Baby boomers and fans of animation lost a friend and a pioneer with the death of June Foray, whose sweet, magical voice elevated many a cartoon she was in, more notably her turn on a animated, pop culture classic about a moose and his faithful, plucky squirrel friend. Foray’s voice not only gave life to an abstractly drawn, pun-riddled piece of animated heaven, it also gave life to a movement, the animated film as a mainstream piece of entertainment worthy of it’s own awards.
In 1972 at a dinner she put together to honor Popeye animators Dave and Max Fleischer came the rough draft for an annual honoring of the best in animation, thus the “Annie Awards” were born. But she didn’t stop there, taking her fight for animation’s proper place in the mainstream to the highest level: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Thus, the animated film category was added and the first animated Oscar honoree was a film that borrowed from that brilliant moose and squirrel, adding star power to it’s animated voices and earning it’s own place along with that moose and ambitious squirrel: Shrek.
Foray’s ambitious work got the animated film and it’s voice talent the true equal billing it deserved. Don’t forget, it took an equally ambitious man who started an artform and an entertainment empire with a mouse, but it would be Foray who shattered animation’s glass ceiling forever with a little help from a befuddled moose’s best friend, a flying squirrel with ambition, pluck and heart.