How some old cartoon sound effects were made

Originally published at: How some old cartoon sound effects were made | Boing Boing


While not exactly a sound effect, I was once told by an old Hollywood veteran that when Popeye was muttering to himself in the cartoons it was really a backwards and speed-adjusted version of the voice actor swearing like … well, like a sailor.

Probably apocryphal but still plausible and funny. Thanks for the video. Foley artists and sound effects people are always entertaining.


somewhere recently (during the pandemic) i watched a video of foley artists who make the sounds for nature videos, and it blew me away. the work is so subtle, i never even considered things like “can we really pick up the sounds of a spider walking on a forest floor? how do they capture underwater sounds of fish making bubbles like that?” and other things they do. their tricks were very simple and inspired, like the ones in this video. it’s amazing what the human brain is able to just roll with when presented with visual accompaniment.


I recently watched an episode of Comedians in Cars where the cartoon-like Jay Leno tells a joke using his hands slapping across his knees for effect. He understood like the Foley Artists that the combination works.

Probably a lot less funny without the sound.


When I were a lad, 100 years ago, I was briefly involved in Schools Broadcasts with the BBC in Belfast. The Sound Studios were a revelation. At one end of the studio they had an little dais with three or four steps going up and the same going down the other side. The steps were divided in two, with one half being concrete, and the other being wood. On the floor in front of this dais were three removeable panels. Underneath one was gravel, and another had sand. I never did see what was under the third - at a guess, imitation grass - but it could have been anything. One broadcast required that we have the sound of a squeaky wheel. The experienced actors removed one of the panels, and laid it at an angle against its opening, so that when they trod on it, it squeaked! It was so well thought-out it delights me to think of it even now.


Foley, BTW is not in any way limited to old cartoons or even cartoons generally.

While it’s true that cartoons must necessarily create their own incidental sound — footsteps, doors opening, window shades flapping, and so on — it’s also true that most films use Foley effects.

Even when sound is recorded live on set, incidental sounds are often inaudible, don’t pick up well, or sound wrong — and that’s when you go to the Foley stage. Even in this modern digital-synth age, almost all movies still rely on Foley

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