June Foray: June of the Jungle

October 6, 2000

George of the Jungle was the LAST of the Jay Ward/Bill Scott duo’s three animated TV series. From that time (the late 1960s) until his death, in 1989 (interestingly enough, he died on my 30th birthday), Jay Ward produced mostly just commercials for Captain Crunch (and other Quaker Oats cereals) and Aunt Jemima Waffles. His partner, Bill Scott, had preceded him in death, by about four years, for the record.

I think that one of the big reasons why Ward and Scott chose to no longer produce more series was tied to the fact that there had been a BIG PUSH, in the 60s, to come up with cartoons which taught the youth of America something…….whether it was values or useful knowledge of any kind. I had received a letter from Jay Ward’s office staff in the early 70s, explaining to me that it was the philosophy of Jay Ward Productions that their cartoons were to be, first and foremost, FUN and ENTERTAINING. The letter seemed to suggest Ward felt that to take great pains to give his cartoons a didactic slant, would possibly compromise the quality of the HUMOR and EXCELLENCE in his work.

If this is correct, that the studio decided to “stick to its guns” and refused to risk watering down the quality of its work, I would say that this was not only admirable on the studio’s part, but QUITE BRAVE!! Hats off and kudos to Jay Ward, if this was the noble principle under which he was operating. I could see very well, him wishing to be remembered for producing only a certain type of cartoons.

George of the Jungle was a superior endeavor, in my opinion, to that of Jay Ward’s middle series, Hoppity Hooper. I say this for a number of reasons. For one thing, when Hoppity Hooper came out in the mid 60s, almost all of its “side shows” were recycled shows from Rocky and Bullwinkle (Fractured Fairytales and Bullwinkle’s Corners episodes……none of which were being aired for the very first time). Hoppity Hooper even had a “side show”, which was not even germane to the Jay Ward Production house: The World of Commander McBragg (From Total TV Productions—-the people who brought us cartoons such as Underdog and Tennessee Tuxedo).

George of the Jungle, for its part, continued in the same vein as its predecessors, Rocky & His Friends and The Bullwinkle Show, in that the “side shows” were all BRAND NEW SHOWS. These “side shows” were just as good, if not better, than the title show of George of the Jungle. Tom Slick and Super Chicken (the other two shows on George of the Jungle) were very cleverly written.

But there is another reason still why George of the Jungle exceeded the quality of Hoppity Hooper (and approximated the awesome stature of Rocky and Bullwinkle’s vintage series). Absent from the middle series was JUNE FORAY. With just a few exceptions, Jay Ward had loyally turned to Ms. Foray for ALL of the female voice characterizations (and even some of the male ones, like Rocky, newspaper boys, etc…..). During  Hoppity Hooper, Jay Ward and Bill Scott drew on the feminine wiles and vocals of Chris Allen. Ms. Allen, I acknowledge, did a good job in the title role of Hoppity the Frog. Nevertheless, she was always a writer FIRST, and a voice-over artist SECOND. Voice work was always a side-line for her. With all due respect, she had nowhere near the VAST ARRAY OF CHARACTERS under her belt as did Ms. Foray.

June Foray at Lake Nakuru, Kenya, Africa (July, 1973)
June Foray at Lake Nakuru, Kenya, Africa (July, 1973)

I can only assume that Ms. Foray was conspicuously absent from the middle series because she was very much in demand, and sought-after in many other animation ventures (as well as dubbing work, commercials, etc.). She has, after all, been used by so many of the other cartoon GIANTS, such as Warner Bros. (in tons of Looney Tunes, Merrie Melodies and as Granny, in Tweety and Sylvester), Walt Disney (not only in many of this studio’s legendary cartoons, but in a couple of Disney on Parade shows), Hanna-Barbera, MGM, Woody Woodpecker’s producer, Walter Lantz and even Rankin-Bass (they brought us many of the most famous animated holiday specials, back in the 60s and the 70s).

If no one else said so back in 1967, when she returned for George of the Jungle, may I be the first to say that IT WAS SO GREAT TO HAVE JUNE BACK! There was a wonderful article written about Ms. Foray in 1994, called The Queen of Cartoons. It was published in Animato by Michelle Klein-Häss. Ms. Klein-Häss alluded to a fact, which is so very true in my opinion; she said that Ms. Foray’s  characterizations have a kind of UNIQUENESS, SPARKLE AND VERY SPECIAL STAMP of her own personality, that none of her peers can come even close to touching (I am paraphrasing)!! She further went on to  christen June Foray as the finest, living voice-over artist PERIOD (either male or female)!

So when June returned to Jay Ward’s lot……whether she was doing the Russian- like (or Natasha-like) voice of an evil villainess……….whether she was doing the sweet, young voice of Tom Slick’s girlfriend, Marigold (which was like a stroll down memory lane to Dudley Do-Right, as Marigold sounded just like Nell Fenwick and Tom Slick sounded just like Dudley Do-Right)……..or whether she was doing the ROUGH, GRUFF voice, of an overweight, GROUCHY, fifty-ish/sixty-ish Mother-in-law (or jaded woman), June was like a “jewel” in the crown of all those many episodes that Jay Ward and Bill Scott produced, on that very last series……..a “jewel” without which that “crown” would have been left at least somewhat tarnished………and would have lost some of its uniqueness and sparkle, of which Ms. Klein-Häss speaks so eloquently in her own article about June.

I am only too happy to add my voice, to all those tributes, which have already been written about Ms.
Foray………May you have many, many more years to come, June, of entertaining us with your craft.

Your eternal fan——Brian

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