A walrus + a lion + a bear = one of the most famous sounds in cinema


To create the legendary voice of Chewbacca in the Star Wars saga, sound engineer Ben Burtt mixed the cries of various animals.

Whether you’re a fan of the Star Wars saga or not, chances are you know what Chewbacca’s scream sounds like. Halfway between a roar, a growl and a growl, this very particular sound is among the most famous in the saga created by George Lucas in the 70s, and perhaps even in the history of cinema.

As with practically the entire sound universe of the Star Wars galaxy, it is to the legendary engineer Ben Burtt that we owe this legendary sound effect. And to concoct it, this magician of sound waves used a very unique technique.

“It had to be done with animal noises.”

“Chewie’s voice was the first one I was asked to work on when I was hired, when Star Wars was still in the script stage”he recounted several years later, in the making of The Empire Strikes Back.

“They knew there was going to be this character called Chewbacca, who was going to play and appear in the same scenes as the other actors. But the question was what was his voice going to sound like. He wasn’t going to speak English, but it had to have a kind of alien, animal voice. It had to be an intelligent language that didn’t sound like English, or German, or French, or anything known. It had to be done with animal noises.”

Lucasfilm Ltd.

“I collected a lot of bear noises.”

Ben Burtt then recounts that the first time he met George Lucas, the latter gave him a list of different animals to record, and suggested that he look particularly for bears:

“During the year I spent recording preliminary sounds for Star Wars, I collected a lot of bear noises,” explains the sound engineer, “as well as sounds of walruses, lions, badgers, sick animals, domestic animals, all kinds of things…”


Lucasfilm Ltd.

Double challenge

Ben Burtt then isolated small pieces of these different sounds, which he believed could be associated with certain emotions such as affection or anger. After having constituted all these different categories of sounds – corresponding to various states of mind of the character – he then began to associate them with each other to create a sort of dialect.

But beyond this already complex exercise, the additional challenge was to ensure that this language fit well with the movements of Chewbacca’s mouth on the screen, exactly as dubbing actors can do to respect the character’s lips. that they interpret.

To find out more about the character of Chewbacca, (re)discover our special video…



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