Star Wars Took Charge of Errol’s Elephants
We all know the Star Wars movies are a feast for the eyeballs, but when you think about it, they are also a special treat for the ears, too. According to Mentalfloss, legendary sound designer Ben Burtt got his star on Star Wars fresh out of the University of Southern California’s film school and “was tasked with coming up with a completely new and organic soundscape for the movie.”
Burtt created Chewbacca’s iconic voice by blending the vocalizations of a bear, a lion, a walrus and a badger. The beloved pint-sized droid R2-D2’s endearing chirps were made using loops on a synthesizer matched with beeps and boops modelled after baby coos performed by Burtt. The infamous deep breathing of the evil Darth Vader was created by putting a microphone inside the regulator on a scuba tank.
But our favourite iconic sound, the swooshing shriek of the film’s TIE fighter engines, are — brace yourselves for a shock — the sound of an elephant call mixed with the sounds of a car driving on wet pavement. According to the blog Unidentified Sound Object, Lucas had seen a documentary about the Battle of Stalingrad and told Burtt the sound of the Nazi rockets would make a great laser-gun noise.
That’s when Burtt stumbled on recordings of some stampeding elephants from an old Errol Flynn movie, which he mixed with recordings of cars speeding through puddles in a rainstorm. He slipped the sound in for a screening at the last moment, and everyone went wild. “I’d really put it in because I had no other alternative, but it got great reviews, so naturally it became the sound of the TIE fighters,” the sound legend said.
— Gentleman Tim