June Foray, the voice behind some of the most iconic roles in animated film history and a prolific member of the animation industry, died at 99 years old on July 26, 2017. Many close friends and fellow animation industry members confirmed her death on social media.
Foray not only voiced hundreds of characters across film, TV, and more, but also founded the International Animated Film Society and created the Annie Awards to honor animated films. She’s also credited for being a key part of the establishment of the Best Animated Feature award for the Academy Awards.
Here’s everything you need to know.
1. Foray Began Her Voice Acting Career With Local Radio Dramas at Age 12
Foray was born June Lucille Forer in Springfield, Massachusetts on September 18, 1917, according to Comic Book and TV Writer Mark Evanier. Her acting talent was encouraged by her parents and she was in local radio dramas by the time she was 12 years old.
According to Variety, she and her family moved to Los Angeles after she graduated from high school, continuing to do voice work in her own “Lady Make Believe” radio show and appearing on network shows like “Lux Radio Theater” and “The Jimmy Durante Show.” She also recorded many children’s albums with Capitol Records and was also a regular cast member of “The Stan Freberg Show” on CBS Radio.
While working on “Smilin’ Ed’s Buster Brown Show,” she met writer and director Hobart Donavan. Donavan would go on to be her husband from 1954 until his death in 1976, Variety writes. She also was married to Bernard Barondess from 1941 to 1945.
She got her start in the animation business when someone from Walt Disney Animation Studios called her to be the voice of Lucifer the cat in 1950’s Cinderella, the publication writes. Around the same time, she also voiced Granny in the Tweety and Sylvester cartoons. She then met Chuck Jones at Warner Bros. and worked on several Looney Tunes shorts starting with Broom-Stick Bunny in 1956.
2. Foray Voiced Rocky of Rocky and Bullwinlke, Cindy Lou Who in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, & Hundreds Other Characters From Your Childhood
Foray’s IMDB page lists a whopping 308 acting credits across movies, TV, video games, and more. You can see many of her voices in action in the YouTube video below.
IMDB lists her first acting credit as Oswald the Lucky Rabbit in the short film The Egg Cracker Suite in 1943, though she is not credited. According to Evanier, experts disagree on when Foray first worked in animation, though she usually cites Cinderella.
Many cite Rocky and Natasha Fatale of Rocky and Bullwinkle as her most famous role. Variety writes that she did nearly every single female role in the show.
She was the voice of Hazel the Witch in the 1952 Donald Duck short Trick or Treat, a role that would later lead to the Looney Tunes character of Witch Hazel.
She also voiced Cindy Lou Who in Jones’ adaptation of How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
Her career went on well into her 90s, with her reprising several of her characters over the years. Her last film credit is Rocky in the DreamWorks Animation short, Rocky and Bullwinkle, in 2014. She also reprised her role as Magica De Spell from the late 1980s cartoon DuckTales for the 2013 video game DuckTales: Remastered. Her last performance as Granny was in The Looney Tunes Show from 2011 to 2013.
Foray said in a 2013 interview with Variety that “I’m still going. It keeps you thinking young. My body is old, but I think the same as I did when I was 20 years old.”
Evanier wrote that she also did voice work for several live-action TV shows including Baretta, The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., Green Acres, and The Twilight Zone. She voiced the titular doll Talky Tina in the “Living Doll” episode of The Twilight Zone.
3. She Founded the International Animated Film Society
Foray founded the International Animated Film Society after working in the animation business for about 20 years, she told Variety. The organization, then called ASIFA West Coast, was founded in the early 1960s with Foley as well as animation professionals Les Goldman, Bill Littlejohn, Ward Kimball, John Wilson, Carl Bell, and Herbert Kasower.
She said that the group that would eventually become the organization would never do anything. The most they would do is have lunch together or call each other.
ASIFA-Hollywood, according to their “About Us” page, is a non-profit organization promoting, encouraging, and preserving the art and craft of animation. They are building an archive, museum, and library for animation art at their facility in Burbank, California. They also rescue and preserve cartoons on deteriorating film stock via the Animation Preservation Project. Their Animation Educator’s Forum educate others on the art of animation. They also hold special screenings and other members’ events.
4. She Created the Annie Awards & Played a Key Role in Establishing the Best Animated Feature Academy Award
In the early 1970s, Foray pitched the idea for a dinner honoring individual achievement in animation called the Annie Awards. “I was thinking that there were the Grammys, the Tonys, the Oscars, but nobody recognizes animation,” she told Variety. 400 people showed up to their first dinner in 1972 honoring animation pioneers Max and Dave Fleischer at the Sportsmen’s Lodge in the San Fernando Valley.
Foray presided over the Annie Awards every year since then, which celebrates the year’s best animated films as well as individual achievements in the field. A juried award was named for Foray in 1995 that honors individuals who made significant or benevolent contributions to the art and industry of animation, with Foray being the award’s very first recipient, writes Variety.
Friends, industry veterans, and fans alike are mourning her passing.
Foray lobbied for 20 years to have animated films recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, she told Variety. The category for Best Animated Film was finally created in 2001, with DreamWorks Animation’s Shrek winning the first one. DreamWorks Animation Co-Founder and Former CEO Jeffery Katzenberg later called Foray to thank her for what she did.
5. Foray Won Awards Of Her Own
In addition to creating awards, Foray won awards of her own.
Her earliest award according to IMDB is a 1968 Grammy Award for Best Recording for Children for How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
In addition to winning the first June Foray award in 1995 from the Annie Awards, she also won the 1997 award for Best Individual Achievement: Voice Acting by a Female Performer in at TV Production and the 1998 award for Outstanding Individual Achievement for Voice Acting by a Female Performer in an Animated Television Production.
She was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame on July 7, 2000.
She won a Daytime Emmy Award in 2012 for Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program for playing Mrs. Cauldron in The Garfield Show. She then won the Governor’s Award during the 2013 Primetime Emmy Awards.