Pinoccio Del Toro Film Sound Design Asbjoern Andersen


Pinocchio has been a popular subject for films in 2022. Three different films portraying their version of the immortal puppet were released this year, with director Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion animated film (now streaming on Netflix) being the latest one. Here, sound supervisor Scott Gershin talks about their approach to crafting a unique aesthetic for Pinocchio – from creating a sonic arc throughout the film to designing wooden sounds with personality, and everything in between.
Interview by Jennifer Walden, photos courtesy of Netflix; Scott Gershin
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Director Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion animated version of Pinocchio is very different from the Disney Pinocchio (1940) film I remember from my childhood. Del Toro set his film during wartime in fascist Italy; the dark undertones of war become fully apparent with the death of Geppetto’s son Carlo early in the film and culminate with an aerial assault on a reeducation camp where young boys were being trained as soldiers.

The creation of Pinocchio (and his transformation from an inanimate puppet into an immortal one) is also very different. Geppetto is gripped with desperation (and inebriation) as he violently cobbles together a wooden version of his dead son, which is then transformed into Pinocchio by a benevolent Wood Sprite who pities Geppetto and his broken heart.

Visually, the film is also quite different. The soft lines and warm technicolor of Disney’s classic film aren’t found in del Toro’s version. His stop-motion animation has crisp, sharp details carved into the characters’ faces and clothes. If the 1940s Disney film could be called “round” then del Toro’s would definitely be called “pointy.” It’s a stunning and unexpected take on the classic story.

MPSE Award-winning sound supervisor/sound designer Scott Gershin has worked with del Toro on several other films, like Pacific Rim and Hellboy II: The Golden Army, but right from the start, he knew Pinocchio would require a less overt approach than those film. He’d need one that is detailed yet delicate to support the film’s complex emotions and embedded concepts.

Here, Gershin talks about finding the sound of Pinocchio and creating wooden sounds that aren’t just clacky impacts. He discusses the discovery of the film’s sonic arc, how they added depth through spatialization in the Dolby Atmos mix, how he created the Dogfish, and his approach to balancing the dark aspects of the reeducation camp with the enthusiasm of youth. He also shares fun stories of recording last-minute details, like bubble pops and tap shoes, that added so much charm to the film’s track.



GUILLERMO DEL TORO'S PINOCCHIO | Official Trailer | Netflix


GUILLERMO DEL TORO’S PINOCCHIO | Official Trailer | Netflix

Where did you do sound editorial work on Pinocchio?

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Sound supervisor/sound designer Scott Gershin

Scott Gershin (SG): It was a combination of places. I have two rooms that I use: my studio in Burbank that’s part of the Sound Lab a Keywords Studios, and I have another setup at home for when I’m feeling creative and just want to go with it. I have weird creative spurts. Sometimes it’ll be 5 AM and sometimes it’ll be at midnight.

The setup at home also helps somewhat to balance family/work life. If I work on weekends, I’ll try to work at home. I used to be more of a nighttime person, but as I’m getting older, I’m becoming a morning person. I sometimes wake up with ideas that I want to try out or that I need to solve. It’s the “the audio creative puzzle.” I like the opportunity to be able to try ideas as they come to me.

Both rooms are almost the exact same setups – same plugins, same speaker manufacturer, all the hardware is in the same place – so my muscle memory quickly knows where to go. I also mirrored my libraries. When I switch rooms I upload my session to a secure location so I have access in either location.

 

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When did you get started on the film, and what did dir. Del Toro want you to tackle first in terms of sound design?

SG: When I started on the film, everything was storyboards. We discussed a number of big design moments – e.g., the Dogfish, the reeducation camp, and limbo – that he wanted to make sure we got right. Because of our prior relationship, I felt we knew how to get there. But for me, I felt the challenge was going to be giving Pinocchio his signature sound and feel.

…they would send me a handful of shots every two weeks or so – not scenes but shots.

While they were in production filming all the scenes, they would send me a handful of shots every two weeks or so – not scenes but shots. So whatever was available, I started syncing and designing sounds to each of those shots and using them to experiment against. A couple of the shots started off with Pinocchio coming into being on the travel chest (where Geppetto sees him for the first time as he’s lifting himself up and straightening his body parts). Another one was Cricket writing in his tree, which was an early teaser. The other one was where Pinocchio was surrounded by three other puppets without him knowing that Spazzatura was controlling them. It was at the carnival before Volpe sees him, and the other puppets are talking to Pinocchio.

 

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Can you talk about the sonic arc of the film, and how it gets more complex as the film progresses? Did you know there was going to be this sonic arc as you were working on it, or when did that become apparent?

SG: Initially, I started trying to understand and define the library that I would need to use to create Pinocchio and all the characters. Little by little as we saw the characters take shape – whether that’s Volpe having coins in his pocket and occasionally the audience hearing his tap shoes when he became very dramatic as well as what Cricket was going to sound like – there was a lot of experimentation early on to get the feel and the understanding of what these characters would sound like and how they were going to be different.

…there was a lot of experimentation early on to get the feel and the understanding of what these characters would sound like…

We started understanding that Geppetto would have wooden shoes, Carlo would have wooden shoes, Pinocchio would be made out of wood, and the puppets were made from wood. That’s A LOT of wood banging around.

I tried old vintage puppets. They had too much density; when I would bang them together, they sounded like bowling pins. The wood was too hard, too dense, and there was no jiggle nor subtlety to support the small movements and I thought it would eventually make Pinocchio annoying.

It had to support the fragility of Pinocchio, especially for the first third of the film. So at that point, I was constantly listening to different types of wood. It’s not like I can call up a library of Italian wooden puppet movements. But I knew this going into the film

It quickly became apparent that all these wood hits and movements were getting quite annoying.

Part of my plan was to work with the wonderful Foley Artist Dan O’Connell. We started playing around and recording different wood collisions and movements. As time went on, I started editing all the wood recordings together (Geppetto’s and Carlo’s wooden shoes, the other puppets’ wooden clacking, and all of Pinocchio’s sound). Sometimes the surfaces they were on were also made of wood. It quickly became apparent that all these wood hits and movements were getting quite annoying. While it sounded accurate, it didn’t do anything to define the characters and their emotions.

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As storyboards were replaced with shot scenes, I was seeing footage for the first time of Pinocchio’s details. I noticed he had nails sticking out of his shoulder and he had some metal in his body. That footage allowed me to see how he was put together, how he was moving, and the way he walked. That was huge! So at that point, I started introducing metal squeaks and rubber squeaks. I thought, “Let’s try metal hinges,” and so on.

It needed to be much more delicate, promoting the fragility and innocence of Pinocchio.

Initially, the majority of everything I was trying was too heavy, too big, and too thick. It needed to be much more delicate, promoting the fragility and innocence of Pinocchio.

As a note, this film is done using stop motion techniques so there were 60 different animation teams working for a thousand days. With each team shooting different scenes, production ended a week before the mix.

We weren’t really working in reels until late spring and the cutting room was cutting scenes not reels. So there were challenges supporting both reels and scenes.

…the first thing I was going for was defining the audio vocabulary of the characters.

Little by little the shots started to come together and the first thing I was going for was defining the audio vocabulary of the characters. I did have a lot of the early dialogue and that helped. The actors were marvelous. That gave me some insight into some of Pinocchio’s personality, but it started coming together when I started to see movement – for not only Pinocchio but for Volpe, Podesta, Spazzatora, and Cricket. At that point, I was able to start putting the elements together to hear what they could sound like.

I kept iterating that for eight months, changing it up again and again. I always knew from the script that Pinocchio starts kind of as a creature. (The audience knows the show they’re going to see. People know Pinocchio, but they don’t know this Pinocchio.) The way Guillermo introduces this Pinocchio is by first showing Geppetto creating Pinocchio in a way that, in my mind, is a bit reminiscent of Frankenstein.

…Guillermo introduces this Pinocchio…by first showing Geppetto creating Pinocchio in a way that, in my mind, is a bit reminiscent of Frankenstein.

I wanted to make it a bit more obscure at the beginning, to make Pinocchio more “creature-ish.” So you hear this four-legged clacking as he runs by Geppetto with a breathy whoosh to give it a creature-type feeling. As he starts to climb up on the travel trunk, cracking his “bones” and straightening them up (I used the sound of cracking walnuts), I wanted it to sound brittle and a bit “creaturey.” He moves his fingers and collapses at one point, and that’s where he sounds like breaking tree branches.

When he spins his head, it’s a juxtaposition between comedy and old-school sound. There are so many different ways you can take it. And to be honest, I thought it would be appropriate to put in an old-school cartoon-style wooden ratchet. It’s something you expect; it feels familiar on something that’s not familiar. If you hadn’t seen the ads, this is the first time you see that Pinocchio looks very different from Pinocchios of the past. The audience isn’t sure what to expect, and that’s great.

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The question is always, “How much do you do with sound?” You can see Geppetto’s horrified face; that says it all. So, I didn’t need to go way over the top, I just wanted to support the scene, to find the balance between reality, sound design, and just enough spice.

I just wanted to support the scene, to find the balance between reality, sound design, and just enough spice.

Pinocchio sings a song where he’s asking what’s this and what’s that as he’s trying to understand the world he was just created in. He ends up trashing the house through “pure innocence.” At that point, it’s all about questioning everything. What’s that? What if I don’t like that? What if I don’t want to do that? That’s the beginning of Pinocchio defining his personality even though he has no concept of the real world. He’s enthusiastic, like a child, a newborn. That is the essence of innocence. I had to find sounds that best support Pinocchio at that stage of the movie – not only his sounds but the sounds of those things he interacts with and destroys. It seems easy but you quickly realize how much doesn’t work. Also, I had to start introducing other characters that will affect Pinocchio throughout the movie.

I relish using sounds to help tell stories, from delicate sounds to giant sounds that vibrate a room, sounds that make you smile and laugh, or sounds that stress out an audience like nails-on-chalkboard or the most powerful sound I have, which is the decision to use silence. While I like making cool individual sounds or elements, for me it really comes down to how, when, and why I choose those sounds – how they are edited and designed together to help propel the story.



The Sound of Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio | The #DolbyInstitute Podcast


Watch The Dolby Institute Podcast’s video interview on the sound of Pinocchio above – featuring Guillermo del Toro, Mark Gustafson, Scott Gershin, Jon Taylor, and Frank A. Montaño

…for me it really comes down to how, when, and why I choose those sounds…

I feel incredibly fortunate to have designed many different styles and genres of films. My range goes from American Beauty to Pacific Rim. I’m proud to say I’ve never been type-casted. But this film was different. Guillermo has known me for big designy, stylized shows like Blade, Hellboy II, and Pacific Rim. I told him I’d really like to work on one of his more delicate ones.

When I was cast for this show, I wanted to figure out what this show’s voice would be. I wanted it to be a little more sophisticated in regards to being very detailed and well thought out, not just any generic sound I had but the right sound. It’s “a little more jazz than rock and roll” in order to find the elegance and not feel that everything needed to have a big sound.

And that’s what this project became: understanding the dynamics of sound.

And that’s what this project became: understanding the dynamics of sound. It’s a dance, “a tango.” Sometimes design leads and sometimes it follows against music. Alexandre Desplat’s compositions for the film were wonderful, as were the actors’ performances, which made the characters come alive.

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I broke up the show into three acts in my own head.

In the first act, I created lots of sounds that help to define a number of the characters in addition to the creation and innocence of Pinocchio.

In the first act, I created lots of sounds that help to define a number of the characters…

The second act is about the relationship between Pinocchio and Geppetto – father and son. It also starts setting up the idea of how society reacts to things that are different. The carnival saw Pinocchio as a way to cash in. The church saw him as an abomination because they couldn’t explain him – he was “different.” The military complex saw him as a weapon that can’t die. Everybody saw Pinocchio for how they could manipulate him, control him, and benefit from him. But Pinocchio could only be Pinocchio not what they wanted him to be.

I have to feel what the story is about, and figure out what ‘paints’ I want to use from my sonic toolbox…

Without giving away the whole show, I think there are many great underlying truths and meanings to this show. What I really admire and love about Guillermo’s approach is that he’s not hitting you over the head. If you want to see it, it’s there. And if you don’t, then you won’t. You can watch it four different times and see a slightly different film every time you see it.

So how is that important to sound? It’s important because I have to feel what the story is about, and figure out what “paints” I want to use from my sonic toolbox, and how I want to sculpt this. I have to figure out how I can best support the story within the different scenes that are available. What do I do? What don’t I do?

Sometimes it’s about having the maturity to step back and do less, or do nothing.

It’s not always about what you add. Sometimes it’s about having the maturity to step back and do less, or do nothing. It’s about finding the right sound at the right time, thinking about it, and understanding that perhaps it’s all that it needs. One stroke of the paintbrush, and then stop. Having the maturity as a sound designer to be able to do that, that’s what I love – having that maturity to know when to stop. I really love this part of my career.

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I did have a lot of fun designing the vocal treatment for the sisters: the Forest Sprite and Death. I did this pretty early on. I had access to actress Tilda Swinton’s dialogue early on and tried to give her a godly sound. In the theatre, it really sounded cool because I used different types of delays in different parts of the room.

I also had this high-brow idea that since the Forest Sprite represented life, her voice had an incoming treatment, sort of like a backward reverb into her lines.

…since the Forest Sprite represented life, her voice had an incoming treatment…

And Death has delays after her lines but I used different treatments per line rather than on everything so I could accent specific words. It was all done word by word, and each word echoed to specific parts of the room. Also, there were always two takes at the same time, each with a different treatment But at the end of the day, it needed to be understood and just have a godly feel.

 


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This version of Pinocchio has an interesting setting. It’s happening during wartime in fascist Italy. There’s a scene with the boys training for war, swinging across monkey bars and scaling walls. If this obstacle course was in a sunny park somewhere, it would be a playground! The kids play paintball and have confetti grenades. They’re just playing. Yet this setting is so grim and ultimately, dangerous! Can you talk about your decisions for sound in this sequence?

SG: The reeducation camp was interesting. Our first challenge was that Guillermo wanted all the walla/crowds in Italian. Everyone there is speaking Italian except for the main actors, so no matter what language this film is localized into, all the crowds will be in Italian.

…no matter what language this film is localized into, all the crowds will be in Italian.

That was an interesting challenge because of Covid restrictions, trying to find adults and 10 to 16-year-old kids who spoke Italian fluently, but we had a pretty successful run at finding adults that spoke fluent Italian.

Also, we couldn’t put the actors in the same room. Normally, I would have them outside running around and interacting with each other. We couldn’t do that. So this was another puzzle we had to solve. I hired Mark Sussman and Patty Connolly from The Loop Squad to help me find and put together all the actors we needed.

I broke the recording sessions down into three age groups: younger kids for the carnivals, male teenagers for the reeducation camp, and then obviously adults.

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For the reeducation camp walla, I wasn’t sure how well the audience would understand every word; but it’s not about the individual words, it’s about the vibe. So when they first come in, I wanted the sounds of cheering and yelling as they were training and exercising. We also had Italian Nationalistic Music playing out of the PA with voices of adults coaching the kids through the obstacle course. It gave the scene the right kind of energy. I wanted it to have a testosterone-competitive, “good time” feel because this is where the new set of boys come in and go, “Hey, we’re finally gonna be soldiers. This is great!” They’re in kid paradise, swinging on the monkey bars and climbing the ropes. It just needed to have that type of energy.

…all the actors had to be recorded separately (because of Covid protocol) which made the track count into the hundreds…

It seemed like everyone in my crew spent time sorting through all the takes we recorded on the walla stage. It was a massive feat since all the actors had to be recorded separately (because of Covid protocol) which made the track count into the hundreds (each take was 15 to 18 tracks). We just dribbled in some recordings of a kids’ soccer match that sound effects editor Andrew Vernon had, to give it a little more exterior energy.

I took all those edited tracks and built them into complex spatial beds.
Working with Re-recording Mixers Jon Taylor and Frank A. Montano, we really tried to make it so that each area of the yard was a little different. We spent a lot of creative time dialing that scene in.

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Then we transitioned to paintball. That was also interesting in that I wanted the paintball section of the walla/crowd to start off fun, as if they’re all feeling like, “Hey, this is really great!” Our main consideration was that this shouldn’t sound like war; they’re not shooting guns. I had one of my sound designers, Chris Richardson, work on this scene, creating all the paintball guns, impacts and whizz-bys.

I spent a lot of time with Chris going through the material to make sure they never sounded like black powder guns; they needed to be spring-loaded with a whoosh sound. I wanted to make sure that the audience understood that the kids weren’t shooting each other. And yes, we knew, paintball guns didn’t exist at this time in history but hey, neither did a talking cricket.

…they needed to be spring-loaded with a whoosh sound.

But if you notice during the simulated combat scene, the kids are falling, they’re getting tired, and they’re getting hit by paintballs. It starts becoming maybe not so much fun. I wanted to add a bit of tension throughout the original runs so they’re out of breath as they run and jump into a ditch and run back out and into another ditch.

I tried to escalate the tension within that scene to give you a little hint of what they’re trying to train these kids to do, which in itself becomes a whole different discussion. They’re training child soldiers. I wanted to add in a hint of that. For the graffiti grenades, we occasionally put in a little low end, which did give you more of a sense of war.

That is a great example where we used sound to jolt the audience.

When the real war happens, we wanted it to be big. We only had a couple of seconds and then, boom, the war comes to them. They’re being attacked, things are blowing up, people are running around, and the kids are crying a bit. We had a couple of minutes to become aggressive and change the tone of the movie before we get back to the character interactions between father and son.

That is a great example where we used sound to jolt the audience. The room comes alive in full Dolby Atmos. As we find ourselves in the third act of the story.

I think of all sound as music.

I think of all sound as music. It’s all a single soundtrack, all containing rhythms, dynamics, emotional sounds, and spatial information. It all has to have “phrasing.” The dialogue says something, the music says something, and sound effects and design say something. It contains tension and release. All shows and scenes have a rhythm, a sub-rhythm, etc. How an actor delivers their line has a rhythm; the picture editor plays with those rhythms. The sound of footsteps, weapons, etc., and dynamics play into this (i.e., when to go loud and when to go quiet). It’s all part of the rhythm, “the phrasing.” The rhythms set up where conflict-release-conflict-release happens. That’s what helps propel the story.

 

[tweet_box]Perfecting Pinocchio’s Distinct Sound for Director Del Toro – with Scott Gershin[/tweet_box]

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The whole film has that flow of tension and release…

SG: It does. What’s interesting with most movies is that you have big effects moments and then you’ve got dialogue moments. Usually, every film has something big at the beginning, something big in the middle, and something big at the end. This film doesn’t necessarily do that.

You had asked when did we start seeing the arc of this soundtrack? As we started putting everything together, we were starting to do playbacks and were listening to it. You put in what you know works, then you start playing through the scenes.

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We started hearing some music about 10 weeks before the mix, and we started to hear phrases. You see the acts. You see the little sub-contexts happening within the movie so you want to phrase it a certain way. Little by little, you discover that here’s a song and we should stay delicate to that, take a backseat and let the father/son part of the story move forward.

It’s easy for us to drop all the effects and just play music, but sometimes we wanted to ghost the sound effects to maintain a bit of reality. We never wanted it to be an old-school musical where the song starts and it doesn’t really fit with the show. Jon did a sensational job of matching the dialogue to the singing, so when someone started singing, it didn’t sound like it went to a studio version. You never want to throw the audience out like that.

Jon did a sensational job of matching the dialogue to the singing…

I always take inspiration from visuals because I’m a very visual-oriented person. Seeing all the details, all the little nuances (like the fabrics) blew me away.

I went up to Oregon to see it for real, and I was so impressed. I felt that I needed to have that same level of detail that the visuals have. The reality is that most people would never know how much went into the sound. There was nowhere to hide. It was never like, oh, here’s a sound of clacking wood – clack, clack, clack, clack. That has no personality. By pitching and bending and stretching and manipulating and working with different types of materials, you’re really making it have some emotion, some musicality, some “rhythmically.”

…you’re really making it have some emotion, some musicality, some ‘rhythmicality.’

In my weird brain, I think of it like sculpting. You start with a block and you start seeing sort of a face so you start putting the face in, and adding wrinkles and all the little details. I think it was a very similar approach to audio; we started rough and we started fine-tuning, fine-tuning, and we didn’t stop.

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Guillermo gave me a very nice compliment a couple of times. When I work with him, I just never give up. So much so that there was one sound that Guillermo really wanted to lock in. It was some of the tap dancing that we have from Volpe. I brought a dancer in to do some recording, and I wasn’t sure if it was going to be just toe-taps or heel-toe. And he said, “No, it’s not right.” This went on through to the end. And he goes, “Well, I guess we’re just out of time.” And I hate that.

Then he showed me a video, like a 1930s film, of some guy tapping up and down a staircase. And he said, “Look, listen to this. This is what I like.”

I said, “That sounds great, but we have a different sync.”

We start in sync and ended in sync, while everything in the middle was not hard synced.

And he goes, “I don’t care about sync. I just want the rhythm.”

That’s when I went, “Ahhhh.” *Cue the light bulb*

The music editor’s daughter was going to be attending Juilliard in NY and she was familiar with tap dancing. So we recorded her over the weekend.

We start in sync and ended in sync, while everything in the middle was not hard synced. It totally worked and the audience will never know it (except for me just having told this story).

I contacted Guillermo and told him I had something he needed to hear right away. He came to the stage. We were ready to print master, but I told him, “Take a listen to this.”

He said, “That’s it!” That’s exactly what he wanted.

I was going to squeeze in every little piece of creativity I could until we ran out of time.

When you work this hard on something – looking at the excellence of the actors, the music, and the visuals – I just didn’t feel like I wanted to give up. I was going to squeeze in every little piece of creativity I could until we ran out of time. He was really appreciative that we didn’t give up. Even with the small things.

Guillermo inspires me and my team to just go for it. We’re proud of the work we did; there’s a lot of precision, a lot of delicacy. I find it way harder to be subtle and delicate than it is to be big and bombastic.

 

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I loved the Dogfish sneezing! It was delightful! What went into that sound?

SG: When I started seeing the Dogfish, I noticed it had these double blow holes that would move as he attacked. Guillermo and I decided to give the Dogfish a signature attack sound like a giant roar/horn-ish sound. We wanted to convey the danger of the Dogfish from an audible standpoint. This giant horn helped give a feeling of threat combined with his vocal roars and growls. For people listening on playback systems that don’t have a subwoofer and aren’t listening with home Atmos systems, I still wanted it to translate through different mediums. Of course, when watching it in theatrical Atmos, we got the whole room to rock.

I did some growls and grunts while processing my voice in real-time, so it had this interesting arc.

In regards to the interior and sneezing sounds of the Dogfish, a lot of that was my voice that I manipulated. I still used a bunch of organic sounds from my library, but it needed to have this extra little bit of performance and personality. So I did some growls and grunts while processing my voice in real-time, so it had this interesting arc. We see and hear the growls then we defocus on the Dogfish as Pinocchio comes up with an escape strategy with Sebastian. I had to find ways of keeping the Dogfish alive during these sequences without getting in the way so we can easily jump back to the exterior shots and then back inside.

It was one of the last scenes to be completed so getting the rhythms right was tricky. I probably did that scene inside the Dogfish a week or two before we started mixing. (The exterior shots I had done early on).

I probably did that scene inside the Dogfish a week or two before we started mixing.

In early conversations with Guillermo, we asked if we were going to do comedy. And we sort of said no, but we knew that Cricket would have some comedic areas and maybe Spazzatura. For the most part, we wanted to be careful of cartoon sounds. A couple of times, Cricket’s antenna would pop up and we would use a little bit of a cartoon sound there – something more comedic.

…we recorded Guillermo, Mark [Gustafson, co-director] and Bill Meadows (re-recording mix tech) making these silly mouth pops…

When Pinocchio and Spazatora went inside the Dogfish for the first time (we had not seen the graphics until we were literally on the stage), we saw all these bubbles popping. This was something we hadn’t seen before we started mixing. We started editing in normal mud blops and pops, and it worked but it didn’t make it as enchanting. Guillermo asked to set up a mic and we recorded Guillermo, Mark [Gustafson, co-director] and Bill Meadows (re-recording mix tech) making these silly mouth pops, which we quickly cut in and mixed into the scene. So all those little popping bubbles – including the one in which Spazzatura was trapped – were added during the final part of the mix. It was a last-minute punt, and it worked. It made us chuckle.

Again, it’s all about the right sound. It can’t be any sound, it has to be the sound. That’s the part that’s challenging.

 

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In terms of sound, what do you feel makes this version of Pinocchio stand out from the other versions that have been created over the years?

SG: I didn’t really listen to the other ones. Because this was a different approach, I didn’t want to reference the other ones. I wanted it to have its own uniqueness.

Overall, soundtracks have become much more complex – sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.

Oftentimes, sound effects in the ’60s and ’70s played very differently than they do today. Overall, soundtracks have become much more complex – sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. In the past, certain movies would use sound effects as a sweetener to enhance something, but sometimes it just wasn’t very good.

If you notice, a lot of the Disney characters in the past were never vocalized. I ended up doing Herbie Fully Loaded for Disney, and they asked me to vocalize Herbie. I looked at the old Herbie movies and said, “Herbie never made any sound whatsoever – not even car sounds really, other than the horn.” They said, “Yeah, but let’s try it.”

It has to be a perfect illusion. No one should ever know we’re doing it.

This is kind of my specialty; it’s what I’ve done a lot over my career: giving inanimate objects a personality in a way that you actually don’t hear my voice, instead you hear the sound of the character. It has to be a perfect illusion. No one should ever know we’re doing it. It should be invisible.

But what should come out of it is that you have an emotion towards a character. How that emotion gets created is a combination of sound design, music, and the actors (and the animators). If we do our jobs right, you have strong feelings about different characters and you don’t know why. That’s the magic of storytelling – if you see every component and every little piece of the art forms and you’re an average viewer, it’s not as fun. You just want to believe it and think that it’s real. That’s the goal.

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So, on this one, I wanted Pinocchio and all the characters on the show to be realistic, to have a signature personality that you just buy as real. Every kid should think that Pinocchio is roaming the world still to this day somewhere.

As I mentioned before, I had a great crew and we worked as a creative unit, similar to musicians in a band. There was Jon Taylor mixing dialogue and music, Franky Monatana mixing effects, Dan O’Connell was our foley artist, Chris Richardson, Tomi Massanobu and Andrew Vernon were cutting effects, and Dan Gamache was cutting dialogue and conforming and prepping all the sessions. Eric Caudieux was our music editor and the legendary Bill Meadows who was our mix tech who definitely was the glue to getting everything done and updated and updated and updated for each version and format.

 

A big thanks to Scott Gershin for giving us a behind-the-scenes look at the sound of Pinocchio and to Jennifer Walden for the interview!

 

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