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The Voice Of Rocky And Natasha Earns An Emmy

Sep 15, 2013
Originally published on September 18, 2013 8:50 am

The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show featured a fearless flying squirrel and his slow-witted moose sidekick. They did battle with two scheming but incompetent Soviet spies named Boris and Natasha.

The cartoon is an American classic, beloved for a wry sense of humor that appeals to kids and their parents. It originally aired from 1959 until 1964, but has been in syndication ever since, most recently on the Cartoon Network and Boomerang.

June Foray was the voice behind Rocky the Squirrel, and the evil Natasha. Now 95, she's receiving the prestigious Governor's Award Sunday at the Creative Arts Emmys.

Foray is not just known for her Bullwinkle characters. She also played Cindy Lou Who in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Jokey Smurf on The Smurfs and Granny, the overprotective owner of Tweety and Sylvester. She even provided the voice for the Chatty Cathy doll.

Foray tells Weekend Edition Sunday host Rachel Martin that she never expected the Bullwinkle characters would become so iconic. "All I wanted to do was work," she says.

Foray also reveals that femme fatale Natasha — who rolled her Rs with captivating Slavic flair — is not actually Russian.


Interview Highlights

How she got her voice work

They would just call me. I didn't have to audition, for which I was most grateful. I'd say, "Well is she heavy? Is she nice? is she meek? What kind of character? And I'd read a line and they'd say, "Oh, that's just fine."

How she came up with Natasha's voice

Well, I thought with Boris and Natasha, it was Russian, and [Bullwinkle producer] 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 her sort of continental.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

"The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show" is a beloved American classic, featuring a fearless flying squirrel and his slow-witted moose sidekick. They do battle with two scheming but incompetent spies, Boris and Natasha. The cartoon originally aired from 1959 until 1964 but has been in syndication ever since, most recently on the Cartoon Network and Boomerang.

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

JUNE FORAY: (as Rocky) Bullwinkle, it's 12 o'clock already and we're still in Frostbite Falls. You know what that means?

BILL SCOTT: (as Bullwinkle) Yup. Time for lunch.

MARTIN: And that voice you hear there as Rocky the Squirrel is the legendary voice of June Foray. Rocky and the evil Natasha were just a couple of the characters she voiced for generations of young fans. Ms. Foray, welcome to the program, and congratulations on your award.

FORAY: Oh, thank you so much.

MARTIN: When you started this kind of voiceover work, did you have any idea that these characters would become so iconic?

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

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

PAUL FREES: (as Boris) There goes it, Natasha. Come on. We going to get an A-bomb.

FORAY: (as Natasha) A-bomb?

FREES: (as Boris) A-bomb. Come on.

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

SCOTT: (as Bullwinkle) Sure. They repeated it twice.

FORAY: (as Rocky) You know what A-bomb means?

SCOTT: (as Bullwinkle) Certainly. A-bomb means what some people call our program.

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

MARTIN: How do you come up with the voices? I mean, do you get guidance from creative directors about how to make them sound or is it all your imagination?

FORAY: No. They would just call me. I didn't have to audition, for which I was most grateful. I'd say, well, is she heavy? Is she nice? is she mean? What kind of character? And I'd read a line and they'd say, oh, that's just fine. And so I had no problems at all.

MARTIN: How did you come up with Natasha's sound?

FORAY: Well, I thought with Boris and Natasha, it was Russian, 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 her sort of continental.

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

FORAY: (as Natasha) But, Boris, fearless leader says moose and squirrel must arrive safe and sound.

SCOTT: (as Boris) Who is the fearless leader?

FORAY: (as Natasha) Boris...

MARTIN: When you go out to restaurants or the grocery store, do people ever recognize your voice or do friends and family ever ask you to do Natasha or Rocky or any of your other famous voices?

FORAY: Oh yes. I've been to Trader Joe's or some of the markets or even a gas station, and there's people who either see me or hear my natural voice. They say, are you June Foray? And I'd say yeah. And then they'd say, oh, well, we love this character or that one. And my fans just remember all the things I did. I don't even remember.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: You know, you probably know this question is coming, but I don't suppose - because she was my favorite character - I don't suppose you can channel Natasha right now, can you?

FORAY: Why not, darling? I was doing Natasha for so long, she and Boris, we just be together all the time. So, no, I never have any problems.

MARTIN: You are a good sport, and it sounded perfect.

FORAY: When I did granny, I started, I think, in 1955 and I wasn't old enough to be a granny. But now that I am, I'm still doing granny.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: You can...

FORAY: Isn't that funny?

MARTIN: ...you can do granny with a little more authenticity now.

FORAY: Well, yeah, she is.

MARTIN: June Foray, the famous voice of Rocky in "Rocky and Bullwinkle." We cannot forget Natasha, of course. Ms. Foray is receiving the Governor's Award today at the Creative Arts Emmys. Ms. Foray, thank you so much for talking with us, and congratulations again.

FORAY: Oh, I thank you so much. And good luck to you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.