Monday, January 23, 2012

A few more comments on the Star Wars Galactic Phrase Book

It turns out that the S.W.G.P.B & T.G. is divided into three sections. The first part is the fictional Galactic Phrase Book & Travel Guide. The second part is a discussion of the development of the sounds and languages of the Star Wars franchise and the brief third part is Selected Alien Language Scenes from Star Wars.

In my previous article about the S.W.G.P.B.& Travel Guide I did not give any information about the author, Ben Burtt who was a sound engineer on the first three Star Wars movies. Mr. Burtt also worked on E.T., Alien, Indiana Jones, and The Phantom Menace. (Just to name the movies mentioned in S.W.G.P.B.& T.G.) So, this is a guy who has played a very influential role in the entertainment industry for the last forty years. I certainly enjoyed section two, titled Behind the Sounds, which provides a first hand account of his work and development of the major languages, and sounds, for Star Wars.

I wanted to share this one antidote from the development of Ewokese. Too add emotional elements, realism and believability, the languages of Star Wars where loosely based on actual spoken languages. Voice actors for these languages were most often native speakers with no training in theater. Ewokese became based upon Tibetan and other languages from that region. Here Mr. Burtt describes he search for native speakers while Ewokese was being developed.

"As I continued to search about, another unusual individual turned up, an eighty-year-old Mongolian tribeswoman who had just recently, and for the first time, been brought to urban civilization. She spoke no English, but was congenial, as long as she had a desired beverage on hand. We called her Grandma Vodka, and she spoke Kalmuck. With shot glass in hand, she exuded some very charming folktales in a raspy high-pitched voice that inspired Ewok." (p. 150 - 151)

The fun and irony of the above antidote really made me laugh.

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