Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Time Machine - part III: Jimmy MacDonald

“Animation inspires the most inventive world of audio illusions, for it demands the highest performance from dialogue, music and sound effects.” – Ben Burtt

John James "Jimmy" MacDonald (May 19, 1906 - February 1, 1991) was a Scottish voice actor and the original head of the Disney sound effects department, and the voice of Mickey Mouse from 1947 to 1977.
In 1947, Walt Disney was getting too busy and too hoarse from smoking to continue voicing Mickey Mouse, so he passed the torch to MacDonald. MacDonald voiced the mouse on a regular basis until 1953 and a recurring one until 1977, passing the torch to young Disney sound effects man Wayne Allwine for Mickey's Christmas Carol. His voice repertoire included yodeling, whistling and sneezing for the Dwarfs in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, barks for Pluto, and the excitable, high-pitched voices of Chip 'n Dale on many occasions. MacDonald also did the voice of Bruno, Gus and Jaques  in Cinderella. He developed many original inventions to achieve expressive sounds for characters like the train Casey Jr. from Dumbo (1941) and the bees in Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tre. For the 1977 animated feature The Rescuers, he came out of retirement to provide sounds for the feisty dragonfly, Evinrude. 

Sound Stage Mysterious Place

Recording sound effects at the cartoon studio is more than just interesting. It is like a scene in an old alchemist's laboratory. You hear the director asking for a dog bark, or a dog sniff, for a kiss or shivery growl. Perhaps a door slam. The kisses are made by a musician who kisses the back of his hand. A bottle and a cork in their hands can be made to sound like a monkey chattering. A tin car with a resin covered string sounds like Mickey's trousers tearing. They have dog barks in all pitches, deep barks for big dogs, little barks for little dogs, and yips for frightened dogs. These sounds are made by the imitators who have specialized in voice control or by special apparatus designed for the purpose.

[more @]
[James MacDonald @ IMDb]

In the following videos, legendary sound designer Ben Burtt and Joe Herrington, the keeper of MacDonald's “old stuff", explored historic props and sound-making devices, looking back on the early days of Disney. The featurette will also include footage with MacDonald at work in these classic animated films.

Videos:  "Animation Sound Design: Building Worlds from the Sound Up"
 [part 1]
 [part 2]

Joe Herrington at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Herrington also demonstrated various types of sound effects equipment and their uses at "The Sound Behind the Image: Now Hear This!" in 2008. 
"The audience gasped in delight as strange devices made from cans, tubing, metal, wood, leather and wire suddenly croaked like frogs and buzzed like flies, creating the bizarre but familiar sounds they’d heard so many times as children. A bundle of bamboo became the sound of Bambi’s fire. From the sound of a million marching ants, to making the mainspring of a clock talk in a human voice, MacDonald did it."

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Avatar Sound Panel - SoundWorks Collection Exclusive

SoundWorks Collection Exclusive Presents
“Avatar” Sound Panel
February 3rd, 2010 at the Fox Studios, Zanuck Theater

[via Colemanfilm]


James Cameron - Director
Jon Landau - Producer
Christopher Boyes - Supervising Sound Editor / Sound Designer / Sound Re-Recording Mixer
Gary Summers - Sound Re-Recording Mixer
Andy Nelson - Sound Re-Recording Mixer

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Ann Kroeber | Sound Mountain

If you don’t know Ann Kroeber’s name, you certainly have heard her work. In 1999 she formed a company called Sound Mountain and has recorded and or provided sound effects for such films as The Star Wars Trilogy, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of The King, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Gladiator, The English Patient, The Horse Whisperer, A Bug’s Life, K-19, Polar Express, The Village, Hidalgo etc. and many games.
Although she is often called upon to supply sounds from her huge collection of animal noises/vocalizations, she is also renowned for her unusual recordings of sounds from everyday life, many recorded with a FRAP (Frequency Response Audio Pickup) contact microphone custom-made many years ago by an English audio guru named Arnie Lazarus. In fact the Hollywood Edge FX library (@Hollywood_Edge) even put out a disc of her FRAP recordings--Common Sounds Heard in Uncommon Ways--as part of a three-CD set called Sounds of a Different Realm. The other two of the discs are dominated by the work of her late husband, Oscar-winning FX designer/editor Alan Splet, who did groundbreaking work with Carroll Ballard, David Lynch, and other directors before his untimely passing in 1995.
His incredible archive of effects recordings was passed down to Ann, who had been an integral part of his recording life since they met while working on The Black Stallion (which won an Academy Award for Sound Fx Editing), where she was an effects recordist. Kroeber quickly established herself as a masterful sound editor, as well, on such films as The Elephant Man, Dune, Never Cry Wolf, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, The Mosquito Coast, and Dead Poets Society. She was also the production mixer on Blue Velvet and sound designer on Carroll Ballard’s Duma at the Saul Zaentz Film Center in Berkeley.
The Saul Zaentz Film Center, along with American Zoetrope and Lucasfilm, it was one of only three major film production facilities in Northern California. By 2005, it has largely shut down its post-production facilities, except for the foley recording studio, which is part of the still-active Fantasy Recording Studios. The film center was sold in 2007 and, after renovations, became the Zaentz Media Center.

[Ann Kroeber @ Linkedin]

"Discovery of Sound Mountain is like finding a new star cluster within the Star Wars Universe. Ann offered unique original audio from which I designed many new and fascinating Star Wars aliens and machines."
[Ben Burtt]

Sound Mountain - Reel from Michael Coleman on Vimeo.

"Ann Kroeber has a unique ability to provide one-of-a-kind sound effects. Both as a recordist, and as the knowledgeable gatekeeper of a vast, reknowed library. Ann has given me great sounds that lead to great ideas. When we are searching for something nobody's heard before, Ann can help us find it."
[Gary Rydstrom]

[Directors on working with Alan Splet - via]