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How The Last Jedi Created The Sound Of Porgs

How do you create a sound for a completely original creature that dwells in a galaxy far, far away and still needs to be inherently marketable? You use chickens, mostly.

The Last Jedi co-sound supervisor Ren Klyce opened up about all things porg to Nerdist, and he explained where they get that unique sound to match their physical adorability. Although we meet them on Ahch-To, they're actually based on the real-life puffins that live on Skellig Michael, the island off the southwest coast of Ireland where parts of The Last Jedi were filmed.

Coming up with the sound for porgs was one of the first things director Rian Johnson had the sound department work on, even before the first models were created. "[Johnson] described what he wanted to feel emotionally from them," Klyce said. "He wanted them to not be irritating or annoying. He wanted them to be sweet and soulful, and it just came down to starting to experiment with different sounds... Obviously because it looks like a bird, the first thing you go for is, 'Let's try birds!'"

Luckily, he and his team didn't have to look very far. "Where we work at Skywalker Ranch, George Lucas has a farm," Klyce said. "He has a chicken coop, and he's got goats, and he's got all sorts of animals and horses—it's an incredible place. So, we went down to the chicken area with a microphone and recorded these chickens and got this crazy random file. It was a few minutes long. They were kind of running around and scratching and making banging noises and stuff. You have to be patient and listen, and you can start to hear these little nuances. Then it was about taking that sound, slowing it down, cutting out the bits and pieces you don't like and kind of leaving all these little tiny jewels."

They manipulated the chicken sounds to create some of the audio range, but they also hired a dove wrangler so they could record his birds, too. "They make this really beautiful sound: a 'coo.' And, again taking that sound and pitching it way down made it sound warmer and then taking it once it was pitched down, repeating it, and then running it through sort of an echo to make it sound like it was bouncing off the cliffs. That was one texture."

But to create a sound for when Porgs are alarmed, they turned to an metal bird call and an intern. "There is a bird call in there, which is this little piece of metal that you put in your mouth," Klyce said. "Our intern Nick Docter, who's from Piedmont, [California], which is where ... they have this annual bird calling contest that was on the Johnny Carson show back in the day... And, so I thought we need [porgs] to sound pained and what would it do if it said ouch? He put this thing in his mouth and went,  'Ow, ow,' and makes this sort of weird little sound. So, it's taking all these little bits and pieces and stitching them together to make the porg sound."

Whatever they did, it worked. While audiences are split on The Last Jedi, most fans will agree that it's hard to hate a porg.