June Foray, voice of Rocky the Fly­ing Squir­rel, dies at 99

Miami Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

Ac­tress June Foray, who gave voice to Rocky the Fly­ing Squir­rel and hun­dreds of other cartoon char­ac­ters and was some­times known as the “fe­male Mel Blanc,” has died in a Los An­ge­les hospi­tal. She was 99.

Foray died July 26 at West Hills Hospi­tal in Los An­ge­les of car­diac ar­rest, but she had been in frag­ile health since a car ac­ci­dent two years ago, niece Robin Thaler said Thurs­day.

Foray was the best-known woman among the voice per­form­ers who con­trib­uted so much to the clas­sic car­toons of Warner Bros., Dis­ney, Hanna-Bar­bera and other stu­dios. She had a galaxy of ways to cre­ate funny but be­liev­able char­ac­ters, but could also be warm and wise in Dis­ney’s Mu­lan or, in a mem­o­rable Twi­light Zone episode, chill­ing.

She had over 300 cred­its as a voice ac­tress, most re­cently do­ing one last turn as Rocky in a 2014 short.

Born in Spring­field, Mass., Foray was a teenager when she moved with her par­ents to Los An­ge­les. She had be­gun per­form­ing in ra­dio as a child in Mas­sachusetts and, once in Hol­ly­wood, be­came ac­tive in ma­jor ra­dio pro­grams such as The Jimmy Du­rante Show. She later called old-time ra­dio a great train­ing ground, forc­ing her to learn to be ver­sa­tile and quick-think­ing.

Among the leg­ends she worked with were Chuck Jones and the other famed Warner’s an­i­ma­tors; Jay Ward, cre­ator of Rocky and Bull­win­kle; Rod Ser­ling, cre­ator of The Twi­light Zone; ra­dio and record­ing satirist Stan Fre­berg; and such cartoon voice tal­ents as Daws But­ler (Huck­le­berry Hound) and Blanc Sylvester).

In his 1989 mem­oir, Chuck Amuck, Jones noted “the highly tal­ented and ver­sa­tile Mel Blanc” did voices for Bugs, Daffy, Porky, Tweety, Yosemite Sam and oth­ers, “ex­cept fe­male voices, which were done by the equally tal­ented June Foray.”

Per­haps in­evitably, Rocky — with his trade­mark ex­cla­ma­tion “Hokey Smoke!” — was Foray’s fa­vorite.

“Ev­ery­body asks me that,” she said in a 2000 As­so­ci­ated Press in­ter­view. “I think the fans kind of an­swer that for me. Ev­ery­body loves Rocky. I get let­ters from Bel­gium, Ger­many, all over. Peo­ple don’t think of him as a squir­rel. They think of him as a per­son. And he’s a good lit­tle per­son.”

The diminu­tive Foray wore a gold Rocky pen­dent around her neck that she de­lighted in point­ing out to peo­ple.

She was also fond of Rocky’s pal, voiced by Bill Scott, as well. “Bull­win­kle was a very sweet crea­ture,” Foray said. “He was not a stupid per­son. He was ex­tremely in­ge­nious. He was very faith­ful.” (Bugs Bunny,

The orig­i­nal Rocky and Bull­win­kle aired in 326 short in­stall­ments as part of a se­ries fea­tur­ing other cartoon cre­ations by Ward. The Cold War con­flict pit­ted the moose and squir­rel against the bum­bling spies Boris Bade­nov and Natasha Fatale, to whom Foray also gave a voice.

Rocky and His Friends ran on ABC week­day af­ter­noons from 1959 through 1961, and then The Bull­win­kle Show was on NBC from 1961 to 1964, first in prime-time and later in day­time.

Be­sides Bull­win­kle J. Moose and Rocket J. Squir­rel, the show fea­tured such se­quences as Frac­tured Fairy Tales; Pe­abody’s Im­prob­a­ble His­tory; Ae­sop and Son; and Ad­ven­tures of Dud­ley DoRight.

“The shows were on two plateaus,” Foray once said. “The chil­dren en­joyed it be­cause of the hu­mor­ous look of the char­ac­ters and the sounds of the voices. The adults find it so in­ven­tive be­cause of the puns, the satire . . . It was a show that was dif­fer­ent from ev­ery­thing that came be­fore it or af­ter it.”

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