Entertainment | Arts

The Voice Of Rocky And Natasha Earns An Emmy

NPR | Sept. 18, 2013 5:50 a.m.

Contributed By:

NPR Staff

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 appealed 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 today 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 do you come up with the voices? Do you get guidance or is it all your imagination?

No, they would just call me. I didn’t have to audition, for which I was most grateful. I’d say is she heavy, is she nice, is she meek, what kind of character? And I’d read along and they’d say, Oh, that’s just fine.

How did you come up with Natasha’s sound?

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.

If you don’t mind, could you channel Natasha for me now?

(As Natasha:) Why not, darlink? I was doing Natasha for so long! She and Boris would just be together all the time. (As Foray:) So, no, I never have any problem.

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! Isn’t that funny?

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