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Sounding out character in movies

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The collaborative nature of this animated film was more intense than working on the live-action "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," says Academy Award-winner Burtt, who also created the voice of R2D2 in "Star Wars." "If there's one thing you learn at Pixar," he says, "it's that every animator is an actor. So when the creative team got together, the animators all spoke in funny voices and acted out the characters' personas. My job consisted of what I call 'audio puppeteering' – pulling the strings to make the character come to life audibly. So when I saw the movements of the animators, I understood better how the characters should sound."

Burtt's career started the same way. As a boy, he'd act out movements to the classical music his mother enjoyed. Then he became fascinated with sounds on television shows and movies, such as "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea." "I'd record favorite sounds and when I played them back, the whole drama came to mind. Then I saw Walt Disney's 'Fantasia.' " Burtt says the film's colorful movements, displayed in sync with Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" helped him understand visually how sound could initiate movement. Then he put it all together, making adventure films with friends using his dad's home-movie camera.

It was not until 1979 and the release of "Apocalypse Now" that the term "sound designer" was coined by Walter Murch, who created sound for the film. Prior to then, and with the exception of the genius of Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Wells, and a few others, movie sound was often an afterthought, plugged in between and under dialogue after filming was completed.

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