“The Simpsons Movie” does the Bartman into theaters July 27th. Helping bring the sounds of Springfield to the big screen are Supervising Sound Editor Gwen Whittle and Sound Designers Chris Scarabosio and Randy Thom. All fixtures at Skywalker Sound, the trio have each worn numerous hats in post sound. Each person has done a big film this year, Whittle Supervised the ADR on “Zodiac” and Scarabosio designed on “Pirates 3”, while Thom has kept it low key by supervised AND mixed “Ratatouille.” Though the four temp dubs mixed at a few different stages around LA,(read the editors guild article HERE) the film finaled on the Fox’s Howard Hawks stage with Andy Nelson and Anna Behlmer. This duo already has a big 2007 with “Shrek the 3rd” and “Live Free or Die Hard”. Behlmer, one of the only female mixers in LA and has been nominated for nine Oscars, all of which have been during the mixing team’s ten-plus years together. Original dialog on the film was shot by Greg Zimmerman at the Todd-AO West’s Stage A. Zimmerman a busy ADR mixer shot 20-plus films already this year. This great scene from one of TV show’s 400 episodes illustrates turmoil on an ADR stage….
The score was recorded on the Newman Scoring Stage at Fox. Hans Zimmer fresh of “Pirates 3” composed for the film and is lending his talents to my most anticipated film of next year “The Dark Knight.”
THANKS GO TO SOUND SUPERVISOR GWEN WHITTLE FOR TAKING TIME TO DO THIS Q AND A!
During the dubs, were there donuts on the stage?
GW: No! I’m glad though because I would have eaten them. We had them during editorial at the ranch one Sunday when we were working. Our fabulous assistant Josh Gold brought them in for us.
The Simpsons TV show editorial was done by Skywalker for a while, right? (side note here. I always saw skywalker sound credited in old Simpsons episodes so that’s what prompted this question. I was confused because after a little investigation I found out that the show was done @ skywalker sound south which is now Todd-AO West in Los Angeles…)
What differences in approach and detail are there between the TV show’s sound and the film’s?
GW: No, we only did “The Movie”. It was a challenge though expanding the track for a big screen. A few classic effects are straight from the show – Maggie’s pacifier for instance. But 99% of the effects are fresh for the film.
What are your favorite sound moments in the film?
GW: Hmmmmm. There are a few. Is it cheating to reveal them before the film is released? I love the “Bambi” feet in Alaska; The “bloop” sound as the silo sinks under; The bomb dancing on top of the dome; Homer pulling the arrow out of his head…those are a few of my favorite sounds!
Lucas spoke at the MPSE awards a few years back. He expressed interest in having sound crews on earlier to help the picture editorial’s creative process along; How early was your crew brought on?
GW: We were brought on about 10 months after the picture editor John Carnochan started. This film didn’t really call for early involvement from us. We would send FX to LA when requested.
I read in your Editor’s Guild interview that you guys had four temp dubs. Do you think that editorial will continue in the direction of multiple sprints rather than a long distance pace? Does this workflow hinder the creative process?
GW: This type of animation makes it possible to do super quick picture changes. The temps came every three weeks. It was fast, and the changes didn’t stop just because we were in the middle of a temp. The “brain trust” of the Simpsons think very quickly and don’t like to wait for things to be implemented. This type of schedule pleased them, so we made it work for them. In this case, the creativity was spurred by the temps.
I don’t see it being like that for all shows. Comedy needs an audience that’s fresh to see if it’s working on the funny level. Live action is limited by the footage you have on hand. You can’t reconfigure characters out of nothing in the real world the way you can in “Springfield”!
Did any sound mixed during the dubs add to creative decisions made in the animation?
GW: Yes. I think they changed things when places weren’t working as a whole – sound included. The music also played a tremendous part in solving issues “the trust” were having with certain scenes.
How long have you been at Skywalker Sound? What was your first gig like?
GW: A long time. I was very young when I began :-). I started so long ago that I know how to cut sound on Mag. I was an assistant editor working with Ben Burtt, Richard Hymns, Gary Rydstrom, and many other talented folks. I was lucky to have such a very inspiring start! [My first] film was “Willow” – one of the first shows to edit and the second to mix at the Tech building.
On a personal note, during that film I spent some quality time with the transfer department, and I met my future husband while waiting for an effects transfer from Ben’s library!