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SYFY WIRE Raiders of the Lost Ark

Raiders of the Lost Ark sound team pulls out macaroni, celery & toilet tops to recreate classic Indiana Jones effects

By Adam Pockross
Raiders of the Lost Ark

“Snakes, why did it have to be snakes?” Well, it turns out it didn’t — it was just macaroni all along. In a new video celebrating tomorrow’s release of all four Indiana Jones movies on 4K Ultra HD, in turn celebrating the upcoming 40th Anniversary of 1981's franchise-igniting Raiders of the Lost Ark, we learn some tasty (and some not-so tasty) treats were involved in creating the sound effects for the fan-favorite film.   

As you can hear and see in the Paramount Pictures' video below, now you can go behind Raiders of the Lost Ark’s snap, crackling, and ssssss-ing sound effects with legendary designer Ben Burtt (who won Oscars for his work on E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) and go-to foley artist John Roesch (who, per IMDb, currently has 592 sound department credits). Together, the two of them bring along a bevy of inventive props to the Foley stage at Skywalker Sound in Northern California, to recollect how such everyday objects as the top of a toilet and a whole bunch of celery contributed to scenes that remain etched in our memories.

Remember the scene where Indy (Harrison Ford) beats up the bald, shirtless Nazi all around a moving propellor plane? Of course you do! But have you ever thought about what those punches would have sounded like without croquet balls and socks? Or a shamee and celery?

Interestingly, Roesch also recalls how the celery served to give proper audio texture to not only landed punches, but also to a well-placed bite that really turned the tides on that fight for Indy. “You get a nice crunch,” says Roesch in the video.

Or how ‘bout the scene where Indy frantically searches the streets of Cairo for Marion (Karen Allen), only to encounter a man wielding a very large sword in an alarmingly swooshing and threatening fashion? Can you imagine that sequence without the swooshes?

Or what about the snakes in the pit where more Nazis throw Indy and Marion? Could all those thousands of snakes really have been all that scary without audible slithering and hissing? (The answer may be yes for this one.) Well, thanks to these guys (in particular Burtt’s wife, Peggy) and their refusal to cook macaroni in the microwave, we don’t ever have to find out.

But perhaps the most unique object used for the film’s sound design was one that Burtt came up with one day while “sitting there one day thinking” about how to come up with the perfect sound for when they slide off the top of Ark of the Covenant: the top to his toilet. And though it’s not detailed as to whether Burtt brought that same toilet top to Skywalker Sound to film this particular video, or if was just on hand, we do get to see the actual toilet top that was used in the film.

And that folks, is how you make movie magic!

Check out the full video to learn even more about the imaginative process behind designing the venerable film’s sound. Or you can see this and plenty of other fun features when The Indiana Jones 4-Movie Collection drops on 4K Ultra HD tomorrow, June 8, from Lucasfilm Ltd. and Paramount Home Entertainment.