Many years ago I dragged the honey to a talk given by Ben Burtt, a top film sound designer best known for his work on the Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies. Even though he’s uncredited, Burtt even worked on the original Death Race 2000 film released in 1975. The upshot is, if you ever chased a sibling around the house with a simulated laser rifle going, “kewww…kewww,” you owe Ben a debt of gratitude.
After his talk he made himself available for anyone who wanted to ask a question of him or make a comment. Since I was a big Star Wars fan, I queued up with the intention of thanking him for all the wonderful work he did on those films. Unfortunately, I was at the end of the line, and Burtt had spent a lot of time greeting and talking with other audience members. By the time I got to him he just wanted to go back to the hotel, and he gave me one of those, “What the hell do I care for your gratitude?” looks. Even now I know the man was tired, but instantly my enthusiasm for his work cooled.
Of course, Burtt’s career didn’t need my approval, and he even went on to win an Academy Award for his work on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. So, when he lost out to The Dark Knight during this year’s ceremony, I gave an inward “serves him right” shrug. That is, until listening to a discussion on This Week In Tech set me straight. Burtt was up for sound editing on Wall-E, you know, the movie with the cute little robots. The movie that begins with about 30 minutes in which you enter a world created not only by fantastic visuals but also by what you hear. All of that beautiful animation, brought to life with all of the clicks, whirrs, and pings created by Ben Burtt. Oh, and he voiced the damn robot to boot.
So, I’m now willing to think more kindly about Ben Burtt and his obvious talent as illustrated in the clip below. And, hey, Mr. Burtt, now that we’re friends again, if you’ve still got any pull with the folks at Pixar, I’d love to talk with them about any upcoming editing projects they might have.