It's easy to watch animated shows and forget that there are real people voicing each of the characters, even as you grow up with those characters and hear them every day. One of the most iconic voices behind the screen was June Foray, who voiced numerous cartoon characters, and died on Wednesday. Now, it's time to celebrate and remember her life and her career.
Foray died at 99 years old, only months away from her 100th birthday, and her career wasn't much shorter than that. Born in 1917, Foray started doing radio acting when she was only in her teens. She continued in that vein, eventually adding in small scale cartoon work, until 1950, when someone at Disney noticed her talent and asked her to play a role in their animated feature film Cinderella. Foray voiced Lucifer the cat in Cinderella, and she didn't look back from there.
After that, Foray voiced hundreds of animated characters, including some whose voices you'll immediately remember — Rocky from Rocky and Bullwinkle, Natasha Fatale in Rocky and His Friends, Cindy Lou Who in the original The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, a murderous doll on The Twilight Zone, and Grandma Fu in Mulan, among many others. She specialized in witches and grandmas well before she reached old age, so you've no doubt heard her in countless movies and cartoons.
More than just bringing myriad animated characters to life, though, Foray also dedicated her life to the art of animation itself and to getting it recognized in the world of Hollywood. She was a founding member of ASIFA-Hollywood, an organization dedicated to animation, and was also the founder of the Annie Awards, an awards show exclusively for animated productions. She also had a significant hand in the creation of the Best Animated Feature category at the Oscars, which first debuted at the 2001 awards show and which Shrek won in the first year. She told Variety that it took 20 years of convincing the Academy, but her work paid off.
Foray won numerous awards herself, including one Daytime Emmy, a Grammy, and four Annies — including the June Foray Award for "those who have made a significant and benevolent or charitable impact on the art and industry of animation." She published an autobiography in 2009, called Did You Grow Up With Me, Too? Given all of her work, there are few of us who didn't. Foray was a trailblazer for women, animation, and Hollywood as a whole, and the industry will miss her greatly.