Of Tarzan and Kookaburras

Laughing Kookaburra (source: Wikimedia Commons)
Laughing Kookaburra (source: Wikimedia Commons)

I apologize that The Sound and the Foley hasn’t had a regular posting for a couple months, but this post took a while. In fact, I wound up pouring over 45 hours of media into my eyeballs and earholes in order to find the answer to this one.

You may recall the prior post about the sound of the Australian Kookaburra bird, and how it somehow came to be used as a stock background noise for all jungles that had nothing to do with Australia.

In one section of that post, I note that most online sources cite Tarzan films as being a prime source of ill-placed kookaburra sounds. However, none of those sources specify which Tarzan film first contained a wayward kookaburra. There are around 90 Tarzan films listed in the Internet Movie Database, ranging from the silent film era to modern day. Obviously, if the first several films were silent, the kookaburra bird call was not always part of the Tarzan entertainment franchises. So… where did it start?

Nobody online seemed to know.

Of course, that meant I had to start watching a crapload of Tarzan films just to find out. Because that is the way I am.

Welcome to my madness.

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That Jungle Sound

Below is a clip from the opening of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). The scene is set deep within the jungles of South America, and the sound department is ensuring that we know it’s a jungle. The key part starts around 2:12 in the video:

(Side note: this clip is from a pan-and-scan Laserdisc copy of the film, which simultaneously horrifies and amuses me.)

Here’s another sound clip, of the more stereotypical version of the sound heard in films:

Okay, show of hands. Who actually knows what that jungle sound is? Hint: it’s not a monkey.

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