June Foray, Voice Of Rocky From 'The Bullwinkle Show,' Dies At 99

Jul 27, 2017
Originally published on July 27, 2017 5:47 pm
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The voice of a generation is gone - a generation of cartoon characters. June Foray has died at age 99. She was best known for her multiple roles on "The Rocky And Bullwinkle Show," including Rocky the flying squirrel and his nemesis Natasha Fatale. NPR's Ted Robbins has this remembrance.

TED ROBBINS, BYLINE: Let's not start at the beginning. There's a line that could come out of "Rocky And Bullwinkle."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE BULLWINKLE SHOW")

ROBBINS: It's the late '50s, early '60s, and Jay Ward's Rocky and Bullwinkle are skewering cartoon convention of the time with wry, self-referential humor. Here Rocket J. Squirrel and his dimwitted moose friend Bullwinkle are off to Hollywood in search of fame pursued by spies Boris and Natasha. June Foray is both Rocky and Natasha - hero and villain.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE BULLWINKLE SHOW")

JUNE FORAY: (As Rocky) Hey, now, who are you?

BILL SCOTT: (As Bullwinkle) I'm Bullwinkle.

FORAY: (As Rocky) Not you, you.

SCOTT: (As Bullwinkle) I'm still Bullwinkle.

PAUL FREES: (As Boris Badenov) I got it, Natasha, let's go.

FORAY: (As Natasha Fatale) But Boris...

ROBBINS: The show was a hit among adults and kids. It went into syndication, and it's still popular online and on cable. Foray told NPR in 2013 that she couldn't imagine the lasting popularity of her characters.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

FORAY: I never had any idea. All I wanted to do was work.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE BULLWINKLE SHOW")

FREES: (As Boris Badenov) That does it, Natasha, come on. We're going to get an A-Bomb.

FORAY: (As Natasha Fatale) A-Bomb?

FREES: (As Boris Badenov) A-Bomb, come on.

FORAY: (As Rocky) Did you hear that, Bullwinkle?

SCOTT: (As Bullwinkle) Well, sure, they repeated it twice.

FORAY: (As Rocky) Do you know what A-Bomb means?

SCOTT: (As Bullwinkle) Certainly. A-Bomb is what some people call our program.

FORAY: (As Rocky) I don't think that's so funny.

ROBBINS: It was the midst of the Cold War, and anyone watching would have thought Boris and Natasha were Russian agents. So did Foray.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

FORAY: And Jay Ward said, no, no, no, they're from Pottsylvania. Don't make them from Russia because we had enough problems as it was. So I made it sort of continental.

ROBBINS: In the same show, she played earnest and clueless Nell Fenwick, Canadian mountie Dudley Do-Right's girlfriend.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE BULLWINKLE SHOW")

FORAY: (As Nell Fenwick) Dudley, fancy meeting you here. I always knew you were a big spender, and there's just so many things in town I want to buy.

ROBBINS: June Foray was born June Forer in Massachusetts, and she was doing voice work on radio by age 12. Her family moved to Los Angeles and she kept doing radio. She began in animation as the voice of Lucifer the cat in Disney's "Cinderella."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "CINDERELLA")

FORAY: (As Lucifer, imitating cat screeching).

ROBBINS: Then, even though Foray was a young woman, came a string of old-woman roles - Mother Magoo in the "Mr. Magoo" cartoons, Witch Hazel in "Looney Tunes" and Granny, Tweety Bird's owner and protector against Sylvester the Cat.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "LOONEY TUNES")

FORAY: (As Granny) Aha - just what are you doing with my little birdy?

ROBBINS: June Foray also began creating a legacy beyond her own work. She helped found the Annie Awards for animation, and for decades she lobbied the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to recognize the animated features with an Oscar, which it finally did in 2001. And she worked to digitize old film and TV animation, as she told NPR in 2004.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

FORAY: So many of our famous animators and writers are gone. And we've got to commemorate them and remember their work.

ROBBINS: Today we remember June Foray and her work. Ted Robbins, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.