ByTom Cox, writer at
Staff writer for Moviepilot. Tweet me @thomascox500
Tom Cox

In the blazing spectacle of cinema it's easy to forget to watch the sounds.

Listen up! Have you ever tried watching a horror movie with the sound off? The images lose all their power. Sound adds depth, without which the energy of the film would fall flat.

Here are the weird ways some of the biggest extravaganzas of 2015 created their bawls, shrieks and zaps:

4. 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' - a cat

In the buffet of delicious Star Wars sounds, ranging from light sabres humming to Storm Trooper's blaster shots to Chewbacca's moan, every minuscule vibration has been painstakingly cooked.

Did you notice the earth-shaking cat in The Force Awakens? Me neither. The ominous rumble of Kylo Ren's Force (Adam Driver) was the throaty purr of the sound editor's kitty. David Acord, who was nominated for Best Sound Editing alongside Matthew Wood for the movie, told Nerdist:

"The really chunky and animalistic rumble is my cat’s purring"

Hear Kylo's feline dark side:

As well as loaning his pet to the production, Acord exercised his glottal for a certain tentacled predator:

When the rathtar has his mouth on the cockpit of the Falcon, that is me literally choking myself. [Laughs] Finger down my throat in front of the mic to accomplish that and then it’s pitched down.

When the rathtar careers down the corridor after Chewbacca and Han Solo, it tumbles with the sound used for something rolling after Harrison Ford 34 years earlier: Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Hear Acord's self-strangulation (from 0:30):

3. 'Mad Max: Fury Road': whales

The mad road trip of Fury Road may be a metaphor for the hellish struggle producers had, which began in 1997. Not the least of these was 9/11 and the Iraq War. Much of it was shot in the Namibian desert, and as most was filmed with high-speed cameras and wind machines almost all of the on-location sound was unusable.

The movie's 10 Oscar nominations proves the pain was worth it, however, with one nomination for sound editing and another for mixing. The movie's success lies not just in its post-apocalyptic oil-smeared action, but in how it made these chases relatable.

Sound designer Mark Mangini told The Frame how he considered the War Rig, the oil truck sent into the desert to fetch gasoline, as an allegory for the whale in nineteenth-century novel Moby Dick.

We wanted to personify it as this giant, growling, breathing, roaring beast. We designed whale sounds to play underneath all those truck sounds to embody the real sounds and to personify it.
Every time it was struck with a harpoon, you hear these deep whale-like groans to say that it has been hurt and wounded. It's not just the sound of metal into metal. When the harpoons do pierce the War Rig and the milk sprays out, we use the sounds of whale blowholes.

Though it's unlikely most people would have picked up on the rig's likeness to a whale, having the same image threaded throughout the action gave it a taut cohesion onto which personal interpretation could be easier projected.

Listen for the explosive whale spurts:

2. 'The Revenant': camels

Getting the bear details
Getting the bear details

Animal noises must be among the most evocative for audiences, as The Revenant of 12 Oscar nominations also used bestial growls - though this movie featured an actual creature. The famous bear mauling (not rape) scene was among the many fantastic treats for the eye and ear. It earned an Oscar nomination and a BAFTA win for sound.

Sound designer Randy Thom, for whom this was his 15th Oscar nomination, used around 50 different recordings of bears. He told Pro Video:

In the bear sequence I am using real bear recordings, I am using recordings of camels, of elephants, horses, dogs and my own voice also.

The most difficult part was blending the cocktail into a single beast. When the bear is hacking out a death rattle, Thom used the shuddering whinny of a sick horse.

Species used for the bear's bellow plus Thom
Species used for the bear's bellow plus Thom

Go behind-the-scenes with the bear attack:

1. Jurassic World: howler monkeys

Jurassic World could cherrypick prehistoric roars from its prequels, just as Star Wars could for the reappearances like the Millenium Falcon. Sound is not fossilised, so though the bodily counterparts had to have some scientific foundation, sound editors had complete creative autonomy with dino snarls.

See if you can guess some of the old ones:


Velociraptor screech


Velociraptor screech


Velociraptor screech

For the freaky new hybrid 'Indominus Rex' bigger and darker sounds were needed. Quite tricky when the T. rex had been the biggest, darkest thing imaginable in the movie's predecessors.

What's bad news? Your little sibling. Sound designer Al Nelson's secret in making the mutant monster evil was giving him an annoying cry, as he told Vanity Fair:

It needed to sound broken. If you think of the T. rex as this purebred, naturally occurring animal—so to speak—the Indominus is this mutant hybrid. The goal was to create a gnarly, scary, varied vocalization palette.

To create this unnatural bawl Nelson nailed together a ramshackle zoo: walruses, tigers and cougars formed the bass. The high notes were the shrieks of foxes, inbred pigs and even a howler monkey.

In addition, the dinosaurs in supporting roles used other animal samples: the shark-munching Mososaurus was different whale types and walruses, the herbivore Aptosaurus' howls came from tigers and dogs; and the flying dinosaurs were a seabird and a pit bull pup.

Watch the Indominus Rex attack:

Do you know the secret behind any other movie sounds?

Sources: Buzzfeed, Vanity Fair, Pro Video, The Frame, Nerdist


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