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Cannes film goes deep on the making of Chewbacca's iconic voice

By Alexis Sottile
Chewbacca: Star Wars A New Hope

Less than a month after the death of beloved Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew, a new film debuted at Cannes this week in which the Star Wars sound team breaks down the creation of the other half of the classic Wookiee wingman: his iconic sound. Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound, directed by Midge Costin, a longtime sound editor herself whose credits include Crimson Tide and Armageddon, takes a deep dive into the ingenuity that spawned so many classic Hollywood sounds–spanning the full history of cinema from its earliest talkies to today–and features appearances by luminaries such as Steven Spielberg and David Lynch. The film is Costin's directorial debut.

Ben Burtt, the sound designer who created the voices of Chewbacca and of Wookiees in general, reveals the secret ingredient in the creation of the Wookiee's roar and purr was: bread.  In an exclusive clip provided to Variety, Burtt explains that the creation of the sounds required spending time with a young bear, from whom the building-block noises to be used as Wookiee vocabulary were coaxed, using simple bread as a reward. (Rey's "Portion Bread" had yet to be introduced to the Star Wars canon, so we're assuming it was something much more Earthbound.)

The film also includes an interview with George Lucas, who says he knew "the sound was part of the foundation of what the movie was going to be." And of course it was. From the iconic whirr-whoosh of a lightsaber, or the (perhaps first instance of the sound) "pew pew" of a blaster, to the purrs and roars of our favorite space-bear, Chewbacca, the sounds of Star Wars are music to fans' ears. It all kinda makes one want to give one's best "Yub Nub" record a spin and have an Ewok dance party.