Opinion: Valley native Foray made an impact in animation

8/3/2017 | G. Michael Dobbs

Category: August 2017

We all love our favorite sons and daughters – those residents of a community who have gone off and achieved fame and fortune doing something significant.

I’m sure you can reel off names of people who know who fit this description from your town or city. Did you know that Kurt Russell was born in Springfield? Or that classic 1930s dancing and musical star Eleanor Powell was also a native of the City of Homes? The list for the Western Massachusetts can go on and on.

Here’s one of which you might not have heard: June Foray? Who? June was one of the most significant voice actresses in the business and if you’re a Baby Boomer or younger, you grew up hearing her voice.

Ever watch “Rocky and Bullwinkle,” for instance? She was both Rocky the Flying Squirrel and the evil Natasha Fatale, among others. How about the classic Warner Brothers “Tweety” cartoons? She played Tweety’s owner, the benevolent Granny? Ort how about Witch Hazel in the Bugs Bunny cartoons? Cindy Lou Who in “How the Grinch Stole Christmas?”

There are many, many more credits.

June passed away last week at the age of 99 in her home in Southern California. She would have been 100 on Sept. 18.

Celebrity deaths usually don't affect me much – sad for a moment and then on to life. However the announcement that June had passed truly moved me.

She grew up in Springfield on Orange Street and I first got to know her through the magazine about animation I edited and co-owned, Animato!, back in the 1990s.

Later I interviewed twice, once about her role in “Mulan” and then her about observations on the live action “Rocky and Bullwinkle” film.

She was always enthusiastic, smart, funny and supportive. She was proud of her role in animation history and rightly so. Some people called her the “female Mel Blanc” – the renowned voice actor at Warner Brothers – but others called Blanc “the male June Foray!”

She first acted on local radio, the historic WBZ, before her family moved to Southern California. Foray recalled fondly to me ice skating in Forest Park. She was very active on various radio shows when that medium was king before breaking into animation work. The great satirist Stan Freberg frequently used her as part of his casts for various projects.

Foray helped establish the Hollywood chapter of ASIFA, the international group dedicated to the art of animation and successfully pushed for the creation of an Oscar for best Animated Feature.

My dream for many years back in the 1990s was somehow to bring her back to Springfield for a proper celebration and recognition of a favorite daughter made good. Sadly that never happened.

June Foray was one of the last connections to a time when so much great work came out of the classic cartoon studios – work of a quality and scale we are unlikely ever to ever see again. Her passing is like the official death of the Golden Age of Animation.

Thanks Tim and Bud

With two open seats on the Springfield City Council – City Councilors Tim Rooke and Bud Williams have decided not to run for re-election – we are pretty much guaranteed some fresh blood on the council.

That’s said with no offense directed at either Williams or Rooke. But I think both men would agree the need for changes to the council to keep its perspective fresh and in line with the changing times in the city.

Both Williams and Rooke were at large-councilors; so two new candidates will fill those positions.

We should thanks Rooke and Williams for their long service on the council. Both of them started before the advent of ward representation and both have seen substantial changes in the city and how it’s governed.

They will be missed.

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