Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Rise and Fall of the 'Wilhelm Scream'

Chances are, you’ve heard the Wilhelm Scream -- but you probably haven't heard of it.

Since being recorded in the 1950s, the sound effect -- an overly-dramatic, desperate yelp -- has become a staple in some of Hollywood biggest films. It is the choice cry of Stormtroopers falling to their death in Star Wars; it is emitted by Buzz Lightyear as he is sent careening out of a window in Toy Story; it is cried out as Jafar lifts the palace in Aladdin, and uttered by a man who’s being crushed by a monster in Avatar.

The Wilhelm Scream has made an appearance in more than 300 films, television shows, and video games, and has cemented itself as the inside joke of the industry's best sound editors. Most frequently used when someone falls to his death, is shot, or is thrown aside by an explosion, the Wilhelm is often cited as cinema's most-used sound clip.

But how (and why) did such a horrible sound effect become so ubiquitous?

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