1990s, at an age when most actresses would consider retirement, Foray was still one of Hollywood's busiest vocal talents, recording voices for everything from The Smurfs and Garfield to Duck Tales and The Simpsons. Foray also made a return to prestigious big-screen animation as the voice of Grandmother Fa in Mulan, and revisited her most famous role with vocal work in 2000's mixture of live-action and computer animation, The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle. In semi-retirement (though she still takes the occasional job that strikes her fancy), Foray is an active member of the International Animated Film Society, as well as the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. ~ Rovi